Name: Kajal Prasad

Title: Team Lead - Controls and Electrical, Applied DX RTU Product Development, Johnson Controls

Age: 41

Educational Experience: Master’s Degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Oklahoma

Professional Credentials/Accreditations: Tridium Niagara Certification, Unity Pro Training, Eikon Logic Training, Matlab and Simulink Certification, Labview Certification, Indusoft Web Studio Certification, and SCADA Systems

Organizational Affiliations/Achievements/Awards: ASHRAE Member, Director of the Women Global Network for the Heartland Chapter, Two Johnson Controls Process Improvement Awards, and Identified and Trained as an Emerging Leader within Johnson Controls

What caused you to/when did you fall in love with engineering?

I discovered my love for science and engineering early on. Taking household appliances apart and repurposing them became my hobby as a child. I felt proud in attending and showcasing innovative ideas in science fairs using household items I could get my hands on. Later, I found myself excelling in math and science throughout high school. I became more interested in topics that deliver concrete results.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of working in the skilled trades?

One of the most rewarding aspects of my work is taking a product from concept to production. As an engineer, I enjoy applying the principles of science and mathematics to develop creative, efficient solutions to technical problems. Although my work is highly technical, a lot of it is team leadership, listening, understanding the needs of customers, and collaborating with different teams. Working toward common goals and feeling proud of what we created as a team is very exciting.

Describe the proudest moment in your career.

During my time in the oil and gas industry, I designed a natural gas sampling system and redesigned the chromatograph. The new design was faster, more efficient, and cost-effective. This chromatograph uses compressed air as the carrier gas with a cycle time of less than two minutes versus the original vacuum system with a cycle time of seven minutes. Since it was a small team, I was responsible for product design and hardware and software development. I was proud to provide a cost-effective and more efficient solution. The new design completely replaced the existing system at that time and is still being used today.

What challenges do women face in this profession? Can you give a personal example? Why aren’t there more women in engineering? How can we increase the number of women in engineering?

Although it’s rapidly changing, due to gender stereotypes, engineering is a traditionally male-dominated field, and women are perceived as less confident about their math and science abilities, even when performing equally. Despite the perception, more and more women are graduating from engineering colleges and making remarkable contributions around the world every year.

We can further increase the number of women in engineering through awareness and outreach. All of us must support the movement to change stereotypical thoughts in families and societies. In addition, successful female engineers should attend local schools as guest speakers and share a day in a life of an engineer.

What does your day-to-day job entail?

As a team lead of controls and electrical, I own the outcome of product design and software development. To that end, I collaborate with engineering, manufacturing, and technical support teams to make challenging new product line launches successful.

I discover process inefficacies and communication siloes within manufacturing, engineering, and production teams. I establish a cadence across multiple teams to break down the silos, compile relevant data to address the gaps, gain executive alignment, and design the simplest solution that is user-friendly and cost-effective.

What drives/motivates you every day?

Leading and influencing innovative strategies that make an impact in profits and losses (P&L), driving operational efficiency through collaboration among extended teams, and delivering final products that team members and customers are proud of drives me on a daily basis.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted you personally and professionally?

While this pandemic taught us the efficiency of remote working, it was initially challenging to influence team members on the production floor and react to rapid change management initiatives. Focusing on professional development and team collaboration became increasingly difficult. However, we all pulled through by working together and taking advantage of the tools and technology. Today, it feels amazing how much can be accomplished with the right mindset and teamwork.

What remains on your engineering bucket list — what do you aspire to do that you haven’t accomplished yet?

I am inspired by the power of AI and IoT that is disrupting all industries, including HVAC. These solutions enable us to better monitor and manage physical assets and utilize data science and machine learning to find energy and cost savings. HVAC is traditionally a mechanically oriented industry. Although controls and software are a big part, there is so much more that can be done if we take advantage of the tools and technologies available in today’s market. I want to focus my work toward making our HVAC and building management system more energy efficient as a whole.

What’s one thing no one knows about you?

I am a great cook and a travel photographer.

List any mentors who’ve helped you succeed and describe exactly how they’ve shaped your success.

I am thankful to have a handful of industry leaders as my mentors. The lessons in their professional journies inspired me and shaped my career decisions. They have also been a tremendous source of confidence when I need to brainstorm on a strategic decision.

I shadowed a senior peer who was known for her resourcefulness. I also witness the power of recognizing top talent and aligning them to the right mission. Her approach inspired me to take calculative risks, always innovate, fail fast, and learn faster.

From some mentors, I learned how to think big, push boundaries, and channel our inner passion to deliver excellence. That is how I developed a collaborative, empathetic, and accountable leadership style to drive consistent results and followership within professional community.

What advice do you have for prospective female engineers considering entering the field?

Show up, speak up, and get your ideas heard. In other words, participate, be prepared, and be fearless to express ideas that make a positive difference.

Believe in yourself, lean in, and take on the most challenging technical or leadership roles — especially the ones others are afraid of. Find mentors and learn from them; help others; and deliver on commitments, even if it means working harder than everyone else.