When you’re searching for the right career, sometimes it takes trying new things and exploring what’s out there before landing your dream job. Lucky for Shivani Sahi, she found her path quickly. Today, she works in systems engineering at Samsung Electronics America on their fast-growing 5G Networks team—a pivot she pursued after spending a few years post-college as a software developer at a wireless telecommunications startup.
“Software development was fun especially when you get into the bits and bytes, but I wanted to get a broader end-to-end view of the system,” she says. “That’s why I decided to move into a systems engineering role and gain some experience on the complete product development life cycle, from product conception to post-launch support.”
It was an especially exciting time at Samsung when she made the switch. “The company was growing, and while talking to the people who worked here, the journey ahead seemed like a great opportunity for me to further my career,” says Sahi, who holds a staff engineer role in System Structure Design, Technical Solutions for Radio Access Networks.
Here, Sahi shares the innovative work she’s doing on a 5G project, how Samsung has helped her become a well-rounded engineer, and what it takes to succeed in her role.
What attracted you to work in engineering, and specifically at Samsung?
Engineering is essentially problem solving, which has always been attractive to me. I liked working in a startup-type environment as it allows you to wear many hats. Therefore, you get to learn a lot and figure out what your strengths are and what you enjoy doing. While I was looking to move into systems engineering, the prospect of working for a company like Samsung—which is providing state-of-the-art wireless infrastructure in North American markets and growing exponentially—was exciting for me.
Additionally, even though Samsung is a large company, the teams operate in a startup mode. This keeps work challenging as you get exposed to all types of responsibilities, be it presenting technical solutions to executives and customers, participating in standard bodies, representing the company at industry events, or working on a specific feature design.
What are you responsible for in your role?
Systems engineers drive the technical relationship with the telecommunication network operators. This includes leading technical discussions on our products while collaborating with internal and external teams on feature design, and verification and deployment of the products. We focus on technical requirement compliance with the operator’s engineering, marketing, and support organizations, and have technical deep-dive sessions on features. We also serve as the point of contact for major technology partners for product integration into the operator’s network.
What are you working on right now that excites or inspires you?
When a Samsung product is commercially deployed, we get to see how it is being used not only in typical suburban environments, but also in challenging environments such as very dense urban areas. We also enable fixed wireless services in rural areas and provide robust networks used by first responders. This is very exciting as you can see the real-world impact of your work. I’m currently working on solving such use cases, which are unique in their own way and require customized, specialized solutions to meet the nature of service to be provided, over 4G and 5G networks. Specifically on 5G, we are working on leading technology such as millimeter wave 5G solutions delivering multi-gigabit throughput and enabling high speed fixed wireless solutions for major wireless operators. It is exciting to be delivering such state-of-the-art 5G solutions.
How does your work contribute to the innovation taking place at Samsung?
Samsung is enabling 5G for some of the largest and most respected operators globally. Samsung is considered an industry leader in virtualized 5G RAN solutions, and this architecture helps enable new applications. As part of my job, I get to work on the vRAN product and help drive innovative solutions to handle new and challenging use cases.
What is the biggest engineering challenge you have faced since joining Samsung and how did you overcome it?
I am fortunate to be involved with all facets of the product life cycle, from product conception and development to product test and deployment. All of these phases have their own challenges, but one that usually sticks above the rest is certifying a brand-new product in a live customer environment. I was part of the team that helped launch a suite of small cell products, and we faced challenges in the field certification phase because these products are deployed in different customer configurations. Thanks to the dedicated and passionate team here at Samsung, we were able to overcome these challenges and today, we see these products being used to resolve real-world customer issues, which is very gratifying and humbling.
How has the company helped you in your growth and development as an engineer?
The work we get to do at Samsung is challenging. It makes you think outside the box. Additionally, the culture at Samsung that is ingrained in all of the various teams I have worked on is to treat everyone as a key contributor to the project’s success. This has allowed me to take full ownership of the work at hand and drive it to the finish line. We get to wear multiple hats, which helps us develop into well-rounded engineers—no one is focusing on just one aspect or one product, but rather is involved in various and diverse areas of our complete portfolio.
Teamwork is another big part of the culture here. All the people I work with do not hesitate to help each other and make time to brainstorm and come up with great solutions. This environment has definitely shaped me into a better engineer, not only with respect to growing the breadth of my technical knowledge, but also as a leader and collaborator.
What traits and skills does an engineer need to succeed at Samsung?
At Samsung, traits that go a long way include being passionate about your responsibilities, being prepared to go the extra mile to ensure success of the task at hand, and being a team player. From a skills perspective, a successful engineer in the wireless networks team would be someone who strives to develop expertise in this field. They would be hands-on and ready to delve into the details of the product. They would also have good communication skills when it comes to presenting technical solutions to external and internal teams, including engineering, operations, sales, and executives. Samsung has great training programs to further the above skill set, and this serves as a valuable resource for all engineers.
What do you like best about the company culture at Samsung?
Even though Samsung is a very large company, the work environment is very hands-on. You get to work on different aspects of the product and therefore expand your skill set. You can debug an issue in the lab, go to the field to figure out what is going on in a real deployment and at the same time represent Samsung at industry events or present technical solutions to existing and potential customers. This allows for all-around development of an engineer. The work environment is also very friendly, and employees can easily engage with upper management. There is a constant effort from upper management to keep us updated on the state of the business and to host “virtual coffee chats” often. This is refreshing and appreciated by all.
What has been the key to your success working in an industry where women are often underrepresented?
If you work for a company or team that encourages equal representation between women and men, then the current under-representation of women in engineering only drives you to do better to inspire more women, and to prove that this fact really does not matter. Only the quality of your work and dedication matters. Samsung gives me the same opportunities to represent, lead, and showcase my work, just like any of my colleagues (male or female). The key is to be passionate and work smart.
What advice do you have for women looking to pursue a career in engineering?
The general notion that a woman is not a typical engineer is changing. I don’t believe women focus on that fact anymore, which I think is great—there is a new normal now. If you enjoy engineering, the key is to be prepared to work hard, and keep learning and growing your knowledge because technology is constantly evolving. There will always be challenges and mistakes, but that is true for any person or any job. Be passionate, be curious, and let your work speak for itself.