Bridges of Understanding in Engineering

Smita Shah started a tech company in 1998, 2 years after graduating from Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a Master’s Degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering. Her initial thought when creating Spaan Tech was to create a company where a group of talented people could come together and work on great projects to make things better. She dove in thinking either she would fail and end up working for someone else or things would take off and be extremely successful. 

Growing up she claims, “I was a very big nerd”. Smita would participate in the math and science programs and had won many statewide competitions. Smita still has the ribbons and trophies from those competitions. That drive continued through her high school and college career. She was one of the only girls on the team and also one of the only “brown girls” on those teams. In her early days, she worked as an Intern at the White House and was asked if her parents were either engineers or doctors. She responded stating that her father was an engineer and her mother was a real estate manager. There has been a growth in seeing Indians in these highly educated fields. But that doesn’t mean that Smita hasn’t dealt with judgment for being in the engineering world. People are constantly surprised that she has her Masters from MIT.

When asked about why there aren’t as many women in the engineering world, Smita thinks that there isn’t enough of Math and Science is shown as a good thing and that there aren’t many women in the workforce to show how successful it can be. She continued to say that it can a rewarding world and still leaves enough time for a family. Smita made sure that having a family was a part of her company and that she promotes creating a family within her business. Even in her own family, she pushes and encourages her daughter to be outspoken and reach for her dreams. Learn more: https://www.thechicagonetwork.org/members/smita-shah/

Spaan Tech is currently working on family housing, roofing, adding solar paneling, roadway projects, adding lights to the highways, a new runway at O’Hare International Airport. Over the last 20 years, Smita and Spaan Tech have won many awards crossing many different areas. And last year was listed at number 1,821 on Inc. magazine’s list of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies. Smita also sits on many boards and helps to encourage new businesses and young entrepreneurs.

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