How Udacity student Megha Maheshwari transformed her early passion for engineering into an autonomous vehicle career

At first glance, it may seem an inevitability that Megha Maheshwari should become an engineer. Both her brother and uncle pursued technical careers, and her mother instilled in her a strong sense of independence at an early age:

“I was inspired to become an engineer and most importantly, my Mother, as a working parent, had always groomed me to become an independent women—carving my own path in the direction of whatever career I chose. That always kept me moving forward.”

But despite a strong family network, early industry exposure, and an independent spirit, it would still be a long and remarkable journey for Megha—from growing up in India, to becoming a student of the Self-Driving Car Engineer Nanodegree program at Udacity, to landing a job with Volvo Cars Silicon Valley R&D Tech Center in Mountain View, CA. Her dedication, growth mindset, and tenacity would be tested many times along the way. She took risks, faced down challenges, and weathered disappointments, but ultimately, she realized her dreams.

This is her story.

The Beginning

Growing up in her native country of India, Megha was introduced to engineering as a profession at a young age when her uncle pursued the field. She and her brother were both intrigued by the problem-solving nature of his work and found themselves drawn to studying technical topics.

Megha was determined to follow her uncle and brother into the field, and from their example Megha knew that it was critical to focus on her studies. She enrolled in an undergraduate program at the National Institute of Technology in Silchar, India, and majored in electronics and telecommunication technology. Upon graduating, she was eager to prove she could be hired as an engineer and apply her new skills. She applied to multiple positions and landed a job as a software engineer.

The Automotive Industry

Megha felt confident in her basic abilities, but soon yearned to learn more. It was a huge risk for a young engineer, but after just a year in her new position, she elected to quit her full-time job and spend two years completing a master’s program for embedded systems at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

Following graduation, and over the next six years, Megha worked in Singapore and Germany, learning from industry leaders designing automotive human-machine interface systems—the features of a vehicle that allow the driver to communicate with the vehicle. Her incredible work ethic and passion for learning new skills soon earned her a promotion from a software engineer to a senior technical position.

Exploring Autonomous Vehicle Technology

in 2017, her husband’s job relocated them to California, and Megha was forced to put her own career on hold. She found herself with time to spare as she did not yet have a work visa, but instead of seeing this transition as a setback in her career, Megha went back to the drawing board, looking for ways to learn new concepts related to her previous work. In particular, she kept a close eye on automotive innovation, especially autonomous efforts:

“Outside of the major car manufacturing efforts, I was hearing about smaller companies working on autonomous vehicles for disabled people and local shuttles … those small-scale ideas were incredibly exciting to me.”

The Udacity Self-Driving Car Engineer Nanodegree program

She began researching more about the technology behind autonomous driving, and that’s when she found Udacity’s Self-Driving Car Engineer Nanodegree program.

“I was immediately drawn to the core contents of the course. The central tech stack is path localization. The potential of completing the course projects really motivated me to apply and get started.”

Megha did apply, and was accepted into the first class of students entering the program. Megha approached the course as if it was a full-time job:

“I found the projects very interesting so I wanted to go beyond what was required. I was spending 8-9 hours per day trying to understand the different aspects of the course.”

In addition to pursuing her coursework, Megha was invested in networking and learning from her peers.

“We have a small study group and meet up over the weekends. We would meet up in libraries where we could discuss points or discuss what we had already read. Most importantly, we could understand if there were gaps.”

A New Career

As she successfully completed the first projects, she began to feel the familiar itch to test her skills in the real world. She wanted a job in the field.

“When I was ending Term One, I felt I had enough knowledge about classical computer vision and deep learning. That’s when I started looking for jobs and not long after looking and applying, I got hired at Volvo Cars Silicon Valley R&D Tech Center, here in Mountain View, CA.”

With this new role, Megha has once again proven that through diligence, hard work, and a self-confidence borne of both, success is achievable. The best part?

“I love solving new challenges in the autonomous vehicle industry everyday and it’s really a good feeling.”

Megha personifies the concepts of lifelong learning and growth mindset. In addition to her new role, she continues to work through the Self-Driving Car Engineer program, and is on track to graduate this year.

Megha, congratulations on your new career! With the future of autonomous vehicle technology in the hands of dedicated learners like you, we’re confident that amazing and beneficial new innovations are on their way!