Engineer combines passions for UX design and project management

Sudha Shankar, UCSC Silicon Valley Extension alumna

Between her undergraduate, graduate degree and now her professional certificates, Sudha Shankar has pursued her education on three different continents.

She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in electrical and electronics engineering at a premier institution in India, Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, and completed a master’s in complexity science from the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom before arriving in Silicon Valley to complete certifications in Project and Program Management and Software Engineering and Quality at UCSC Extension in 2016. Not only did she complete both certificates in record time—by the end of her programs, she was already fielding multiple job offers.

What brought you to UCSC Extension?

I had worked for leading telecommunication and wireless service providers, British Telecom and Vodafone in the U.K., for eight years before my husband accepted a fellowship at Stanford and we moved to California. I was looking to get experience in Silicon Valley, and as an international student, I couldn’t start working right away. I used this opportunity to acquire specialized design knowledge and leadership skills in preparation for my next career move. I want to specialize in user research and design and the courses I took at UCSC Extension were perfectly well suited for that.

Why did you decide to study both software quality and project management?

I have an electrical and electronic engineering background and have never studied much programming. I wanted to work my way from basic to advanced levels in programming and the Software Engineering and Quality courses were perfectly structured for a new programmer working her way to an advanced level. With regard to project management, while I had some hands-on management experience, I never had formal management education or an MBA. I wanted specialized education in managing projects, especially Agile and Extreme projects. The courses were well structured to cover these concepts, and helped me realize my true leadership style.

Further, I took both engineering and management courses each quarter, which gave me a good balance. My software courses were really tough; they required a lot of dedication and effort, but the program is very well suited to someone who is serious about education and wants to really specialize in a field afterwards. There is reasonable flexibility within the certificate programs to help you pick the right courses for the skillset you desire, or for a specific job you may have in mind that you would like to upskill yourself for. The PPM curriculum is also really good; it covers the skills you need to develop as a project manager. The assignments were of great quality and we worked on excellent case studies. Both certificate programs were of exceptional value to me and I would highly recommend them to anyone who is interested in this space.

What courses stood out to you?

I’d like to call out “User Experience Design Fundamentals,” “Mobile Interface Design”, “Project Leadership and Communication”, “Project Integration and Risk Management” and “Applied Project Management”. In the UX class we developed a website through the various stages of iterative design. This was really fulfilling—seeing the end product of our own effort and learning was delightful. By the end of the mobile interface design class, we created a high fidelity prototype of an app from the ideation to the prototype/ concept development phase, in just 6 weeks. All of the design assignments were fun, and at the end of my program I had two portfolios of work to share when I was interviewing for jobs. I have also shared my portfolios on websites that I can share with recruiters as I look for work.

The one thing I really wanted to get from my project management classes was to understand my leadership style and I totally discovered it by the end of my program. I also learned how to schedule, prepare a budget, do cost estimates and schedule compression.

What was your internship like?

I did my internship at Lumoid, a startup that focuses on consumer electronics. The biggest thing about completing an internship is that it keeps you current. When you attend classes, you learn what is going on in the industry, and when you intern, you learn how to be a good operator in the industry environment. Start-up experience is great for anyone who would like to understand how to operate across various departments of an organization and experience working in a fast-paced environment.

What was your experience like as an international student?

Overall it has been a great experience; the staff has been wonderful. They are always focused and ready to help. There is a process in place for everything; it is so professionally run. I would certainly recommend this program to other international students. Now that I have experience with education in three continents, I can certainly say with some certainty that UCSC Extension has a high standard.

Leave a Reply