Kirti Balani, a Magna senior researchengineer working on advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) at the MagnaElectronics Division in Pune, India, drawsencouragement and inspiration from hercolleagues.
When Balani recently shared one of herpoems entitled “Gratitude” with the MagnaWomen’s eXchange group, she was touchedby the virtual reaction. The uplifting poem isabout the COVID-19 pandemic and how itschallenges can be overcome throughtogetherness.
“The applause I got was overwhelming,” saidBalani, who joined Magna in 2019.
She added: “Magna is a good place forsomeone like me, who believes imaginationand innovation are important. Withoutimagination, who could dream of somethinglike a driverless car? My Magna assignmentsgive my brain a kick-start. Plus, myteammates believe in me. They trust me.That belief keeps me inspired.”
Balani, who holds four patents related tovehicle automation, knew from an early agethat engineering was her career path. Herfather bought her an electronic robot whenshe was 10. It broke and she tried –unsuccessfully – to fix it.
“From that point, I had an interest inelectronics and engineering,” Balani said. “Ialso received top marks in math and science.My friends would come over so I could teachthem math.”
An early ally was her mother, Neetu, whoencouraged her daughters to be among thefirst generation of women in their hometownto work outside the home.
“In my culture, when a girl reaches 24, shehas an arranged marriage and doesn’t work,”Balani explained. “It was a big struggle forme and my sister. My mother supported usand wanted us to get our degrees. She wentagainst many people in our community whoasked, ‘Why do you want your girls to get somuch education?’ ”
Balani earned a Master of Technologydegree from the Birla Institute of Technologyand Science, Pilani, in India. Her degreeincluded work on autonomous lawn mowersusing lasers, ultrasonic sensors and cameras.At Magna, she’s working on software thatimproves the efficiency of ADAS features,including traffic jam assist and automaticemergency braking.
In addition to poetry, Balani cooks and dabbles inpainting and digital art. One recent painting showed awoman waiting for her husband as her parentsarrange a marriage. In some respects, it’s a self-portrait, since Balani said she is honoring that part ofher upbringing and waiting for her parents to helpher choose a mate.
In the meantime, Balani is an ally to the nextgeneration of Indian women. Her 2-year-old niece,Neeva, now has Balani’s childhood robot and appearsto be fascinated by it.
“I’m not sure what she will head towards, career-wise,”Balani said.
But her aunt’s influence will likely include encouragingNeeva’s imagination and innovative spirit.