Punya Prakash is a Business Manager with Texas Instruments' (TI) Catalog Processors business unit in Dallas, TX. She started her career as an Applications Engineer in the same department in 2010. Today, she drives growth for targeted end equipments in the energy automation such as connected home, building automation, and smart grid. Prakash analyzes the market traction to understand customer requirements, and find innovative solutions that scales for the broader market also. Prakash was a key contributor to the Software Development Kits (SDKs) and was recognized as a Growth Superstar in 2Q 2010 for her efforts in this area. Prakash is actively involved in various leadership programs within TI such as the EP's New Employees Initiative, the Women's Initiative and the STEM retention programs in high schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolis.
How did you get involved in embedded technology? Who or what was your inspiration to pursue a STEM career?
The core of engineering is in problem solving. From a very early stage I was very curious about the "why" and the "how" – why something works, the way it does, and how it could be made better, primarily as it applies to real-life applications. Having very little embedded programming and circuits design experience upon entering my undergraduate program, I chose electronics and telecommunication engineering primarily because it sounded interesting. I am lucky that it has turned out to be even better than I had hoped. Changing something that is to what it should be requires decisive action and an ability to step forward and take action – this has always helped me in making progress. The most intriguing aspect of engineering is to discover that science is really a combination of several projects. To unravel this, understanding the fundamentals and building upon them is essential for innovation in technology.
What would you say to girls and women to encourage them to get or stay involved in STEM education/careers? Why do we need more women in embedded computing fields?
Today women represent only 23 percent of the STEM careers in United States. A study by the Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI) indicates that more than 70 percent of high school girls across the country are interested in STEM and only 13 percent of these consider STEM as their primary career option. I personally am involved in mentoring programs for girls to help encourage interest in science and technology field. I have found my interaction, and that of other engineers to be a powerful tool in not only exposing girls to the field of engineering, but helping to sustain their interest throughout their years of schooling. I have seen the benefits that come from regular involvement with students and frequent exposure to hands-on experience to STEM fields provides great exposure and generates excitement about the possibilities offered by careers in these areas.
Science and math skills are key for success not only in school and college but in future technical career accomplishments. Girls are often not familiar with a wide range of career opportunities in STEM outside of medicine and engineering. For instance, an understanding of embedded computing offers prospects in imaging, robotics, or in lower-level silicon manufacturing!
What are the largest obstacles to innovation in the embedded realm, and how should those challenges be solved?
The industry has witnessed a rapid growth in numerous groundbreaking technologies. This advancement of equipment offers a convenient lifestyle heavily influenced by social applications. Going forward there are two principal challenges: One is to produce a cost-competitive solution, while the second is to provide a cohesive environment where these solutions are interoperable. The focus of the industry going forward is a systematic approach to provide a consistent ecosystem of highly integrated system solutions. To help this transformation, the key is to work with vendors to identify market gaps and collaborate with industry innovators to build system solutions that not only bridge these gaps, but provide a unique stable resolution.
How do you recognize when a new technology or application is one your company should invest/innovate in, versus a technology that will experience fast burnout?
The very first step to develop a differentiated new technology is to understand the vendor requirements and their technical challenges. True innovation can be achieved by identifying the gaps or unmet needs, hence enabling one be an industry leader. That said, it is important to balance this and not get ahead of time and more importantly be open to changes in the market with the ability to quickly adapt. We live in an era where, unfortunately, innovation is gated by short-term performance, often driven by aggressive standing commitments. It is important that we foster a culture where we regularly mobilize teams to develop new ideas empowering fearless creativity.
In the next 5 years, which embedded technologies, applications, markets, and geographic areas present the most interesting opportunities?
The big waves in technology we have observed in the recent past were noticeably in the personal computer market and then in the cell phone industry. In the coming time, the Internet of Things (IoT) will be the enabling technology that will serve thousands of end applications. While the growth is predicted to be exponential in the consumer space, the opportunity this unleashes in all areas of the market is tremendous. Connected applications will be very prevalent extending from wearables to home and industrial automation – we already see advancements in the automotive and imaging industries today. This offers the foundation for the enablement of an intelligent planet and smart cities. The prospect this offers is especially exciting because the investment is not restricted by geographic locations; the entire industry is speeding toward this through innovative solutions.