In this installment of Senior Member Insights, OPN talks with Maumita Chakrabarti, an R&D manager in the 3DSIP unit in imec Belgium. Chakrabarti brings more than 20 years of academic, R&D and manufacturing experience in optoelectronics and laser physics, focusing on various laser applications, with expertise in space, defense, sensing, optical storage, laser and semiconductor industries spanning seven countries.
Maumita earned a doctorate in photonics engineering from Denmark Technical University, a master’s degree in physics from Heriot-Watt University, UK, and a master of technology degree in optoelectronics from Calcutta University, India. She is the lead author on many scientific-journal and conference articles and co-inventor of a patent. She also holds an Exe. MBA degree from the Quantic School of Business and Technology.
What first interested you in pursuing science?
From childhood, I was curious about light, as light enables us to see things around us. How it works was my question when I was first introduced to physical science. Of course, other sciences also help to understand our nature, atmosphere, the universe, etc. But I decided to explore optics, as I was fascinated with various light–matter interactions.
I graduated in optoelectronic engineering, knowing different aspects of optics, photonics, and various applications. In the 21st century, light applies in almost all fields, especially in medical, biosensing, gas-sensing, military, space, aeronautical, telecom, datacom, and various industries like automobile lidar, etc. I am fortunate enough to pursue my passion in light.
What aspect of your current work do you find the most interesting or exciting?
I like to mentor the team. Based on the work level [and] psychology, I apply different leadership styles to team members. Sometimes it can be challenging to manage a team, having diversity in terms of talent, area of work [or] cultural background. However, I love to take the challenge of practicing and studying people’s psychology to empathize with my leadership style. I also sometimes benefit from new ideas which are interesting too.
What tips for successful networking do you have for early-career professionals?
I feel if I … approach honestly to anyone respectfully, the other person also reciprocates in the same way. And I … never judge people, to make my networking strong.
What’s the best career decision you’ve ever made, and why?
Although I was working with one of the prestigious organizations, called the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), as a scientist, in 2007 I decided to explore the world by going out from India, and I joined the Heriot-Watt University in the UK. Since 2002, I have worked for eight countries, including India. The adventure of working for different countries helps me explore the countries, nature, people, culture, food, work ethics and many more things which extend my adaptability.
What skills do you think are most important for someone interested in a career like yours?
Perseverance for work and aspiration for new learning are key to gathering diverse knowledge. Hands-on activities are essential for technical skills. For soft skills, team playing and listening power [and] quality are valuable to become popular among teams [and in] higher managerial levels.
Describe a major turning point in your career. Was there a specific action or accomplishment that got you there?
I decided to pursue both degrees, Ph.D. and then an Exe. MBA, to challenge me. Because of that, I am now equipped with both technical and strategic leadership, which may help me take the ladder of my career graph and makes me confident about running million-dollar projects.
What is one piece of advice that you wish you were given as a student or early in your career?
Anyone should not be afraid of mistakes. It means someone tried something different from the conventional way, which doesn’t work. Everyone needs to learn from mistakes and not repeat the same mistakes in the future.
What have you learned by being a mentor to others, and what have you learned from mentors who helped shepherd your career?
I have learned that I should be open to learning and listening, irrespective of level. Daily I am learning from my junior with fresh ideas. At the same time, I am learning experience and leadership qualities from my mentors. I should know now when I should open my mouth in both cases while I am with seniors or juniors.
At this point in your career, what are you most looking forward to next?
My short-term goal is to lead a group [or] unit. I would establish a remarkable leadership quality by helping teams with technicalities and providing the right resource whenever needed. Also, I will continue my learning path to enlighten myself with diverse knowledge.
Outside of work, what is your favorite thing to do in your free time, and why?
I love cooking and try to improvise [and] experiment with traditional dishes. Cooking is the activity that makes me more organized in terms of planning, keeping time under control, and encouraging me to take calculated risks. After spending a long-time in the kitchen, I feel happy if the dish tastes good. The cooking activity enhances my concentration power.
I am a classical Kathak dancer too. I love to dance and compose new pieces of dance styles. Sometimes, I draw imaginary landscapes depending on my mood.