When she was growing up, Smita Shah had many aspirations but even she couldn’t imagine the fact that she would one day become the owner of her own business when she was only 24 and 2 years out of grad school. So how has she managed to do so well for herself in just a few short years? Well, that’s exactly what she discussed with Steve Cochrane in a recent radio interview. She grew up in Chi-town and quickly learned that she was in the minority in her math and science classes both in terms of gender and ethnicity. This is why she was so determined to make something of herself and ensure more representation for females and Indians in these particular fields. She eventually went on to become a student at Northwestern University and excelled in academics. 

After graduating with distinction in the spring of 1994, she was accepted into a master’s program at MIT where she went on to do a thesis on public-private partnerships and how they are impacted by culture and leadership. During her time in grad school, she completed an internship with the chief of staff’s office in the nation’s capital and subsequently received her master’s of science in civil and environmental engineering. Upon the completion of her academic career, she was offered the opportunity to work as a structural engineer with a company commonly referred to as SOM and she served in that particular role for less than two years before opening Spaan Tech. 

In the summer of 1998, she became the founder and CEO of this new business and they have been thriving ever since. Although she wasn’t sure whether it would take off, she knew she could always jump ship if she had to and, if it did end up working out for her, she could always tell this amazing story to her kids and grandchildren. She didn’t invest too many resources in it initially as she was apprehensive about the future of the company but, now that it has proved to be a successful venture, she is doing everything in her power to ensure that the company flourishes for many decades to come. The company is dedicated to installing lighting in various structures such as lighthouses, lampposts and the red light in emergency call boxes. Learn more: https://shiakapos.com/long-before-stem-was-chic-there-was-smita-shah/

They also work with local contractors to build superhighways, parking decks and toll roads throughout the nation to help people safely reach their destinations. When they were just starting out, she knew she wanted to hire a diverse group of people to work on exciting new projects and they now have over a thousand employees. Of course, she experienced her fair share of discrimination over the years but, for the most part, it’s just been a series of misunderstandings and mistaken identity. However, it’s that kind of mentality that has led to her becoming an advocate for gender equality in the workplace and encouraging females to be assertive in order to become successful.

Connect with Smita on LinkedIn