Celebrating #InternationalWomensDay : Gunjot Kaur

08 March 2023

Modern history is replete with examples of men who made a name for themselves in science, technology, engineering and mathematics or STEM in short. And few have been such an inspiration as Gunjot Kaur, who has carved a name for herself in the field. Today, Gunjot Kaur helms the Director and Product Marketing Team Lead at Infineon Automotive High Voltage Module Product Line in Germany. As a technical expert in semiconductors and marketing, Gunjot is responsible for product marketing for automotive high voltage power modules for electric mobility working with car original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and Automotive Tier 1. Gunjot’s success today – as a woman who not only found her voice but harnessed it to inspire other fellow women and men – was a culmination of a long personal journey.

Pursuing a Lifetime Passion

For such cultures as India and in a field of study that is traditionally leaden with males, Gunjot’s family eschewed the traditional notions of patriarchy. Her mother’s tenacity in pushing her to pursue the love of her life – physics – neatly symbolised her family’s ethos: nothing could stop her or any other women from pursuing their passion.

“India has a very diverse culture, and I was very fortunate that growing up, I was never aware I was any different being a woman. The very thing my parents gave me was the freedom to choose and the ability to think for myself. The one teaching that carried throughout my professional life to date was whatever decisions I make, I must be accountable for the consequences that happen,” said Gunjot.

“Physics is my big love in life. I have always been very passionate about studying Physics since I was in Grade nine. I was also very intrigued about life and why things are the way they are. So, when I was introduced to a subject that answers a lot of such questions, my passion for Physics simply went through the roof,” she recalled fondly.

Having completed her bachelor’s degree in physics at Miranda House College, a college affiliated with Delhi University, she had steered a different course in her choice of her master’s degree.

Against the Odds: Overcoming Challenges

“Although I always wanted to study astrophysics, I was also into microphysics. When my mother came across an advertisement about this joint master’s degree in Integrated Circuit Design conferred by the Technical University of Munich and the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore, she got me to apply for the course,” Gunjot said.

However, she was rejected for the course.

Yet that did not stop her from trying further.

“My mother was the one who encouraged me to try again. She urged me to request for an interview, to ask for a chance to study in this course. So, I wrote to Markus (Managing Director, TUM Asia) and asked if I could meet with some Professors. I read a book on Analog Design and Markus arranged for me to meet with the Professor-in-charge of Analog Design. Thankfully, I was accepted into the course! Fast forward 15 years later, I am still in the STEM field doing what I enjoy most,” she recounted cheerfully.

For a physics graduate – with close to zero knowledge in engineering – to be suddenly thrust into the nerve centre of semiconductors, to be in daily interactions with engineering would be a tumultuous experience, but not for Gunjot, as she took everything in her stride.

“Looking back, pursuing Integrated Circuit Design was quite a plunge into a land of the unknown. I was even graded a C in the first exam I sat for the course!” quipped Gunjot.

“I was very fortunate to be studying in a close-knit community of Professors and classmates where studying was more like a team effort than a solitary undertaking. I had a lot of support from my classmates and Professors, which pushed me to study doubly hard and confront my weakest topic. In the end, under the supervision of Professor Siek Liter, I got a 1.0 for my master’s thesis, which I am still very proud of!” laughed Gunjot.

Confronting the Hierarchy

In the science and technology space filled with strong personalities with huge ambitions to make a mark for themselves, Gunjot cuts through the crowd with her warm and magnetic personality. But it was not always a bed of roses, as Gunjot’s life traversed the same sweep of history as many women of her generation do – gender equality.

“Over the years, there are more women joining the STEM field and there is greater openness to embrace gender diversity in workplaces. I am also given an opportunity to undergo a leadership course at Infineon Technologies. Back then, the gender equality when I first started my career was quite real. I always feel that there was a glass ceiling I had to break. As a woman in this male-dominated space, I often had a lot of self-doubts. I tend to see things and ask myself how a man would do it. Over the years, I have learnt to be honest about myself and realise that I don’t always have to do things the way men do. I would do it my way. It may take longer to reach my goal, but at least when I look back, I would be proud of myself that I accomplished things my way,” said Gunjot.

Being fresh out of school, Gunjot was not quite prepared to navigate the intricacies in the corporate world, let alone a testoterone-laden one. The economic downturn happened in 2008 when many of her colleagues had to leave, pretty much left Gunjot in professional limbo.

“I don’t think I truly recovered from the loss of outstanding mentors who are extremely experienced in their field of study as the company was trying to reduce headcount. I did not know how to deal with the emotional loss of people I respect and work with daily,” recounted Gunjot.

But it was also a defining moment for Gunjot to change her approach in life.

“This was a turning point for me as I decided how I want to conduct myself at work. Since then, I have embraced honesty at work. Whenever I face challenges, I would call them out and find support to navigate them together.” said Gunjot.

Currently at the top of her game in the industry, Gunjot bears the mantle of inspiring other women to do the same.

Paving the Way for Others

“I recall a conversation I have had with my husband’s cousin years ago when she confided in me that she doubted that she is cut out to study math or physics. I told her that was the wrong mentality and that she should never question her interest. She has since pursued medicine and is now a very well-established dentist! I am happy for her to have made the decision not to settle and to pursue her dreams. I would always tell my team to take the road that is less travelled. It has benefited me and my life, and I always pride myself on taking the unconventional path. So, it seems that the path that very few women have taken might seem difficult, but I think once you have done it, you would feel proud, for you have also paved the way for others,” said Gunjot.

Having welcomed a new life in October 2021, Gunjot now has different sights in mind.

“Right now, I’m also trying my best to raise my son never to question a woman’s ambitions and always to be encouraging and open to women’s aspirations,” said Gunjot.

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