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Martlesham: BT Adastral Park researcher Vidhyalakshmi Karthikeyan honoured at First Women Awards

PUBLISHED: 13:45 15 August 2014 | UPDATED: 13:45 15 August 2014

BT researcher Vidhyalakshmi (Vidhya) Karthikeyan holding the First Women Awards engineering  trophy, with judge Karen Darby, left, chief executive of CrowdMission, Mark Hunt, president of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, who presented the award, and Mishal Husain, right, BBC broadcaster and ceremony host.

BT researcher Vidhyalakshmi (Vidhya) Karthikeyan holding the First Women Awards engineering trophy, with judge Karen Darby, left, chief executive of CrowdMission, Mark Hunt, president of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, who presented the award, and Mishal Husain, right, BBC broadcaster and ceremony host.

Erroll Jones

A senior researcher at BT’s Adastral Park complex has received a top national award after beating off competition from top engineers from around the UK.

The judges of the engineering prize in the 2014 First Women Awards decribed 26-year-old Vidhyalakshmi Karthikeyan’s life story as “inspiring and humbling”.

Vidhyalakshmi, known as Vidhya, learned to to overcome challenges from an early age, having moved with her family from India to Malaysia at the age of 12. She said: “I was enrolled in an international school and I had to start afresh. Coming from a traditional Indian background, it was a huge transition between educational systems.

“I sat a series of tests and I remember not knowing what the square-root of 36 was. Despite being considered a bright student, I was promptly placed in the lowest set for maths”.

Within six months of arriving, however, her academic ability shone through and she never looked back. She was subsequently the top International Baccalaureate student in the country and was offered numerous scholarships through university.

Eventually she completed an MSc in telecommunications at University College London before joining BT as a graduate. She has since become one of the company’s most prolific female inventors of the past decade, registering 16 patent applications relating to autonomic network management.

Vidhua said: “Telecommunications networks are fascinating. I want to embed future networks with intelligence so that they stand up to emerging usage trends and become easier to manage.”

She added: “I come from a cultural background where women are discouraged from pursuing careers in engineering. It has been crucial for me to be passionate about what I do and where it’s going in order to be successful at my career.

“There are significant opportunities for us to merge the gender gap in such male-dominated professions and I am keen to encourage other women to consider science and engineering as both an enjoyable and rewarding career.”

Adastral Park is BT’s global research hedquarters and Vidhya is a senior researcher within the group’s BT Technology, Service & Operations division.

The First Women Awards were created by the Confederation of British Industry and Real Business in association with Lloyds Banking Group to recognise inspirational female role models who have career achievements that represent “firsts” or breakthroughs.

The other shortlisted candidates for the egingeering award this year included Tracey Bleakly, chief executive if finance education charity pfeg, Jean Llewellyn, chief executive, National Skills Academy for Nuclear, Rachel Morfill, power system manager at National Grid, and Molly Stevens, professor of biomedical materials and regenerative medicine at Imperial College London.

Other categories in the awards included tourism andl leisure, manufacturing, finance, science and technology, media, retail and consumer, the built environment, public service and business services. A Lifetime Achievement award was also made, to Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson.

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