Career stories

Mashrura Musharraf, Aalto University

Assistant professor, Marine Technology, Department of Mechanical Engineering

“The biggest lesson of all is to have more trust in yourself, “whether you think you can or you can’t, you are right”. Especially as a woman, most people have told me what I can’t do, and it was really important that I told myself “I can”.”

Professor Mashrura Musharraf

What have you studied and what influenced this choice back in the day?

I finished my undergrad in Computer Science & Engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology in 2009. Then, I headed to Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada for my master's and PhD. I was drawn to engineering because I love math and science, especially experimenting in the lab!

How did you end up being a professor?

I struggled quite a bit during my first 2 years of undergraduate studies. Back in the days, learning engineering was all about lectures - not much hands-on stuff. People used to think programming was only for genius types. And I was reminded over and over by my professors how I lack those genes and computer engineering is just not meant for me. Sitting in those classes, feeling completely lost and overwhelmed, I kept thinking that there must be better ways to teach engineering. I promised myself that if I got through it, I'd make sure no one felt as lost as I did. And as I went through different phases of my academic journey, I found my passion for research and teaching. To put it simply, that’s where I found the most joy, and I decided to stay in a career that allows me to do those things on a daily basis.

What is the best thing about your job?

It's hard to pick the best part of my job, but the coolest thing is always learning new stuff. Getting to mentor my research group and working with the best team is equally rewarding.

What have been the highlights and key lessons of your career?

I'm still pretty new as a faculty member. I suffer from imposter syndrome big time so it’s hard to pick highlights. I would say getting my first grant from Research Council Finland to work on my own research agenda to build human-centered intelligent ships was cool. And slowly building my 'Intelligence in Marine Systems' lab has been the best part of my career journey.

I have been lucky to have many great mentors, and life itself has taught me many lessons. It’s impossible to list them all. The biggest lesson of all is to have more trust in yourself, “whether you think you can or you can’t, you are right”. Especially as a woman, where most people have told me what I can’t do, it was really important that I told myself “I can”.

What do you expect from the future?

I have been privileged to make choices in life that bring me joy. As long as teaching and research is fun, I will continue to do it. Technology is now progressing at a speed now that putting the human at the center of it and aligning our values is more important than ever. So, I think at least in the near future, my research will have help shaping the future of marine technology in the right direction.

For whom is this a suitable career option?

If you love digging into research and sharing knowledge, you'd do great in this field. It's tough at times, but if you're passionate, it's worth it.

What message would you like to send to a young person pondering their career?

Embrace the journey ahead with curiosity, each of us has a purpose and it’s okay if it takes a while before you figure yours out. It’s about the journey and not the destination anyway. And no matter what everybody says you surely can have it all, perhaps just not at the same time.

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