When Sneha Sinha accepted an operations management internship at the Target Fulfillment Center in Albany, she expected to shadow her boss for ten weeks. After her first few weeks on the job, however, he was promoted.
“I was in a really unique position,” she said. “I got to step into that role and really own it. It was overwhelming at first, leading a team of people of different ages and backgrounds. But I love to get outside of my comfort zone.”
Sinha, a fourth-year industrial engineering major, jumped right into the challenges of an operations manager, working to improve the process of package distribution while making it easier for workers to safely perform their best work.
“It is our responsibility as engineers to remove obstacles for people,” she said. “Industrial engineering is all about identifying ways to make things more effective, efficient, and best utilize the resources that we have around us.”
Originally a mechanical engineering major, Sinha discovered industrial engineering after working closely with her advisor and realizing her strengths as an organizational systems thinker. She’s passionate about making a difference in people’s lives and helping them unlock their own potential.
“A lot of people don't think of themselves as leaders, but we are all leaders in our everyday navigations of the world,” she said. “You have so much more power than you realize.”
With multiple, active roles in the College of Engineering, Sinha’s leadership efforts and positive impact are evident to those around her.
“Sneha is such a powerful force in the College of Engineering,” said Sahid Rosado Lausell, the Recruitment and Diversity Initiatives Coordinator for the College of Engineering. “Not only does she lead multiple groups and initiatives for the college, but she approaches her leadership through an equity-minded lens. She works tirelessly to create a better college for everyone, while also empowering those who come after her to do the same.”
As a student ambassador, Sinha gives tours to incoming students and represents the college at various recruiting events.
She is also the lead intern for the college’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion. From organizing community building events to launching diversity and inclusion campaigns on social media, Sinha works to increase the visibility of students who have traditionally been underrepresented in STEM fields across the nation.
“I love planning events that bring people together for one mission,” Sinha said. “That's been a lot of my focus over the last four years, figuring out where my personal strengths, passions, and engineering collide.”
In her first year as President of the Engineering Student Council, Sinha put her skills to the test planning Oregon State’s first ever campus-wide Engineer’s Week. She organized three main events to showcase the diversity of engineers and their interests. Diversity Dialogues brought together a panel of engineering faculty and graduate students to share their experiences with the community, along with a keynote speaker from the Office of Institutional Diversity. PechaKucha provided a platform for student engineering organizations to present about their work and Engineers Rock the Plaza celebrated the end of the week with live music and food trucks.
“All of these programs have been so monumental in my growth as an engineer and my growth as an adult outside of the classroom,” Sinha said. “I've learned so much about realizing my power and using it to create platforms for underheard voices. Not everyone gets the opportunity to do what I've done and I'm eternally grateful for that.”
This upcoming summer Sinha will get to explore a different aspect of industrial engineering. As a Technology Summer Scholar with Deloitte, one of the world’s leading consulting firms, she’ll get another chance to expand her comfort zone, working on projects for government clients.
Eventually, she’d like to be CEO of a company, preferably her own.
“I want to increase the visibility of women of color in powerful positions,” she said. “Less than 1% of the Fortune 500 CEOs right now are women of color.”
To address issues of representation and change the stereotype of a typical engineer, Sinha started an Instagram account last year called Engineer Like A Lady, where she posts about her experiences in STEM and empowers others to pursue their dreams.
“The goal is to normalize women of color in science, technology, engineering, and math,” she said. “You don't have to have a particular upbringing or look and act a specific way. You can be a normal brown girl that likes make-up and still be a successful engineer.”
To balance out her myriad engineering pursuits, Sinha keeps one part of her life engineering-free: painting. She describes her style as American/Indian fusion, with pop elements; a vibrant, abstract mango shines out from her most recent work.
“I never thought I would be an engineer,” she said. “I'm a very artistic person and I grew up painting, dancing, singing, just about the opposite of what you usually hear students say for reasons why they picked engineering. But I think there is a niche in engineering for every type of person.”
by Meriden Vitale