Dr Malika Grayson

Mechanical Engineering
Cornell University, 2016
Tell us a bit about yourself – what was your PhD about and where did you study?

I was raised in Trinidad and Tobago. After high school, I attended Adelphi University in Long Island, NY to pursue my B.S. in Physics. During a Summer Undergraduate Research Experience, I was exposed the world of research and engineering and decided I wanted to learn more which led me to pursue my PhD in Mechanical Engineering at Cornell University. My PhD focused on Wind Energy in the Built Environment motivated by my ties to my home. Specifically placing small scale wind turbines on the rooftop of high-rise buildings.

What do you do now? What did you decide to do next after gaining your PhD?

After I completed my PhD, I decided to pursue a job in industry. I was accepted into a rotational program where I was exposed to systems engineering, software development and portfolio management. That rotational program took to different parts of the country where I spent one year in San Jose, CA. Currently, I am an Applications Portfolio Manager where I focus on application rationalization and strategy to manage and assess hundreds of applications.
I am also a STEM Speaker and Advocate. I collaborate with schools and present at conferences to talk about my PhD journey. I also focus on some key topics that were helpful to me like Networking and Imposter Syndrome. I am also an active volunteer when it comes to promoting STEM to young girls.

Has having a PhD helped in developing your career? If yes, what has been the biggest impact? If no, why do you think that is?

Yes, having a PhD has helped be more open to taking risks. It has also given me the courage I need to solve complex problems that may come my way. I am more open to stretch assignments but I am also able to balance extremely well because of the class and experimental load I had during my PhD. I would say I use a number of my soft skills acquired during my PhD tenure including networking (because of student conferences) and leading a team (undergraduate research students). I have actually applied my soft skills more than my technical skills.

What’s one piece of advice that you’d offer prospective students considering a PhD?

Think about your Why. Why is graduate school right for you? Because there will be times where the program will be extremely stressful and you are going to need that Why to help get you pass that hurdle. If you do decide to pursue a PhD, activate your network early on. Find your tribe, find your network because you are going to the need them throughout.

And what one thing would you suggest that new PhD graduates should do next?
Take a moment to enjoy the transition phase. The moment between being a student and then being an adult. Do something spectacular for yourself whether it be taking a trip or unplugging. Also, don’t be afraid to take a risk when it comes to your next career move. The next move is the first in a life full of rotations. The only think constant is change, you aren’t tied to one career or path.

Lastly, what’s your favourite memory from your time as a PhD student?

One of my favorite memories is hanging out with all the other minority graduate students. We would plan to go out and do activities together ever so often and when a new graduate student started they would automatically be a part of the group.
The other memory is having my mother attend my defense. Se literally came through a snow storm and had to fly in 3 hours away just to come see me defend. It was the best feeling to see her in that room.

Want to know more about Malika?

Check out her website and follow her on Instagram and Twitter the links below:

Website | Instagram | Twitter

Malika’s book ‘Hooded: A Black Girl’s Guide to the PhD‘ is going to officially launch on September 30th 2020. It tells her journey through her PhD experience.

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