Alumni Spotlight: Cherisa Kmetovicz, ’2010

image of ECE logo

By Constanze Ditterich 

image of Cherisa

Cherisa Kmetovicz was an engineering student at UC Davis from 2008 to 2010. She graduated with a B.S. degree in electrical engineering and started working in industry right away. Today, she is a Space & Satellite Solutions Application Engineer at Keysight Technologies, Santa Rosa, and equally enjoys working with her R&D team as well as her customers.

Could you briefly tell us your path before attending UC Davis?

Certainly, I have 2 degrees from University of California.   In a nutshell, when I was 18 years old, I had no idea what a career meant.  I was a good student but I believe that I was very young emotionally.  I didn’t do well with the separation from my family when I was 18.  While I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies from UC Santa Barbara, I struggled finding employment and also could not differentiate myself on resumes.   Eventually I found work as an administrative assistant in the R&D lab of Hewlett Packard in Roseville.  Working alongside the R&D engineers inspired me to go back to school for my BSEE.    I went back to school many years later to get my BSEE at UC Davis, and was able to find a job I love, and even be sought after.  I feel very lucky that I was able to have an opportunity for a second chance at college and a new career.  Not all countries allow second chances at education, I hear.

Could you briefly tell us your professional career?

After I graduated, I took a position at Hewlett Packard in Boise, Idaho as a product regulations engineer for printers. Originally, I had interviewed with Agilent at the UC Davis career fair, and after one and a half years they offered me a job. Taking that risk and moving to Santa Rosa, was probably one of the best decisions in my life. Agilent then split into two companies. One of them is Keysight Technologies, and, today I work there as an application development engineer in Space and Satellite Solutions Group. Low Earth Orbit mega-constellations, which are comprised of hundreds or thousands of networked satellites, can be used for telecommunication across the globe and fuel innovations including 5G and modern radar systems. My areas of expertise at Keysight include signal analysis and signal generation, component and antenna tests, field tests, as well as software solutions for digital wireless communications.

Could you briefly tell us your path before attending UC Davis?

Certainly, I have two degrees from the University of California. In a nutshell, when I was 18 years old, I had no idea what a career meant.  I was a good student but I believe that I was very young emotionally. I didn’t do well with the separation from my family when I was 18. While I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies from UC Santa Barbara, I struggled finding employment and also could not differentiate myself on resumes. Eventually I found work as an administrative assistant in the R&D lab of Hewlett Packard in Roseville. Working alongside the R&D engineers inspired me to go back to school for my Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in EE. I went back to school many years later to get my BS degree in EE at UC Davis, and was able to find a job I love, and even be sought after. I feel very lucky that I was able to have an opportunity for a second chance at college and a new career. Not all countries allow second chances at education, I hear.

How did your education at UC Davis prepare you for your job?

We have many UC Davis alumni at Keysight, and every single class I took somehow relates to what I do in my job. Electromagnetic theory, modern digital and analog communications and digital systems are all key parts to the solutions that Keysight provides. The coursework that I took with Professor Branner, I probably use the most. When working with my R&D teams on applications for our customers, we need to have an understanding of all aspects of the products from the hardware design, to the software that we run on the products, and all the way through to the RF/microwave/millimeter wave transmission.

What are some of the highlights of your time at UC Davis?

The camaraderie with my classmates stands out. We were always studying together, and had to lean on each other because coursework was hard and we had questions, so we worked a lot as a team. Also, the time spent with classmates and professors working late nights in the labs at Kemper Hall – so much stress, but so rewarding when we figured things out! UC Davis is such a beautiful campus – I always loved the bike paths and open areas throughout campus.

Are there any courses or professors that stand out to you?

My senior year lab courses stand out – 132A/B/C with Professor Branner and my senior design class with Professor Knoesen. Two other classes that have helped me tremendously at Keysight are Professor Ding’s analog and digital communications and Professor Pham’s antenna theory. But really, every class that I took at UC Davis offered something that I pull knowledge from in my day-to-day job.

Who was your favorite ECE professor at UC Davis?

I have two favorite ECE professors at UC Davis – Professor Branner and Professor Knoesen. These are the professors that I spent the most time with and that I’ve been able to keep in touch with over the years.

What is your advice for aspiring electrical and computer engineers, in particular their career paths and the preparation?

It’s really important to determine what type of engineering job you want to do. Ask around about types of engineering jobs at a particular company that you are interested in – is it an R&D job in the lab or office, or is it an applications/sales job where you travel and meet with customers and interact with people more. It’s OK if you start your career in a job that is not your perfect fit, but if you read the job description, make sure you like at least more than 50% of the essential duties. If you can get an internship, that is a great way to learn about a company, and if you do well in your internship chances are, at least at Keysight, that you are offered a permanent position. Start early when you are looking for an internship. At our company, we start posting them in January.

I also recommend to keep open communication with your management about the types of roles that interest you and work towards those types of positions.

We recognize that women are an underrepresented group in STEM, and our goal is to provide women engineers strong support networks in order for them to feel like they are part of an inclusive community. Do you have some specific advice for our female ECE students for their academic growth and career path?

I remember that my graduating class from UC Davis had only a handful of female engineers in electromagnetic engineering. I think it is important to keep a positive mind, so you can succeed in the career path you desire. Don’t be afraid to take risks or pass up an opportunity because you are unsure of the “unknown”. People at Keysight are very friendly, and I personally don't feel a difference between the treatment of males and females. We work on inclusiveness in general, and there is a cool group at our company called “Next Gen” for all the new hires where they get the chance to know each other which can be really helpful if you just moved to the area.

Category