We’re highlighting the wonderful contributions of recent award winners recognized by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). In this series, these women share how Intel supports their careers, offering them flexibility alongside opportunities to create amazing tech.
Priyanka Dobriyal, a technical program manager (TPM) in the Silicon Photonics Product Division, recently received the Patent Recognition Award by the SWE. This award recognizes SWE members who have obtained a patent within the previous three years. In the Q&A below, Priyanka shares insights into her career journey at Intel, how she grew confidence through mentorship, and her advice for women looking to further their own technology careers.
Q. Tell us a little bit about what you do and what a typical day looks like.
I am responsible for the execution of optical transceivers programs delivering transformational solutions for data centers. I lead the teams through aggressive timelines, commitment, resilience, and technical creativity, delivering these revolutionary products on time.
Q. Tell us about your recent patent and the impact your patent may have.
Silicon photonics is an emerging technology and requires proven performance and reliability requirements. Intel® Silicon Photonics products have been winning the market due to super reliability, compared to our competitors. To offer even more advanced products, Intel requires advanced packaging solutions to meet customer demand. The ideas I have submitted recently enable such advanced packaging solutions.
Q. Did you always know you wanted to work in technology? How did you decide to go into engineering?
I completed my M.S. degree in chemistry from the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee in India and developed interest in polymers while doing an internship. My PhD from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst was focused on polymer physics, and I absolutely enjoyed working in that area. I was hired as a process engineer at Intel for my problem-solving skills. That was my first role as an engineer. I realized that if I am constantly challenged, it keeps me motivated. I have changed teams and responsibilities multiple times within Intel (material analysis R&D engineer, product execution engineer, etc.) to develop skills. Currently, I am enjoying my role as a TPM where I lead a team of engineers. It is very rewarding to see the products evolve from concept phase to customer delivery, resulting in revenue for Intel.
Q. Many women in the tech industry feel that their gender has affected the way they are perceived or treated. Have you also felt this and how did you handle it?
Things have changed even since I joined the industry in 2009. Now we have paid leave for both parents, flexible schedules, etc. This helps. I struggled to come back to work after I had my first child. I know I made a choice to come back, but the benefits we have today could have helped. It was overwhelming. I decided to reach out and connect with a community of women who were also going through the same issues. I partnered with some of them and we helped to uplift each other. That led to me joining SWE, leading volunteering efforts, and getting involved with the Women of Intel Network, which resulted in greater visibility. I also looked for mentors at Intel—receiving positive response from Intel leaders was, and is still, a huge encouragement for me. Finally, creating a workout plan to stay healthy played a key role in getting me back on track.
Q. What do you think is the best part of being a woman in the tech industry?
Many women have natural networking and conflict resolution skills, which could be an advantage while leading large, diverse teams. Constantly getting new problems to solve is one of the best parts of being an engineer. If I can role model it today, I can inspire the next generation of women engineers. This is really a privilege.
Q. Do you notice a lack of women in technology? If so, why do you think that’s the case?
It could be due to lack of role modelling. I encourage professional women who come to me for mentorship to “pay it forward,” otherwise the cycle will be broken. I believe we need to fix the pipeline from the beginning. That is why I spend time also mentoring elementary, middle, and high school students. They need to be motivated and guided so that they are excited to pursue STEM careers in the future.
Q. Many women in the tech industry consider themselves introverts. Are you an introvert and if so, what is the most difficult thing about being an introvert in the tech industry? How did you overcome it?
I am not introvert by nature. I like to collaborate and work with people from different backgrounds. However, I was shy to reach out initially. Volunteering helped me overcome this. Intel values volunteering and matches volunteering hours, so I started signing up for STEM-based volunteer projects. Initially, I attended most events as a contributor, but I had ideas of my own about how to lead these projects. Once I connected with various resources within and outside of Intel (including SWE), I started leading STEM-based volunteer efforts. Currently, I work closely with Education Empowers Inc., where we offer virtual robotics programs. By giving back to the community, I was able to develop leadership skills and confidence.
Q. What advice would you give to a woman considering a career in the tech industry? What do you wish you had known?
Keeping your technical skills up to date is critical for professional growth. Grow your confidence and create credibility by delivering projects and tasks on time. Once you have established yourself, people will seek to hire you to their team. This means you will be in a much stronger position to negotiate—which will further strengthen your confidence. Another piece of advice is to look for mentors early on. You need to have mentors, advocates, and sponsors to push you forward. There may be many leaders in your company who are willing to help if you reach out. I am grateful to my mentors, who continue to inspire me.
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