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INI at 25: Alumna's Seed of Inspiration Grows Beyond Apple

December 04, 2014

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Most engineers share a desire to innovate. Hiral Shah (INI, 2009) landed in the perfect place to apply her passion when Apple recruited her upon graduation. For the next five years, she not only participated in the development of incredible products, but also her experience on the job influenced and inspired her to strive for more.

Fresh out of graduate school with a Master of Science in Information Networking, Hiral started her new position as a software engineer with confidence, having completed in-depth work on computer systems at the INI for her thesis project. She credited courses, such as Professor Dave Andersen's Computer Networks course and Mobile & Pervasive Computing, for preparing her. The assignments and class projects cut her teeth on real-word scenarios and sharpened her problem-solving skills. "All of the courses I took were really valuable, especially my programming classes," she reflected.

At Apple, the projects that went by her desk included the iPhone and the iPad—products that have largely defined what is considered wireless technology today. Hiral programmed for Apple's Wireless Technologies team at first, but her work was good, her skills diverse.

Hiral earned an Award of Excellence from Steve Jobs for her contributions to the first-generation iPad. Doors opened for her that revealed other facets of the technology company, from usability to international business. While working with the visual interface team, she saw how customer needs were assessed, defined and built into the design. When Apple launched products in other countries, she collaborated with technical writers from around the world to translate the technical specifications of those products. Through these interactions with various teams, her capabilities grew beyond developing software.

While her job gave her the benefit of participating on many great projects, Hiral was able to make a change at her workplace for the better too. She co-founded Apple's Women@Apple-Tech. She had modeled it after the INI's Women@INI (WINI) organization that she had participated in as a grad student. Women@Apple-Tech worked to recruit and retain women employees, and Hiral was able to raise support to secure a substantial budget increase for the group.

When Apple launched the iPhone in China, Hiral was selected to be on the team that would train the company's new China Mobile team. She not only shared her technical knowledge with the new employees but also oriented them to the Apple culture. Her work in Beijing is now among her favorite memories of her time at Apple.

After gaining diverse experiences on the job, Hiral made a big career move. She recently left Apple to begin a full-time MBA program at Stanford University. The idea of bringing new technologies to developing countries inspired her.

"Mobile technologies can change people's lives. At Apple, I saw first-hand how technologies could make a huge impact on someone," she said.

Today, she looks back on her five years at Apple as a "wonderful journey" and looks forward to the business opportunities ahead. The management aspects of a technology company have evolved from a fascination for her to her focus. Hiral is inspired to continue making an impact and sees herself working with entrepreneurs in the future—or being one herself.

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Hiral Shah's story is part of the alumni highlight series honoring the INI's 25th anniversary. Follow hashtag #ini25 during the 2014/2015 academic year and join the celebration April 18 during Spring Carnival weekend.

Pictured above:  Hiral Shah. Pictured below: Hiral poses near China's Great Wall that she visited during her time training the China Mobile team in Beijing.

 


Great Wall of China