Sonali Agrawal joined Gentex 10 years ago as a systems engineer. She has been a key player in many of our most complex products including the Full Display Mirror, Digital Video Recorder, HomeLink Connect and SmartBeam Gen4. Recently, she was promoted to Lead Product Systems Engineer for our new line of medical products. “The company has been focusing on developing medical as another pillar of technology. With this new role, my team and I will be responsible for launching medical programs like medical smart lighting and eSight glasses,” Sonali explained. “I have always focused on launch programs, and now as we focus on medical, I get to work directly with external customers as well as increased collaboration with departments within Gentex such as the design studio and the hardware, software, and mechanical groups.”
Growing up in a suburb of New Delhi, the capital of India, Sonali enjoyed taking classes in math, physics, chemistry, and computer science. She discovered she was really good at trigonometry and differential equations. When it was time to pick a career path, engineering was at the top of the list.
“I always wanted to work with my hands and build new things or fix broken ones,” she said. “There was a time I wanted to be a surgeon and an engineer at the same time! But I realized I had to pick one. Soon I discovered engineers are the people who build things for the rest of the world to use. So, indeed, it is a very fulfilling choice.”
Sonali moved to the United States to study at Purdue University, one of the nation’s top engineering schools, and obtained a bachelor’s and master’s degree in computer engineering and computer information technology. During her graduate studies, she taught a few classes at Purdue and enjoyed connecting with students and helping prepare them for successful careers in the field of STEM.
“This field is about learning how to make decisions, big or small. My main advice to students is to focus on learning and getting the basics of any topic right. Take advantage of internships and co-ops to get a good feel for the position. Also, understand that asking questions is not a sign of weakness, especially when working with experienced engineers. The more questions they ask, the more they will learn and more productive they will be... STEM is cool, so they are making a good choice!”
While there are 87 percent more male engineers than female engineers in the United States, Sonali has never let that math statistic factor into her career goals.
“My focus in life has always been self-reliance, self-independence, and thriving for excellence. My experiences have taught me in the pool of ideas, it is the ideas that matter and not the gender they are coming from,” she explained. “I am very grateful to have colleagues and management at Gentex who have treated me equally, valued my opinion, and never made me feel otherwise. I continue to focus on my goals and don’t allow anything or anyone to let me down easily.”
She recently achieved a very personal goal of becoming a permanent resident of the United States. Sonali describes the process for Indian Nationals as grueling because not many green cards are awarded each year. Her 15-year wait ended recently, and she is thrilled to move forward with long-term goals.
“Having permanent residency was extremely important to me because the United States is home to me," she said.
"For all these years I lived with the fear of my work visa getting canceled, which would have forced me to leave the United States and restart a life somewhere else," Sonali continued.
"I am happy to have obtained the green card and now I can channel all my energy into the betterment of myself, my family, and my work at Gentex.”