By Janat Batra
Catie and Carah Camron pave their way at Tech and beyond
Growing up in the small, rural town of Cartersville, GA, the Camron sisters were not always sure where they would end up. The one thing they did know was that they excelled in science and mathematics during high school, so naturally they looked at Georgia Tech as one of their top choices for college.
They both grew up watching their father, an electrician, constantly wiring up their house, which eventually drew them both to pursue their undergraduate education within the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE).
Now, Catie is a proud alumna that graduated in 2018, while her younger sister Carah (ECE, 2022) is on campus following in her footsteps.
Finding their passion with Opportunity Research Scholars
When Catie first came to Tech, she knew she wanted to be involved with ECE outside the classroom — she wanted to focus on sustainability and humanitarian efforts to help developing countries. When Catie discovered the Opportunity Research Scholars program, otherwise known as ORS within ECE, she found a way to pursue her passions, while gaining meaningful research experience, as a member of the Haiti Solar Relay Project.
“We were researching what an average person living in Haiti needed, and what their energy requirements were on a daily basis,” said Catie. “From there, we designed a simple lead acid battery system to bring energy to communities in Haiti.”
Years later, Carah was walking down the same hallways of ECE and noticed a picture of her older sister working on her ORS research, inspiring her to apply to the program. Carah ultimately ended up assisting with the same research that her sister had worked on in its early stages by assisting with an initiative for developing portable solar home systems.
“The [home system] is solar panel, a battery, a load that can power a cell phone or light bulb, and then there's a charge controller,” said Carah. Her team specifically focused on the charge controller aspect of the system, which is what controls the path of power that comes from the panel or the battery.
Previously, the system used the lead acid battery system that Catie’s team developed; however, given the short-term use of the battery, Carah’s team shifted its focus on making the system more sustainable by implementing a longer lasting lithium-ion battery.
The energy system research they both conducted helped them practice the technical skills needed for electrical engineering, but for the sisters themselves, the ORS program taught them the skills that made them the rising stars they are today .
“Doing research is a little bit more open-ended, and it shows that you're able to think more critically about a problem and then implement a solution,” said Catie.
“You know you have a problem to solve through research, you know what you're going to implement in your system, and you have to do all of the testing. At the same time, you're also having to communicate that to your team members and mentor or faculty advisor.”
For the Camron sisters, having that experience helped them learn how to articulate their research knowledge to potential employers, and they both came to rely on those skills every day.
Landing at Texas Instruments
Catie has been able to take lessons learned from field research to apply them to her current career in industry. After graduating from Tech, Catie was offered a position with Texas Instruments (TI), where she continued to build upon the skills[KLK1] [BJK2] she learned as an ORS scholar. As a technical sales representative in the Bay area, Catie’s responsibilities include working with electrical engineers, procuring accounts and managing parts of the TI supply chain.
By having the ORS advantage of attending events like networking nights, company information sessions, alumni socials and more, Catie has more confidence in her job. Most importantly, learning to effectively communicate with her research leaders and team members in ORS, made collaboration with her peers at TI a lot easier.
“Everything I learned in ORS was a perfect combination to set me up for success at TI,” said Catie. “I feel like I could go to any company and feel comfortable talking to someone very high up — I would feel very confident doing that.”
Like her sister, Carah is quickly climbing the ladder to success as well. While watching her older sister earn her undergraduate degree, Carah mentally prepared herself to arrive at Tech knowing the coursework would be more rigorous than what she faced in high school.
“I have had no shortage of downfalls here,” said Carah. “I’ve even failed tests, but I feel like Catie really set me up for success just by having her as a role model.”
For now, Carah has plans to intern for TI in Waltham, Massachusetts for the summer of 2021 in a technical sales position. As she gets closer to completing her undergraduate career at Tech, Carah has also begun thinking about what the future holds for her for her post-graduation.
“I really do want to find something that I enjoy, and I think that involves talking to people and having team-based projects,” said Carah. “I am interested in the business side of things as well, so hopefully I can find some kind of sales engineering job and walk in the path of Catie.” Similarly, Catie sees herself returning to school within the next few years to possibly get an MBA.
The networking and social skills the sisters learned from ORS drew them to business more than they had imagined, but at the end of the day, they believe that the technical skills of being an engineer is what sets them apart from others in the business field.
“I work with a ton of electrical engineers every single day, and they say ‘Oh, she’s just a salesperson,’ and that I don't understand their technical problems. So, it really helps me to gain credibility in my job to have this degree, which is great,” said Catie.
No matter where they both end up in the future, the sisters know that they do not want to stray too far from each other, and Carah hopes to find herself physically near her sister again.
“I see myself living somewhere in very close proximity to my sister, maybe even in her spare bedroom,” joked Carah. “I miss her, and she's a big part of my life now. We weren't always the closest growing up, but once we had so much more in common, we became best friends, and I definitely want to be near her.”
From their hometown high school, to Georgia Tech and the Opportunity Research Scholars, and later working at TI, the Camron sisters remain committed to following their passions for engineering and each other, no matter where that road takes them.