Final Five

with Chhavi Chaudhry, Tauber Institute for Global Operations Fellow

Chhavi Chaudhry, Tauber Institute for Global Operations FellowChhavi Chaudhry is a student instructor for the Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan. She also held a leadership position for the nonprofit BLUElab Woven Wind, where she collaborated with an elementary school in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to introduce fifth-graders to engineering and sustainability by designing hands-on, wind turbine building projects.

Chhavi ChaudhryWhen did you know you wanted to be an industrial engineer?

What I love about engineering is that while it requires creativity, it also requires logic and analytical thinking to be able to implement your ideas. I knew that was what I wanted to do coming into college and was excited to explore the different fields within engineering. In my first year of undergrad, what was the fact that these innovative ideas are applied to people and systems, rather than machines and computers. There is something inherently satisfying about watching all the different moving pieces of any complex system come together and align into one.

How did your IE experience apply to managing wind turbine projects with BLUElab?

I was able to see inefficiencies in several aspects of the team: meeting productivity, talent utilization and timeline adherence, among others. Using work organization and lean concepts, I was able to restructure the team and meetings in a way that not just significantly increased meeting productivity but capitalized on people’s interests and strengths, keeping them coming back to willingly work on more.

What did you hope to achieve by helping students install wind turbines?

First, to broaden student’s awareness of STEM fields by exposing them to engineering at a young age. We go through the whole design process with the students: demonstrating all the stages from design and concept generation, to prototyping, to building and testing and overcoming failures along the way. Second, by facilitating hands-on activities we are able to help the students learn about engineering and wind turbines in a way that is not typically seen in most schools. Third, by focusing on wind energy and turbines, we stress the importance of shifting toward renewable energy and being mindful of environmental sustainability. The message I hope to send to all the community members we work with is that if they are excited or passionate about something, they are capable and smart and should give it a shot, no matter how infeasible the idea sounds.

How have you applied your BLUElab experience to your current position?

My experience designing and facilitating educational activities through Woven Wind was extremely valuable here, as I was able to transfer many of the skills I picked up there to my position now. It also helped me to think of engaging and effective ways to explain complex systems at a simplified level using unique examples. When one of these examples clicks with a student, there is no feeling that compares to seeing the light bulb turn on, when the student understands the concept they’ve been struggling with.

Where do you see yourself after graduation?

I am passionate about mentorship and coaching. One of my favorite experiences at the University of Michigan has been my interaction with a faculty advisor who has built a delicate balance between industry and academia. I strive to become that professor in the future, teaching and sharing industry experiences and perspectives while maintaining focus on learning and development. I am excited to begin my post-graduation career at Amazon this year, where I hope to grow and learn in a way that I have not had the opportunity to experience before.

– Interview by Cassandra Johnson