Alumna named Engineering Leader Under 40 by Plant Engineering

“I am committed to creating an environment where everyone feels a true sense of belonging.” - Jayashri Aja Credit: Jayashri AjaAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Since Jayashri Aja graduated from Penn State with her bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering, she has been working to create opportunities for female representation and cultural diversity in the field of automation and manufacturing.

Her dedication has been recognized by Plant Engineering with the Engineering Leader Under 40 award. 

According to Plant Engineering, this award recognizes manufacturing professionals under the age of 40 who are making a significant contribution to their company’s success and to the control and/or plant engineering professions. 

“It means a lot to receive this award,” Aja said. “I don’t think that opportunities should be based on gender or ethnicity. When I started my career, I found that I wasn’t working with many other women. I didn’t feel like I had a strong support structure, and I don’t want anyone else to have the same experience that I did. It was important for me to help others further themselves and know that they aren’t alone.”

Aja knew that she wanted to pursue engineering because, she said, it is a mix of “hands-on skills with the business world.” She was drawn to the Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering at Penn State for its manufacturing education. 

“For Pennsylvania, manufacturing is at the heart of what makes the state great,” Aja said. “I really like the tangible applications of engineering, like metal casting and welding, but I also enjoy business. Industrial engineering made sense. I wanted to learn about manufacturing processes because then I am able to talk about them and truly understand its importance.”

Aja started her career with Rockwell Automation Inc., an American provider of industrial automation and information technology, where she still works today. Aja noted that while Rockwell Automation is a “forward thinking company,” she still feels that manufacturing itself could become a much more diverse field.

Aja wanted to create a safe space within her company, so she helped organize an employee resource support group, named RAWifi (Rockwell Automation Women in the Field). Aja explained that the group was conceptualized by a committee called Rockwell Automation Supporting Women Engineers (RASWE). 

RAWSE was tasked with understanding why the company had an issue with female retention, especially in the field sales organization. RAWSE realized that there was a challenge of lack of support and community within the field.

In some cases, there may only be one woman in a field office, or no physical office, meaning that employees worked remotely. RASWE was interested in finding working solutions to these challenges, which led to the creation of the niche group, RAWifi. The group exists to help the female field sales community through challenges and to show support, give advice and more.

Aja became involved following RAWifi’s establishment as a communications lead. She held a variety of roles before stepping into the overall lead position in February 2018, which she was in until January 2020.

RAWifi started with 30 women in 2015, but now their group is up to 500. She noted that men are also joining the group to show support. 

“Ideally, I’d like to get to the point that this group doesn’t need to exist because women and people of color feel supported all the time,” Aja said. “I am committed to creating an environment where everyone feels a true sense of belonging.”

Aja also seeks to improve the field of manufacturing outside of her job. She is a member of the Women in Manufacturing National Board of Directors and serves as co-chair of the Eastern Pennsylvania chapter. Women in Manufacturing provides programs to offer opportunities for women to pursue STEM careers.

She has lobbied in Washington, D.C. on behalf of Women in Manufacturing, and was co-lead for Rockwell Automation Women in The Field. She has mentored dozens of Rockwell Automation employees, helping them craft their unique leadership styles and career paths.


Last Updated October 20, 2020