Uday Shankar | Work Life | Global Indian

Uday Shankar: Designing CPUs and mentoring students, new employees to create a meaningful life

Written by: Minal Nirmala Khona

Name: Uday Shankar l Designation: Staff Engineer; Skilled Group Leader l Company: ARM l Location: North Carolina, USA

Uday Shankar grew up in Mumbai and till he was in the final year of engineering, didn’t really think about going to the US. He recalls, “I graduated in engineering from the SIES Graduate School of Technology, University of Mumbai in 2007, with a major in electronics and telecommunication. I got a job offer from a leading IT firm and accepted it. I knew I wanted to explore hardcore electronics related fields and jobs, but those opportunities were rare back then. On reading about it and talking to mentors and counsellors about options in such fields, I quickly realised that the US was the place to be. I started applying to universities in the US to enroll for their Master’s programme.”

The American challenge

Uday continued to work in Mumbai till he got the acceptance letter from North Carolina State University – which was one of his top choices for several reasons – great coursework, good potential to find jobs post-graduation, and the lovely weather. He got a lot of flak from well meaning friends and family about leaving a steady job, taking a loan and moving to a country that was going through a recession at that time in 2008.

And he did face a lot of challenges – right from learning to live alone away from friends and family to contributing towards chores at home, sharing responsibilities with other roommates … all this while going through one of the most challenging educational programmes. Till he got there, he didn’t even know he had the flexibility to pick the courses that he wanted to take each semester.

Uday Shankar | Work Life | Global Indian

Outside of coursework, finding an on-campus job to help support daily expenses was another challenge. He says, “I ended up working at fast food joints that were part of university dining, worked at the university gym as a basketball scorekeeper, volleyball and soccer referee. While these were tiring and time consuming, it was exciting at that time and the jobs taught me how it is important to maintain good credit history, when and how to file taxes, etc. Being on a student visa came with its own immigration challenges on how many hours you could work every week (while enrolled as a full-time student).”

Networking to CPUs

His career graph has seen a significant shift where he moved from computer networking to CPU designing. He had focussed more on computer hardware design earlier, as North Carolina State University has a very good computer engineering programme where they have courses that focus on computer architecture, VLSI and ASIC/chip development and computer networking. He says, “My first job after graduating from NCSU was at a company called Juniper Networks – where I worked for almost a decade. Here’s where I could put all the academic knowledge I had gained with respect to ASIC development and computer networking to use and also gained a lot of industry experience in return. Post that, I switched domains and moved to Microsoft – which is where I got exposed to CPU design. This was exciting since it felt like everyone in the industry wanted to build custom CPUs for all their products.”

After working with Microsoft for a little over three years, Uday moved to ARM who were setting up a new site in North Carolina. He has been with them for over a year now in a technical management role. ARM is a UK based company whose bread and butter is building next gen CPUs across domains — cell phones/tablets, IOT devices, automotive and also high-end data centres/cloud.


Uday Shankar | Work Life | Global Indian

A significant part of his life though is the mentoring he provides to students and graduates. Shedding light on the subject, he says, “Mentorship is something that’s very close to my heart. I enjoy talking to prospective students and early-in career graduates. There’s so much I can learn from just talking to them. It helps me connect with what’s going on in academia too. There are a few mentorship programmes that I’m part of: One is within my organisation. I’ve done this at prior employers too – where I engage with new hires (they could be engineers who are fresh off engineering school or even senior engineers who are new to the company). I help them with all the onboarding, coming up to speed with the current project and getting to know the work flow and culture within the team/group.”

The second mentoring programme keeps him connected with his university. He says, “The programme I have been a part of for a few years now is something that North Carolina State University runs – where they pair me with one or more students that are currently enrolled for their Master’s degree. I work with these students and help them with some basic career guidance. This could include which courses to take, how to prepare and plan for internships, what to expect at interviews, expectations within the industry on recent college graduates, etc.”

Family guy

On the personal front, Uday is married to Aditi, a physician (MD), for almost 12 years now. She has switched focus to concentrate more on research and currently works as an Associate Medical Director for a leading pharmaceutical firm. They have two sons – Vihaan (9) and Eshaan (6). His younger sister Prerna lives in Bengaluru with her husband. His parents are based in Mumbai but they travel to the US frequently.

Uday firmly believes in maintaining a work-life balance. He says, “I’ve been fortunate that all the managers I’ve worked with over the years have given me a lot of flexibility with managing my time. Be it working from home on some occasions, coming in late or leaving early to pick/drop off kids, attend doctor’s appointments, etc.”

Uday Shankar | Work Life | Global Indian

To strike that balance Uday thinks having a workout routine, whether it is spending time on the treadmill, biking with the kids, playing a sport or even just taking a walk is vital. As is spending time with family, watching tv shows or movies. “I also play a lot of video games and listen to music. It’s really important to pay attention to your mental and emotional health too (these tend to get de-prioritised). Music is like therapy for me and helps me deal with my emotions.”

Making America home

Besides mentoring to give back to society, Uday has some important tips to share with those who are going to the US for the first time. He says, “It is tough, but it is important to stay focussed and things will fall in place. For folks coming from India, it can be a bit challenging due to the immigration woes we all have to go through. But it’s important to not let that dampen your spirits and focus all your time and energy on stuff that’s within your control, and most importantly, always stay positive!”

And for those who find parenting a challenge, given the cross-cultural differences he says, “Parenting is challenging. Every kid is different. With respect to keeping my kids connected to our culture, we give them all the exposure they can get. For e.g. we celebrate all festivals and holidays – Holi, Diwali and Ganesh Chaturti – with the same enthusiasm and involvement as we celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I think that has helped them get the best and stay connected with both worlds. Additionally, we’ve been extremely fortunate that our families have been able to travel to the US often and spend a lot of time with the kids. That has helped them create that special grandchild-grandparent bond which has been heart-warming to watch.”

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