Since joining United Technologies in 2002, Mallika Gummalla has worked on fuel cells, air-conditioning technologies, elevators, jet engines and aerospace systems technologies. “Where else could you get this breadth of experience,” she says. “I’m like a kid in a candy store.”
Mallika was drawn to engineering naturally. Her father was an engineer whom she greatly respected. Beyond that, she was fascinated by technology and used to tinker with the family’s electrical appliances. “I’m an analytical thinker,” she says. “I like to change things and make them better.” She also confesses that she wanted to quiet the naysayers. “There are people who are not accustomed to seeing women in engineering roles. I wanted to prove them wrong.”
Mallika’s first assignment at UTC was in the emerging field of fuel cells. “While working on fuel cells for cars and buses, we pushed the envelope to use them in drones, both fixed wing and helicopters, to operate to operate quietly by running on hydrogen and improving the flight endurance,” she says. “They are used to search for pirates at sea and the military uses them for covert operations. So reducing the noise level was very important.” She had the privilege of working on the world’s first fuel cell helicopter flight.
A big supporter of STEM education, Mallika coaches a National Robotics First Lego League team of 9-11 year olds. “I’m passionate about STEM and robotics,” she says. “It makes kids think about real world problems and push their creative minds to develop unique solutions. It teaches them to rank solutions and figure out the best way to present them to others, all as a team. There’s nothing more satisfying than to see the glimmer of happiness that occurs when a young person learns something new and makes strong friendships through this program.”
As for her own two sons – 7 and 11 years old – Mallika predicts they too will be in technical fields. “I can see one of them in engineering and the other in medicine, perhaps designing equipment and paving the way for such things as long-distance surgery and other advancements that are to come.”
Like many in the engineering profession, Mallika has a wide range of interests. She coaches basketball, tends a vegetable garden and hikes the Grand Canyon and other national parks. “I’m an avid outdoor person,” she says.