Electrical Engineering Alumna on Working at Amazon and Launching New Career Site

Sonia Hingorany

Jan 5, 2021

By UCLA Samueli Newsroom

Many graduates are searching for answers on how to find jobs amid an unprecedented global pandemic. From working at one of the world’s most recognized companies to pioneering a new career platform, UCLA Samueli alumna Sonia Hingorany, who is a senior manager of infrastructure
global expansion at Amazon Web Services, hopes her professional journey can help shed some light for undergrads.

Hingorany graduated from UCLA in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a minor in cognitive science. She served as student speaker at the commencement. After UCLA, she worked at Accenture before pursuing an MBA in operations management and information technology at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business. Hingorany has since worked at Amazon and recently launched a new digital career site, MyMicrojourney, aimed at offering short, digestible videos of personalized career advice. We caught up with Hingorany to learn more.

For post-grads trying to navigate the current job climate, my best piece of advice would be to not hesitate to reach out, but go in knowing that there is a chance you will be rejected. It’s part of the process, and all it means is that you are one step closer to finding the right opportunity for you.

Q: As an undergrad, what interested you about studying electrical engineering and cognitive science?
I was fascinated by engineering because I had always enjoyed math and problem-solving in school. I knew that with any career I would pursue, problem-solving skills would be essential to being successful. I also knew that I could pivot in a few different directions if I wanted to pursue a career in technology, so that’s why I ended up choosing electrical engineering as a major. While at UCLA, I also took a class in cognitive science as an elective and recall being very intrigued about human behavior and the processing of information. I highly encourage students to explore different classes that interest them while at UCLA if they are able. Remember, some of the most intelligent professionals and subject-matter experts in the world are teaching these classes!

Q: How did involvement in UCLA’s Society of Women Engineers (SWE) influence your time on campus and your perspective after graduation?
SWE has had a significant impact on my life both during UCLA and post-grad. It was comforting to have a network of like-minded women to connect with during my time at UCLA. We were able to discuss topics such as studying in a male-dominated field; how we could encourage young female students to consider pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics as majors; and how to navigate applying to grad school or finding a job.

Q: I see that you are still involved with SWE! Why did you decide to remain connected to this organization?
After I graduated from UCLA, I attended SWE’s Evening with Industry event at UC Berkeley a couple different times, as I had organized the event at UCLA when I was on the SWE board. I continued to provide support to that chapter while I lived in San Francisco. When I moved to Seattle in the summer of 2015, I reengaged with SWE as part of the Pacific Northwest (PNW) section and have served on the board for the past five years. I believe whole-heartedly in SWE’s mission and I spend much of my time mentoring and empowering both young women and men to achieve their full potential in careers as engineers and leaders. SWE has helped me navigate my career and I am passionate about giving back to the cause.

Q: Can you tell us about your experience as the UCLA Samueli graduation speaker?
A few months before graduation, engineering faculty sent out an email to the graduating students mentioning they were looking for a student speaker for the ceremony. I remember thinking how fun it would be to give a speech to my graduating class, but [had always thought that] engineers can’t be speakers! Something kept telling me to give it a shot, so I put a speech together, auditioned and was chosen to be the student speaker for the Class of 2008! I learned that engineers can be speakers – they are speakers, and they have a lot to say. I would never have been able to prove my preconceived notions wrong if I didn’t challenge myself in that situation. Moral of the story – push yourself to get out of your comfort zone while at UCLA and in life! Don’t hesitate to try new things and be comfortable with being uncomfortable!

Q: If you had to pick an important lesson from your time as an undergrad, what would it be? 
You don’t have to know what you want to do for the rest of your life while you are an undergrad. The reality is we are constantly trying to navigate our careers and figure out what we want to do in the future as we go through our journey. So my recommendation is to have a plan, but be open to detouring from that plan and to [other] opportunities that pop up along the way because being open to that is really what’s going to inform you on whether the decisions you are making are the correct ones.

Q: Why did you decide to pursue an MBA? How was the experience shifting from UCLA to Carnegie Mellon?
I decided to pursue an MBA to make a career switch from consulting to the technology industry and to expand my professional network. I worked at Accenture for five years after graduating from UCLA so transitioning to Carnegie Mellon and going back to school was an adjustment since I had been accustomed to being in the workforce for half a decade. With that said, I quickly got back into studying mode and truly enjoyed graduate school. Having the ability to work with talented students across the engineering and computer science departments as part of the MBA program was a great experience.

Q: What recommendations would you give current undergrads who are looking for ways to bridge the things they are learning in their classes with their career?
Get an internship. That was the best thing I did as an undergraduate. Understanding how to apply what I was studying to the real world was very important. I had three corporate internships while studying engineering at UCLA. My first one was after my sophomore year, and because I held a few different internships during the summers between school years, I knew what I wanted to do and what to expect as a full-time employee at Accenture by the time I graduated from UCLA.

Q: How do you approach networking? What advice would you give current graduates trying to navigate the current job climate?
I’ve always tried to approach networking as organically as possible. Many people treat networking as a skill you only need to tap into when you are searching for jobs. [In fact,] it should be something you are continuously practicing. In reality, networking is just a conversation where you walk away learning something valuable from another individual while teaching them something valuable about you. For post-grads trying to navigate the current job climate, my best piece of advice would be to not hesitate to reach out, but go in knowing that there is a chance you will be rejected. It’s part of the process, and all it means is that you are one step closer to finding the right opportunity for you.

Q: You are now working at Amazon Web Services. Is there anything you can share about that experience?
I have been working in Infrastructure at AWS for about a year and a half now, which has been an interesting and fulfilling experience. It is an extremely fast-paced environment as the business continues to scale exponentially and evolve to meet customer demands. I am very happy to be working in this part of the business because it has become so essential to the daily lives of our customers. I look forward to continuing to grow as a leader in this space.

Q: You are also creating MyMicrojourney. What can you tell us about this project?
MyMicrojourney serves as a personalized masterclass for an individual’s career. It makes access to invaluable professional stories and experience easier than ever before! MyMicrojourney features a variety of microjourneys, short videos showcasing the highlights and lowlights of an individual’s professional experience. The video length gives just the right amount of insight and detail to send a meaningful message to the audience. Users will receive curated microjourneys that align with their unique professional profiles and will have the ability to connect with these individuals to take a conversation further if interested. I’m very energized by the process I am going through to build this experience and am currently working on increasing the number of microjourneys on the platform. If you are interested in creating your microjourney or are looking to connect with individuals currently on the platform, please contact me at sonia@mymicrojourney.com.

Zoe Curran contributed to this story.

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