Alumni Spotlight: Cynthia Smith explores her world

April 21, 2017

Cynthia SmithCynthia Smith likes to tinker. The Meade County, Kentucky native began taking things apart at a young age, further inspired by her father, a Civil Engineer. She pursued those interests to the JB Speed School of Engineering, graduating in the Spring semester of 2015 with a Master’s Degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering, which she now employs at Hewlett Packard. During her time here, Smith remained involved in the Student Council, serving as the President during her last year in school.

It was a long road, but one that Smith looks back on fondly. The youngest of four, Smith is the only member of her family to attend the University of Louisville, the start in her journey away from home. Her three co-op rotations took her to Garyville Louisiana, where she worked in a refinery for Marathon. She parlayed her experience with Marathon into a position at Top Works in Louisville, where she worked with board design and testing, before ending up at HP, who were so impressed with her skills that they held the job for her pending graduation.

She worked to find her way though, taking one summer off between co-op rotations to explore a complimentary interest interning at a recording studio.

“I took a summer off and worked at a Recording Studio at Dark Horse Recording. I am really into music and was always kind of interested in it. I had a hard semester and needed a semester where I was doing something I love. Realized that to work in that industry you have to intern for years. I figured having a degree in engineering and going to work for free was not the greatest,” says Smith.

Upon graduation, Smith relocated to Vancouver, Washington to her new position at HP in July of 2015, where she remains challenged and engaged.

“I work on the ASIC design team. We design the chip that runs all the printers. I specifically work on testing the chip before it’s actually physically fabricated. It’s basically a programmable chip, we download our design into that, and to give our firmware some kind of idea what they’re going to be working with,” says Smith.

She continues adding, “I like that it’s not always the nitty gritty design ideas. I like also just working with the boards and platforms that we’re using for the testing. I like to be able to see what I’m working with. Piecing together the different parts is very modular. The modularity and going about the problem-solving method is very applicable to any kind of job you’re going to have.”

Smith took a lot of lessons from her co-op work, including the value of team building and project management. It was during her various rotations that she learned what did and didn’t work with her interests, which helped guide her path towards her career. Her advice to future students is simple: engage in the engineering community and build relationships.

“Try to focus on some of the practical projects that you are given. Like the Baja team if you’re interested in that kind of thing, or the Student Council, which I was part of. It’s the practical tools and that group work and team work that translate into the work environment. What people lack is what does this look like in the work place? How can I make my voice heard? And I learned a lot of that in my extracurricular activities here and from Speed School Student Council,” says Smith.