WIA Women to Watch: 2022 Q3; Sakshi Mishra

We're so excited to introduce our next Woman to Watch -- Sakshi Mishra!

Sakshi Mishra is an AI engineer and an autonomous systems researcher. She is currently a Senior AI Engineer in the Autonomous Systems group at Microsoft working on "Project AirSim". Before joining MSFT, Sakshi was leading REopt Lite API and its open-source effort at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) as a research engineer. Sakshi also led the Intelligent Campus Predictive Analytics work at NREL. Sakshi is an IEEE Senior Member and holds a Professional Engineer (P.E.) License. She received her bachelor's degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from VIT University, India, and her master's degree in Energy Science Technology and Policy from Carnegie Mellon University, as an academic excellence awardee. Sakshi is Forbes 30 Under 30 (Energy) 2022 Honoree, recipient of the 'The Cleantech Innovator' award (2020) from the Clean Energy Leadership Institute (CELI), Distinguished Alumni - Chancellor’s Special Award (2022) from VIT University, and NREL’s Chairman’s Award for Exceptional Performance (2020).

If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

Ability to have ZERO mental perturbations when faced with extreme situations (either positive and negative). Ten years ago, I used to have ~+8/-8 ripples in my mental landscape on a scale of 0-10 when unexpected situations occurred (hey, we are Data gals here so numbers is how we express ourselves effectively!). Today, the amplitude of those perturbations has gone well below 30%. But if I could go through life situations with ZERO internal/mental perturbations - that would be a superpower I would love to have! It would allow me to contribute to the world with all that I got - without burning any fuel in overcoming my internal chaos during extreme situations.

What advice would you give your younger self? What advice would you ignore?

  • Advice I would give - on the time axis, learn to zoom-in and zoom-out seamlessly. That is, in short-term things may be seeming chaotic and your career plan not working out as you have imagined and/or wanted it. But the key is to remember/keep accounting for incremental efforts that you are putting in on a regular basis. When baby steps are taken with consistency, the results are bound to come – tomorrow or the day after.
  • Advice I would ignore - "life is a race, only way to survive and thrive is to be better than peers/others". I wish I had the wisdom (which was certainly a scare commodity for a little girl and then a teen-ager!) to ignore this advice. Healthy competition has it place in the world (sports being a great example where it is indeed a zero-sum game - one wins, and another loses). But life itself need not be a competition. Because it is much more intricate, interconnected, and complex playfield where "win-win" mindset makes everything better for everyone. I have time and again learned that collaborative (instead of highly competitive) mindset is the key to lasting joy and concurrent professional success. It not only helps everyone shine with their own unique strengths but also increases the size of the overall pie (that is, the group itself produces better/more than expected results). Having a collaborative mindset doesn't mean that I don't strive for excellence. I certainly do and will keep doing. There is always room to grow "to be a better version of myself" and "to develop mastery in my chosen skill-set". But the growth is not "in comparison" with another person/professional. I can admire other experts and get inspired from them but there is no need for comparison or racing. 

What is your favorite quote or saying that captures your mission?

I have not come across a specific quote that captures my mission in its wholeness. There are so many inspiring and wonderful quotes that captures parts of it! Here I would like to share a quote, which I hope, will inspire the girls and women to keep growing till they reach their full potential.

"Like wildflowers; you must allow yourself to grow in all the places people thought you never would." – E.V. Rogina

The quote beautifully captures my intent to assert and re-assert this to young girls and women - no one but YOU should decidewho and what you want to be. Never allow yourself to be defined by someone else's opinion of you. Take them into consideration, make adjustments to your plan if necessary and then grow to be you!

Thank you so much for your contributions to AI, renewable energy and sustainability, and we're thrilled to have you as one of our 2022 Women to Watch!


WIA Team