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How the Keysight Innovation Challenge Was a Pivotal Moment for This MIT Engineering Graduate

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Pictured: Marie Hattar, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Keysight, and Daniel Bogdanoff award first prize in the 2019 Keysight Innovation Challenge to Gabriella Garcia and her colleagues from MIT.

In 2019, Gabriella Garcia, who at the time was an engineering student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a collegiate member of the Society of Women Engineers, took the stage alongside three teammates at the Keysight Innovation Challenge, a global engineering competition hosted by Keysight Technologies awarding top student teams up to $50,000, in New York City.

Her team showcased their IoT innovation, a novel mesh network that places sensors strategically around a farm to track soil moisture, temperature, light, and humidity. As Garcia presented her team’s big idea to a panel of judges, five other finalist teams of college students from around the world, and a packed room of attendees, she enthusiastically guided everyone down a journey into the future of farming – where farmers can more precisely understand their farms and collect plant-level data to better allocate resources. Garcia and her team left the competition with a top cash prize, but the lessons she learned from the experience carried even more value.

“The Keysight Innovation Challenge made a really big impact on the direction of my professional career,” Garcia said. “It was my first experience working as a pseudo product manager, designing something that’s user-centric and weighing considerations such as coding and the manufacturing of 3D-printed sensor nodes.”

For the first time, between her engineering labs and studies, Garcia was interfacing with farmers, learning about their pain points, and asking them for feedback once they deployed her team’s sensor nodes around their farms.

“This hands-on experience really helped me gain confidence in my skills and taught me how much I can contribute to a team and to a greater purpose,” she said. 

After graduating with a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT, Garcia accepted a spot in Google’s prestigious Associate Product Manager rotational program and worked as a PM Lead for Banking in Google’s Payments Platform. Then in 2022, she joined Two Sigma Ventures, a venture capital fund that invests in early-stage, data-driven startups across a range of industries, including FinTech, crypto, B2B SaaS, and healthcare. 

“I encourage other student innovators to take that chance, to sign up for the contest and to not be afraid to roll up their sleeves and put in the hard work and passion to make their ideas shine,” Garcia said.

As a woman in STEM, the Keysight Innovation Challenge also taught Garcia the importance of owning her differences. “I was one of two female engineering students that made it to the final competition,” Garcia explained. “The other woman, Irin, was also on my team from MIT. I learned during the contest and more so in the years to follow, to accept the fact that women are the minority in STEM and to own that difference with confidence. It’s our responsibility as women to stand out, and to trust in our skills and abilities to do so,” she said.  

how the keysight innovation challenge was a pivotal moment for this mit engineering graduate - keysight

This year, the Keysight Innovation Challenge is inviting students around the world to put their technical creativity to work by designing IoT systems to monitor carbon emissions in corporate or community environments, to help reach the United Nations’ goal of net-zero by 2050. The contest, which is accepting entries from undergraduate and graduate students through June 6, 2022, is going a step further to encourage more women like Garcia to follow STEM careers.

This year, all teams must be women-led and have at least equal representation of female students compared to male students on each team. For more information, visit the Keysight Innovation Challenge webpage and register to be a part of this year’s big event, either as a participant or to simply vote in support of your favorite team or entry. In addition, watch the highlight reel from the last Innovation Challenge, where Garcia and 18 other student finalists from schools around the world used their engineering brilliance to innovate for a better future.  

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    SWE Blog

    SWE Blog provides up-to-date information and news about the Society and how our members are making a difference every day. You’ll find stories about SWE members, engineering, technology, and other STEM-related topics.

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    Renee Morad

    Renee Morad is the Senior Education Solutions Marketing Manager for Keysight Technologies, where she shares insights about engineering education trends and industry-ready teaching solutions. Prior to joining Keysight, she has worked as a writer and editor for more than 15 years. She has been published in the New York Times, Scientific American, NBC News, Forbes, SmartMoney, the Wall Street Journal Magazine, and other outlets. She has also written marketing content for companies such as Dell, HP, Microsoft, Audi, JPMorgan Chase Co., and others. Renee graduated from New York University, where she studied journalism and creative writing.

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