For Dina Ayman’s parents, the road to medical school beckoned enticingly to their gifted daughter, a driven student with a love for math and science. The profession, they argued, would eagerly welcome a woman of her talents. But Ayman ’18, M.S. ’18, did not hear that call. And she resisted.
“From the seventh grade, my dream was to become an engineer, because I enjoyed studying math and physics and that’s what engineering meant to me,” she recalls, adding that she kept the dream alive despite her parents’ concerns that “engineering is not a field for girls and that the world might not allow a girl like me – an Egyptian-American Muslim – to be an engineer.”
The electrical and computer engineering major, who graduated in May with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, let outcomes prove her point: she received offers from 10 companies and, ultimately, landed an exciting software engineering position at Intel, her first choice.
When she landed in Austin, Tex. in August, Ayman was the newest – and youngest – addition to her 11-member team, focusing on networking issues with 5G Networks – the 5th generation of wireless systems. Her team works directly with equipment manufacturers to develop software for a programmable chip for 5G networks that will soon be available.
“The technology promises to change our lives by connecting everything around us to a network that is 100 times faster than our cellular connection and 10 times faster than our speediest home broadband service,” she notes. “The combination of speed, responsiveness and reach could unlock the full capabilities of other hot trends in technology, offering a boost to self-driving cars, drones, virtual reality and the internet of things.”
Ayman specialized in software as an undergraduate and networking in graduate school, so her job as a network software engineer allows her to explore many dimensions in both the software and the networking side of the technology.
“The beauty of software engineering is that it’s used in a variety of industries and not specifically in the tech industry. Software engineers can work on everything from medical equipment to airplanes,” she says. “And engineers are making some of the biggest advances in our society through technology that is changing our lives. Engineering is all about inventing and creating. I experienced this as a student at NJIT, where I worked on projects from scratch, including creating my own robotics.”
The road to Intel was “crazy, but incredibly fun,” she recounts.
“Ever since I started school, I registered for 18 to 21 credits. I heard a lot of ‘why do you do this to yourself?’, and ‘do you have a life?’ I knew it was crazy, but I also knew I could handle the workload. I learned to develop my skills and take the risk. No one was ever born a genius; it’s all about how hard you work.”
And with women still making up only about 13 percent of the engineering workforce, according to the Society of Women Engineers, her success felt crucial.
“There were some engineering classes where I was the only girl, but this did not make me feel that I didn’t fit in. Instead, it motivated me to compete and be even better,” she recounted in a talk she gave just after graduation to incoming students in NJIT’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP). “At that time, in 2013, women made up only 11 percent of the engineering workforce. But we’re getting there! Between 18 and 20 percent of engineering students are women. I have made a lot of choices that led me to where I am now, and becoming an engineer is one I’m extremely proud of.”
Of the EOP, which she joined before taking a single class, she remarked, “I will always call them family because they helped me with everything in life, from school, to personal life, to exploring career opportunities, to decisions regarding my life after graduation.”
She is now on the board of the Women in Engineering Network (WIN) employee resource group at Intel. So far, she has spoken with high school teachers who came to Intel to discuss new technologies and ways to involve more girls in STEM fields. She’s been featured on social media pages, including “Women in Tech,” where she was asked to talk to live audiences to encourage them to “pursue their dreams.”
Ayman landed in Austin on Intel’s 50th anniversary. Bands played, barbeque was inhaled and cars were given away, although she didn’t win one. The searing heat of her new locale is offset, she says, by the town’s friendliness and fun.
“I never thought I would love Austin so much or be integrated into the community so quickly. I’m very much feeling the “keeping Austin wired” vibe, as they say here,” she noted. “I was also officially approved to serve on the Technology & Telecommunications Commission representing District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool at City Hall.”