A thousand-mile journey may begin with a single step, but IEEE Senior Member Jeewika Ranaweera took a great many more while traveling from her native Sri Lanka to Cuba, Canada, and finally, to Silicon Valley.
Currently a principal hardware engineer on the Advanced Technology Team at Oracle, Ranaweera writes with intelligence and insight about her development as a technical professional in the latest volume of the IEEE-USA Women in Engineering (WIE) E-Book series. She relates her inspiring story in My Three Journeys: Finding Professional and Personal Fulfillment as an Engineer.
Ranaweera’s book is the tenth volume in the award-winning IEEE-USA WIE E-Book series. “The women professionals who are contributing to this series are outstanding role models to whom girls and young women can easily relate,” says Leslie Martinich, chair of IEEE-USA E-BOOKS. Georgia Stelluto, IEEE-USA Publishing Manager & Manager/Editor, IEEE-USA E-BOOKS, adds, “The first-person stories of each of these authors can help to motivate and inspire the next generation of female engineers.”
Except for the first book in the series, which is an overview of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) occupations, each e-book is a personally written account of how a noteworthy woman technologist built her career. Each author examines both the difficulties and the opportunities she encountered while obtaining her education and advancing professionally.
In her e-book, Jeewika Ranaweera recounts her nearly 15,000 mile route: from the island nation of Sri Lanka, off the southeast coast of India; to Cuba where she studied at Instituto Superior Politécnico José Antonio Echeverría, a respected technical university in Havana; to Canada where she obtained her Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Toronto; and ultimately to Silicon Valley, where she and her family are now settled.
Throughout her narrative, the author reflects on the many experiences that fed her desire to become an engineer, which she calls “one of the most fascinating jobs in the world.” She describes her childhood penchant for taking apart and reassembling items--and dealing with her father’s reaction when she ended up with extra parts--making the item useless. “I learned to deal with his annoyance, which for some reason taught me to never be afraid of failure,” she writes. Another experience, cooking classes, taught her the importance of following instructions in any type of process development.
Ranaweera warmly recalls her years in Cuba, noting she was one of more than 20,000 international students then studying in Cuban universities who “were determined to experience Cuba with an open mind, and a willingness to learn about a new way of life.” She adds, “I thoroughly enjoyed my life there; I had stepped into a vibrant, lively and creative place.”
At the University of Toronto, she parlayed good grades and solid research projects into a series of research grants, teaching assistantships and fellowships that enabled her to finish her graduate studies with no debts.
Not all of Ranaweera’s career has run smoothly. In 2004, an employer laid her off, and she had to search for a new job. But with support from a networking group, and her characteristic positive attitude, she received an offer for an even better position.
“My engineering education, training and experiences have opened new doors for me,” she writes. “I have learned to understand how things work, and then be able to improve or create better solutions.”
Two more volumes in the IEEE-USA Women in Engineering E-Book Series are scheduled for publication in 2016. The first nine are:
- Women in Engineering – Book 1: Inspire and Close the Gender Gap by L-3 Warrior Systems systems and software engineering manager and IEEE Women in Engineering International Chair Nita Patel;
- Women in Engineering – Book 2: Passion, Perseverance and Making a Difference by Microsoft data analyst/program manager Maria Vlachopoulou;
- Women in Engineering – Book 3: Passions Can Sustain You: A Personal Career History by consultant Sherry Gillespie;
- Women in Engineering – Book 4: Follow Your Curiosities: Finding Success through Learning by James Madison University assistant professor Jacquelyn Nagel;
- Women in Engineering – Book 5: Finding Self and Growth by Broadcom integrated circuits packaging engineer Melissa Lau;
- Women in Engineering – Book 6: Your Career, My Career by Austin consultant Leslie Martinich;
- Women in Engineering – Book 7: Having It All by Silicon Valley consultant Tanya Candia;
- Women in Engineering – Book 8: The Art of Self-Empowerment by Punam Nagpal of Cisco Corporate Quality.
- Women in Engineering – Book 9: Recognizing & Taking Advantage of Opportunities by consultant Jill S. Tietjen, P.E.
More information about all ten IEEE-USA Women in Engineering E-Books is available at the IEEE-USA Shop. The member price for each volume is $7.99; non-IEEE members can purchase them for $9.99 each.
Helen Horwitz is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Albuquerque, N.M. She was with IEEE from 1991 through 2011, the first nine as Staff Director, IEEE Corporate Communications.