Sandrine Daniel and Pooja Jain explain how their PhD training led them to cross over into the commercial sector and how it formed the foundation for their work within Capgemini Group
“I always knew I wanted a career in industry rather than academia,” says Pooja Jain, technical leader, Altran, part of the Capgemini Group.
“Rather than limiting my research to writing journal articles, I felt a strong desire to contribute to products where I can leverage my knowledge and experience in wireless domain and signal processing.”
Pooja is just one of many people within the Capgemini family who have made the decision to cross from academia into industry, bringing their specialist technical knowledge with them.
Sandrine Daniel, head of the scientific office at Capgemini France, is another such individual. She leads a group of experts who specialise in Earth observation and artificial intelligence.
A foundation for work: signal processing
After finishing her bachelor’s degree, Pooja went straight on to complete her Master’s in electrical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, one of the leading technical centres in India. A few years later, she returned to IIT to complete a PhD concentrating on speech signal processing.
Pooja believes this academic training has been an essential foundation for the projects she is currently working on.
“All my research articles have been in the area of signal processing, and wireless communication was my Master’s major. Now, this is the exact focus of my work at Altran, including the design and development of features for physical layer in advanced wireless communication technologies, and 4G long-term evolution (LTE) and Narrowband Internet-of-Things (NB-IoT).”
Journey into space
For Sandrine, her passion for the space sector began soon after university. “It all started when I took a work placement at the German space agency. There, I discovered the field of satellite imaging and radar sensing. I was so inspired that I took a PhD at the IETR Laboratory in Rennes, focusing on radar analysis.”
This early focus would later return in her work at Capgemini.
“My PhD was on crop fields and the use of Synthetic Aperture Radar data. This is a form of radar used to create two or three-dimensional reconstructions of objects, such as landscapes. In my current work, we have started to employ machine learning and algorithms to this particular area, which is really satisfying.”
A new way of working
Transitioning to Capgemini offered Sandrine some new perspectives, opportunities and ways of working. “I found the industrial sector to be more structured than academia,” she says. “It helped me to be more organised and efficient.”
This is an experience that Pooja can relate to. “Although I’d worked in wireless industry prior to my PhD, I came across architecture and tools that were new to me in my project at Altran, such as embedded architecture deploying multi-core digital signal processors (DSP), and Git tools for software version control. It required some extra hours and dedication to learn about these novel concepts and tools, before I could make a meaningful contribution to the final product.”
Working for a better future
Pooja and Sandrine, in their different ways, feel they are contributing to an important cause with their work at Capgemini.
“I see my work as defining the rate at which data is communicated, as well as the availability of network coverage in basements or when travelling at high speed. It’s about the way humans and machines interact in modern society,” says Pooja. “We’re also building the foundation for the next generation of technologies such as 6G and open radio access network (O-RAN).”
Sandrine explains how she is working on a new algorithm to help classify crop fields, which represents a continuation of her PhD. “By using satellite images to classify crops, we can make land use more efficient and accurately predict crop yields. This can have a major impact on climate-change policies.”
An environment in which to grow
Although they have specialised in different disciplines, Pooja and Sandrine say that being part of an organisation like Capgemini holds many benefits for people with academic training.
“Your competency is really valued here,” says Pooja. “And if you’re willing to put in the extra hours, you will progress quickly. Also, for women, the work-life balance is very good, with good benefits for maternity leave and so forth.”
Sandrine firmly agrees: “The most important thing is to believe in your ideas. Never be afraid of pushing them forward. In Capgemini, if you believe in yourself, you will find someone to help you make them a reality.”