From an early age, Smita Shah knew she was going to pursue a career in math and science. The subjects were her natural strengths, and she loved that there was always a clear-cut answer. But she had no idea that her penchant for arithmetic would lead to founding her own engineering firm—SPAAN Tech—which does everything from design engineering to construction management to providing IT services and facilities and program management.
“At some point in my sophomore year of high school, I was trying to figure out, ‘If you’re good at math and good at science, what do you do?’” Shah says. “My dad, who’s an engineer said, ‘You become an engineer.’ I was like, ‘OK. That’s how it happens.’”
So, following in her civil engineer father’s footsteps, Shah went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Northwestern University, and then a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering from MIT. She worked at renowned engineering firm Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill before going on to work with her father to negotiate a sixty-megawatt power project in India with Japanese financiers.
But in the late 1990s, Shah noticed an emerging market that she could cater to. She saw that companies needed people who knew not only technology but also engineering and infrastructure.