Prathima Ignatius: Working to bring new products to market

Ignatius shares how she learned to step outside her comfort zone and the joy of wearing multiple hats.

I’m an electrical and computer science engineer with experience in product engineering and manufacturing management. Currently, I work as a new product introductions program manager on SRI’s Products and Services team to introduce new products to the market. Our research engineers are inventing new technologies daily, and our group helps transition them to high-volume manufacturing or to find business applications for these products. Right now, I’m working with SRI’s Robotics Laboratory on the Taurus project for telerobotic operation.

My journey to SRI began in India and took me through various roles and locations. I moved from India to Florida, where I received an electrical engineering degree from the University of South Florida. After, I worked in Texas at Texas Instruments and Schlumberger as a product engineer and eDFT engineer, then moved to Chicago where I worked in manufacturing management. My husband and I found our way to New Jersey to be near family, and I took another job in manufacturing management with a company that specializes in semiconductor equipment, before joining SRI’s Products and Services team in 2020.

Like most of us, I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs. Before SRI, I was often the youngest person—and the only woman—in the room, and it was especially challenging having grown up in India, where I was taught to respect and not question my superiors. However, my parents encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone, to question, explore, participate in various activities, and try new things.

This mindset proved invaluable when I challenged a more senior colleague at a previous company about bringing positive change to the organization. I was sure I’d be fired. I came to find they respected my courage and transparency, and from then I was able to accomplish more with my work and with my team. Soon, I was managing four departments at that company and exceeded expectations for my work.

On my two-hour commute, I’d drive by SRI every day and regularly checked for a position that fit me. In 2020, I found it, and have been here since. My work spans multiple aspects of product commercialization—bringing SRI innovations to market—and manufacturing. The products and services group focuses on bringing our latest technology, systems, or software to the marketplace. My manager, John Van Scoter, is a big reason I took the job. The respect, knowledge, and transparency he brings to our team is hugely valuable.

At SRI International, my work spans multiple aspects of product commercialization and manufacturing. I enjoy the opportunity to wear many hats and engage with different departments, learning from diverse groups within the organization. I also get to work with government projects, and that’s something I didn’t have in the commercial world. The variety of work here keeps me excited to come in every day.

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