Sabrine Ahmed Iqbal

Infinite Careers is a collaboration between Career Advising & Professional Development and the MIT Alumni Association to explore career paths and the non-linearity of career decision making. Read profiles of alumni with unique career paths, hear their stories and network at a series of talks.

Sabrine Ahmed Iqbal

Education

  • MIT SB Mechanical Engineering ‘17
  • MIT SB Theater Arts ‘17 

Biography

Sabrine representing General Motor at a trade show behind a table

Sabrine is a class of 2017 alumni who majored in course 2A (mechanical engineering with a focus in product development) and 21M-2 (theater arts). She worked in multiple industries throughout undergraduate experience through internships, MISTI, and UROPs. She was active in the MIT community as an actor in various Dramashop productions, captain of the MIT Chamak dance team, and as president of the MIT Bangladeshi Students Association. Her post college career has been spent at General Motors in the automotive industry, where she has had various technical and leadership experiences. She is a travel enthusiast, avid classical Indian dancer, passionate actor, & advocate for diversity & youth empowerment through mentorship and community activism.

Sabrine’s Story

What influenced your choice of undergraduate major? How has it shaped your career choices and professional ability?

I went into mechanical engineering because I loved building things with my hands. I always enjoyed working in machine shops in high school or tinkering around the house. The MIT course 2 experience was exactly what I wanted with hands on building and engineering in labs coupled with theoretical classes and concepts. After many internships that were not too hands on, I knew I wanted to work in an industry and in a career that allowed me to stay hands on. I also knew I wanted to work on a physical and tangible product so others could use what I made. This all led me to the automotive industry. This industry has really been an excellent blend of hands on engineering coupled with very technical problem solving all the while working on one of the most widely used consumer products in the world – cars!

Is there anything you wish you had done differently or more of while you were at MIT?

I wish I had taken more classes outside of my major just to explore what the other disciplines were like at MIT. I was able to complete most of my required courses for both my majors by the end of my senior fall, so I decided to work while finishing my spring semester. However, in hindsight, I wish I had used the lighter course load to then take a few random courses or even just sit in on lectures by other famous professors with the spare time.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your career?

The most rewarding aspect of my career is seeing something I worked on in a vehicle and in the hands of real customers. In just the three short years I’ve worked at GM, I’ve had the opportunity to work on many different vehicles. Any time I see a vehicle I worked on pass by on the road, the feeling of pride and joy is like none other! It’s also extremely rewarding to realize what a global company I work for. I have colleagues all over the world that I’ve closely worked with to produce vehicles that are unique to places like China, Korea, Brazil, the Middle East, etc.

Making decisions, especially important-feeling career decisions, is really challenging. What strategies have you used to make career decisions? 

I have tried many different industries (infrastructure, data analytics, medical devices, aerospace) and types of roles (researcher, engineer, analyst) to weed out what I don’t like doing. I used almost every summer and IAP to take on a different type of role, be it research through MISTI or an externship through the alumni network. During my last semester at MIT, I even did a co-op at Wayfair in downtown Boston since I didn’t have as many classes to take. All these experiences showed me what industries or types of jobs I did not like, and they helped me narrow down to a sector I thought I would enjoy and thrive in. When it came time to find a full-time role, I knew better which types of industries to apply to, then after I got job offers I weighed the options based on the aspects most important to me such as having hands on work options, schedule flexibility, and location.

What professional development experiences or opportunities shaped your early career?

One-on-one mentoring significantly shaped my career path. In every role I’ve had, I seek out mentorship from my managers and those in leadership roles around me. These conversations have often exposed me to roles and paths I never knew existed. This has also been an excellent way to network and grow my connections within the company. Networking has directly led me to new positions in areas of higher exposure and responsibility that would have normally taken much longer to get to without networking.

What do you like to do outside of work for fun/relaxation/inspiration?

I am an avid dancer and actor, so I look for any and all opportunities to continue to perform around the community. Being active in the arts and performance space is crucial to helping me strike a balance between work and life. I also explore the food and culture scene around Detroit with friends to relax and de-stress from a long work week.

Do you participate in any volunteer/community service activities? If so, how do you balance your professional and personal responsibilities?

I am a mentor and chief of a First Robotics team at the Detroit Hispanic Development Center. During a competition season, from early January through April, I usually spend about 3 days a week on this. It’s an extremely rewarding experience especially since I am passionate about improving the education system, so I love to dedicate my time outside of work to this activity. There is definitely a lot of balance required in order to do this while also having a full time job and trying to juggle other personal commitments. The key is being open in your communication so that all those around you are of your time commitments and priorities. For instance, my coworkers and managers have always been very flexible and understanding if I need to prioritize First Robotics over work on occasion.

Last edited 2020