“Keep Curiosity Alive”

Agrima Bansal

From her workplace in San Jose, California, Agrima Bansal reflected on the path that led to her current role in R&D at Cadence. The company is a leader in electronic systems design, applying its underlying intelligent system design strategy to deliver software, hardware, and IP. Agrima is a key member of a team that enhances the Core Timing Engine, which is integrated into several Cadence products.

Growing up in India with an engineer father and relatives in the profession, Agrima had a sense of what working in technology might be like. By 11th grade, she made a conscious decision to become an engineer, taking advanced physics, math, and chemistry classes and studying with coaches to do her best on exams. She entered the all-women Banasthali University, graduating with a B.S. in electronics engineering. In her final year, she realized that she wanted to learn and do more, and that graduate school in the United States could offer the opportunity she was looking for. Agrima enrolled at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where she earned a master’s in electrical and computer engineering.

“I wanted a job that would combine my knowledge of electronics and software,” she said. “Electronic design automation seemed like an excellent niche for that, and today, I work in an R&D team for one of Cadence’s top chip design tools.”

Based on her career journey so far, she offered the advice, “diversify your network of those you seek advice from, and take opportunities to speak with people both in and out of engineering to keep curiosity alive! Engineering is extremely broad. If you are not liking what you are doing a few months in, you have plenty of parallels to move into quite easily.”

Contributing with her voice and actions

In addition to her technical role, Agrima is involved in diversity efforts. “I attended the Cadence Women’s Conference (CWC) this year, and it was a wonderful experience,” she said. “I got to hear top electronic design automation gurus from UC Berkeley talk about their journeys, where they are now, and their understanding of the challenges with regard to women in the tech industry.”

The conference provided an opportunity for Agrima to meet other women employees at Cadence, and to put some of her own experiences into a larger context. “I believe I am very motivated about the cause of helping other women come into engineering. I often felt alienated during high school, coaching classes, and later, while obtaining my master’s degree,” she said.

“I find a friend in all women I meet,” she explained, “as I feel we have very similar experiences at some base level. We know historically, as a society, we have a way to go to achieve gender equality. I would love to help address whatever part of it I can with my voice and actions.”

With that in mind, “I tried to bring my experience and learnings back from the conference and am working with the HR department to start more frequent women-centric interactions within our group. I am also volunteering to help plan the next CWC and similar events.”

Opportunities to contribute are available through the CWC and similar Cadence programs. “There are five employee-led resource groups (Black, Latinx, LGBTQ+, veterans, and women’s inclusion groups) that provide space for employees to come together with those with shared backgrounds or lived experiences,” Agrima said.

“We have programs like our internal IMPACT mentorship program (in which she participates), and scholarship programs for women, Latinx, and Black students,” she added. “We also collaborate with organizations like Girls Who Code and SWE, which are helping us create a more balanced work environment.”

On overcoming challenges and the importance of role models

Agrima shared that, “One of my top challenges is that I’ve underestimated myself and lack the confidence to speak or ask questions.” One remedy to this problem has been to recall instances when she did have the courage to speak up, remind herself that the outcome was positive, and to draw strength from those experiences.

Beyond engineering, she has found role models in women leaders on the global stage, including former first lady Michelle Obama and Finland’s current prime minister, Sanna Marin.

Recently, Marin experienced a controversy when photos from a private party were leaked. “What I specifically took from her response was the importance of confidence and boundaries,” Agrima said. “I feel we often overcompensate and overstretch. It is vital to stay true to oneself and set boundaries for your well-being. Learning how to draw a line and deciding where to draw it is something I respect and requires constant learning.”

Keeping in touch with her own sense of curiosity, committing to a schedule for personal pursuits, and adhering to time boundaries contribute to Agrima’s sense of well-being. “In my personal life, I love to cook and am a foodie in all senses! I believe in bringing people together via food and often host games/dinner nights,” she said. “I love music and dance and go to high-energy dance workouts every week. Apart from that, I love to explore unique cultures, places, and cuisines whenever I can. Cadence’s global recharge days have been a significant help, allowing me to have more bandwidth to focus on the things I love outside of work.”