Silicon Valley Engineering Council (SVEC)
From a young age, Yllka Masada was driven and focused to learn as much as possible — and as fast as possible. However, she didn’t simply want to learn the simple things.
“I wanted to learn the toughest things first, the things that would seem impossible and the simple things would follow,” she said. “I loved knowledge and independence. Engineering was what I thought would be the perfect fit for me. Nothing is more powerful and beautiful then knowledge.”
Her strong drive to invent and create new products and systems that wasn’t only to solve a problem, but was rooted in the desire to make a difference in human lives and make the world a better place for all.
“I dreamed of being an Engineer at very young edge, as a child, and decided that I would be an engineer before I even turned 5 years old,” she said.
Masada said that early on, she told her family, “I am a future engineer,” and she studied hard and worked hard to make those dreams come true. Today, Masada, a computer engineer, has degrees in computer engineering (electric and electronics engineering, hardware, software, network and multimedia engineering) as well as a minor in math. She’s certified by the IEEE Center of Leadership Excellence Council and serves as President of the Silicon Valley Engineering Council (SVEC).
She worked for 13 years as a Hardware Design Engineer for Cisco Systems, designing and delivering extremely complex, high end network gears (routers, switches, supervisor engines, line cards etc.), for the Catalyst6000 product line. Her constant focus had to be five years into the future—what was on the horizon, how would technology change and adapt? Masada was the only female Hardware Design Engineer in her business unit, as well as the only women engineer on her team, but she said nothing bothered her.
“I never focused on the gender, but on getting things done,” she said. “I was the only one on my team with degrees in computer engineering; all the others were electrical engineers, so no one knew how to write software, configure things, etc. Therefore, I had to work with my team to help them to learn what they did not know.”
Masada, who naturally comes across as an extremely friendly person, has been described as a great team player who gets along with everyone. She feels that she treats others with great honesty and respect and shared these important life and career lessons that have guided her:
• Be honest and respect yourself and others.
• A bad attitude has no place anywhere. A great attitude goes a long way.
• Be you, the best you can be. Don’t pretend to be someone you are not.
• Study hard and get help from others when you need it, but only after you have tried all options on your own.
• Help everyone that needs your help.
• Listen to others — your friends, family, co-workers, customers, vendors etc., and learn from everyone regardless of their age, experience, where they come from, their gender. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn.
• Never lose focus of the big picture … but take great notes and keep learning. Don’t overlook the details and small steps that can take you there.
• Your entire life is school — and knowledge has no end. Keep learning.
• Dream big, but don’t sleep. Get up and chase your dreams.
• Always think positive.
• When life throws bad thinks at you, don’t cry and think that’s the end of the world. Life is beautiful if you make it such. So, get yourself together and do your best to change that pain to strength, wisdom, and power — and turn it into a positive.
Passing it down
Through her role at SVEC, Masada is involved in a program called Discover-E (Discover Engineering), which promotes engineering to high schools and colleges, especially focusing on female engineering students. The group asks high school and college teachers to sign up on its website and list any engineering subjects that their students are interested in learning about. SVEC sends volunteers to go and teach the students that subject for free.
The group also connects with different universities and invites the engineering students to attend all of their technical events for free, so that they can learn and connect with the companies and individual engineers. There’s also an annual SVEC Engineers Week Banquet, where all interested students attend for free and scholarships are handed out to deserving high school students who want to study engineering.
Masada also serves as a judge at Science Fair and Robotics, Synopsys Championship Science and Technology Fair and FIRST California Robotics (FIRST) competitions for different age groups. Each year, she volunteers at MakerFare in nearby Menlo Park, where she helps to staff the SVEC booth, the IEEE booth and the Learn to Solder booth, where they teach children of all edges how to solder.
She feels that there is a lot that we can do to promote young women in engineering.
“First, we have to promote engineering to women, and by that I mean not only starting from high school or colleges, but from very young age and all along,” she said. “We should always tell them the truth — that engineering is a great profession, a great career, and is not gender specific. Everyone, regardless of gender, can be an engineer. Teach them to not let anyone dictate their future or tell them that engineering is not for them, is hard, or is not for women.”
“Let’s teach girls that they are as smart and as strong and even smarter and stronger than boys and men. Get them involved in engineering projects. Teach girls to not be afraid to study engineering even if it happens that she is the only girl in the engineering class. Think of everyone in the class as equal friends regardless of the gender, because in fact they all are your friends. You are there for one thing only — to study and become an engineer and the best you can be.”