When Roxsana Hadjizadeh was in elementary school in her native, pre-revolution Iran, she remembers wanting to be an engineer. She wrote about her career ambitions in friends’ scrapbooks, because she knew that she was good in math – a talent that her father nurtured, and both her parents encouraged.
Today, this IEEE Senior Member is known for her passion about technology and innovation, as well as her leadership within one of the most dynamic of all IEEE Sections, and in a vibrant chapter of IEEE Women in Engineering. Currently a new product program manager for Cisco Systems, Hadjizadeh is respected both for her technical contributions in a range of industries, and for her mastery of networking skills.
Her career path across Silicon Valley – from her first job in 1983 as a test engineer working with integrated circuit chips – to Cisco, where she leads cross-functional teams to deliver quality hardware and software products to customers, is now the subject of the newest volume in the award-winning IEEE-USA E-BOOKS’ Women in Engineering (WIE) series. Why I Am an Engineer, by Roxsana Hadjizadeh, is the 18th work in the series.
Except for the first book, an overview of STEM occupations, each WIE volume is a personally written account of how a notable woman technologist became interested in technology, obtained her education, and developed a successful and satisfying career.
Praised by educators and women’s organizations, and honored with numerous publishing industry awards, this year marks the fifth for new volumes in the series.
“Each author has a unique and inspiring story that will help to motivate the next generation of both female and male technologists,” says Georgia Stelluto, IEEE-USA Publishing Manager; and Manager/Editor, IEEE-USA E-BOOKS. She adds that authors are selected for practical, down-to-earth professional guidance they can share with readers. “They represent a diverse, cross-section of backgrounds,” she says, “and each has had distinctive, life-shaping experiences.”
Although other authors in the series have discussed how they countered archaic notions about female roles in a formerly all-male profession, Roxsana Hadjizadeh recounts several instances during her childhood when she received only encouragement. In school, her classmates called her “Algebra Master,” because she could easily solve blackboard problems. At home, her father spent his evenings playing math puzzles with her and her four siblings. Later, her parents paid for her college education in the United States.
Hadjizadeh studied at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, where she received her BSEE in 1981, and her MSEE in 1983. After graduating, she went directly to Silicon Valley, to find a job. GENUS Inc. quickly hired her to analyze and suggest improvements to processes for the company’s system of laying down thin layers of film and coating on silicon wafers.
At her next job, with PRIAM Corporation, she worked for “Chuck,” whom she describes as one of the best managers she ever had. “Among his many good qualities,” she says, “he always treated me as an equal, although I was far less experienced than him.”
In the book’s “What I Love about Engineering” chapter, Hadjizadeh discusses why she is attracted to the profession. “The opportunity to create useful products that help people enjoy life and get more from it, has been an ongoing reason why I love engineering,” she writes. “Many of the products I’ve helped to develop are related to helping people communicate better.”
Another reason why she enjoys the profession is experiencing – first-hand – the speed of technological change. She recalls that in 1982, her summer job at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign was to design and supervise the installation of temperature sensors connecting each building to the computer in the campus power plant. In 2014, she marveled when Google acquired smart-thermostat maker Nest Labs – with the aim of making its technologies available to smart-phone users.
The author firmly believes that failure is a learning tool. “We all fail at something, and while failure can be a temporary setback, the inescapable fact is that failure is also a learning experience,” she writes. “I believe we must learn to think of failure as information – the information that we need to succeed.”
Among her own professional failures, Hadjizadeh cites the instance when she stated exaggerated ambitions in an employment interview, and another when she ignored the importance of obtaining consensus before making a group decision.
On the other hand, she believes that networking and making friends are vital to career success. “Hard work is the undisputable part of being successful,” she writes, “but good friends are also important. Over my 30+ years in Silicon Valley, the people I have met have enabled me to build strong, supportive bridges that sustain me personally and professionally.”
She says that one of the most important professional connections she has made is with IEEE – starting in 1980, when she became a Student member while attending college. In 2002, she helped to co-found the Santa Clara Valley Chapter of IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE), to help promote and support IEEE women members, as well as girls aspiring to STEM careers. She proudly points out that it is now the largest WIE chapter in the United States. Moreover, she believes that her long involvement with the IEEE Santa Clara Valley Section has enabled her to develop a wide range of leadership skills. Hadjizadeh has served as chair, as well as in other key offices within the Section.
Why I Am an Engineer, by Roxsana Hadjizadeh, is available in the IEEE-USA shop for the IEEE member price of $7.99; non-members can purchase the volume for $9.99. Non-members can also purchase it on Amazon.
Earlier this year, IEEE-USA E-BOOKS published a book in the WIE series by IT executive Geetika Tandon. Two more volumes in the IEEE-USA Women in Engineering series will be published in 2018.
The four published during 2017 were written by: Susan Delafuente, a Silicon Valley engineer; Monique J. Morrow, formerly Chief Technology Officer – Evangelist for Cisco Systems’ New Frontiers Development and Engineering; Rowena Track, Global Vice President of Digital, Channel and Partner Strategy and Marketing at Cigna Corporation; and Nathalie Gosset, a respected emerging technologies innovator.
All previous volumes in the WIE series are available at https://ieeeusa.org/shop/, and are $7.99 for members and $9.99 for non-IEEE members.
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.