Women in MechSE Spotlight: Riya Gyanmote

5/26/2023 10:57:35 AM Helen Chang

As a new generation of engineers joins industry, the representation of women continues to improve and female population in the field of engineering is expected to increase. The Society of Women Engineers report that about 34% of STEM workers are represented by women. Along with the increase of interest in the field, many women and other minorities in engineering are looking for better diversity in the engineering domain. Illinois puts emphasis on the different backgrounds and types of people within the departments.

Riya Gyanmote on the University of Illinois quad.Recent MechSE graduate Riya Gyanmote of Buffalo Grove, Illinois, reflects the growth of women in the field. Riya, who will start as a Process Engineer at the pharmaceutical company Eli Lily in August, served as external vice president for Women in MechSE (WIM), ambassador for Women in Engineering (WIE), head engineering learning assistant (ELA) for the course ENG 100, [TTD1] and leader for the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Illinois chapter. Riya was involved in many mentoring opportunities with the hopes of encouraging prospective and younger students to pursue their interest in mechanical engineering. To help students find a balance among academics, hobbies, and additional interests, Riya reflected on her experiences at the university and her methods for managing available time and avoiding burnout.

“Engineering can be a lot,” Riya said. “It’s important to have interests outside so you don’t get lost in your assignments.” Outside of MechSE, she is part of a Bollywood dance team called Zindaa. Her typical week consists of technical course projects, WIM planning and executive meetings, mentoring within registered student organizations (RSOs), and dance practices. She credits her participation in RSOs with giving her a different perspective on networking and talking to people inside and outside of her major, which in turn has encouraged her to explore different fields for her career.

“Every week is really different,” Riya said of the way engineering provides opportunity for her to step away from her daily routine. “There’s a lot of variety in what I do throughout the month or semester.” Thanks to diverse opportunities within MechSE and UIUC overall, each student can curate their daily routine to their own preference–whether it is a stable day-to-day schedule or a different activity every day.

“The university is putting in all it can to support programs like WIE and WIM,” she added. “I appreciate the way they give a supportive community.” Other than RSOs, the first-year class ENG 100 (Introduction to Engineering) was created to push engineering students to get to know more people within their major and to make friends with future classmates. Knitting the students together may help them find more solidarity within their respective departments, finding friends with whom to socialize and network. The university employs student chairs like Riya to direct the ENG 100 curriculum so that students receive helpful information—essentially, tips they might have otherwise wished they’d known during their first year.

“If I could ask the university to change one thing, it would be to increase support and awareness for different concentrations in MechSE,” Riya said. “The department is so broad that it can become overwhelming; this is why I believe in mentoring and advising. I wish I had had more exposure to more topics in MechSE.” She encouraged students in her ENG 100 class to pursue a multitude of different options within their interests in the department. She also hopes to see an increase in alumni panels consisting of both graduate students and engineers from industry. “Interdisciplinary studies could be helpful to find new interests,” she said.

Any tips for current or incoming students?

  1. Max out on mentoring! Mentoring never stops–even after graduating, find advisors to help and guide you.
  2. If an opportunity comes your way, always take the leap of faith.
  3. Prepare for industry if you’re interested! Go to mock interviews, company meetings, and project openings. Take the responsibilities whenever they open!
  4. Always say yes.
  5. For prospective students, if you have doubts, always visit campus!
  6. Don’t be afraid to fail. A great deal of people fail before becoming successful, but they seldom talk about it.
  7. If there’s a project open, always take it. You might not have a chance to do it again.
  8. You can try your best, but at the end of the day, trust that everything will work out.
  9. Experiences are worth just as much–if not more–than grades.
  10. It’s okay to not be as exceptionally motivated. You can take everything one step at a time and it’s okay to repeat things if they don’t work out the first time around.

What do you think the workplace will look like with more women in engineering?

I think there will be a shift in the types of questions being asked and the products that will be developed in return. A lot of current products are created from the perspective of men, and more innovations should be created to help women.

What's the most worthwhile or fulfilling thing you've done during your time in school?

I loved being the lead ELA during the fall semester. It was such a different experience to keep different student perspectives in mind. I loved that MechSE in that way was so interdisciplinary! I also loved the design classes as they were so unique and helped prepare me to be more successful.