Negar J. Khalandi
Negar J. Khalandi: Creating solutions to improve lives
Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, 2011 | School of Computing and Engineering
Title: Mechanical Engineer III, Honeywell
Hometown: Mahabad, Iran
Why did you choose UMKC?
I wanted to make sure I was close to my family in Kansas City. I was also looking for something that had a small, community feel to it. When I read about UMKC, I noticed there was a really big emphasis on community, and I loved that.
How did you choose your field of study?
I’ve always enjoyed solving problems and creating solutions. My initial interest in engineering was sparked in my high school physics class. I loved learning about our physical world and how the science is applied.
What was your favorite thing about UMKC?
I absolutely loved my professors and the people I went to classes with. I’m still friends with at least a quarter of my classmates.
What did you learn about yourself at UMKC?
I love getting my hands dirty working in the labs. I also learned that I really enjoy research.
If you have a great idea but you can’t communicate it, that’s the same as not having an idea at all.
Who was the most influential faculty or staff member at UMKC, and why?
Professor Katherine Bloemker. As a young mom, she demonstrated to me that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to, regardless of your family responsibilities. When I was interviewing at Honeywell, I asked for her advice. There were some other opportunities I was trying to decide between, and she gave me her candid opinion. I liked that. It wasn’t a textbook response—it was personal and honest.
Do you have a favorite memory from UMKC?
I was a part of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). We were able to get funding to go to an SWE convention in Orlando. On the professional side, it was really great networking. That’s where I got several interviews for jobs. The other side is we just had fun!
Another really good one is starting the Mr. Engineering pageant. You see a lot of pageants for women, so we decided to turn it on its head. The guys submitted their bios and there was a talent show and a Q&A session. We had a panel of professors and other faculty who would decide the winner.
Do you have any advice for students entering UMKC?
You’re going to have days when it’s fun and easy, and you’re going to have days when it’s really challenging. And that’s okay, because in each of those experiences you’re going to learn something about yourself. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. In fact, it should make you try harder.
Tell us about your current position.
I’m a mechanical engineer at Honeywell Federal Manufacturing & Technologies. My main responsibility right now is developing technical and strategic plans to roll out our user experience initiative.
What are the challenges of your field?
Creating solutions that are easy and enjoyable to use.
What are the benefits?
Being part of a solution that helps improve lives and businesses and a community that is on the cutting edge of technology
How does your UMKC education help you in your day-to-day work?
In my senior project class, Professor Bloemker gave a lecture about how the human is a part of the design process. As an engineer, my innate response to a problem is how I’m going to fix it. I have to stop myself and ask, “Who am I designing for, and is this really going to meet their needs?”
We had another class that was integrated between business, engineering and law. They presented you with a problem, then you’d come up with a solution and business plan. At the end of the semester, you’d pitch it to investors. That gave me a whole different understanding of the engineering field: If you have a great idea but you can’t communicate it, that’s the same as not having an idea at all.
What is one word that best describes you and why?
Determined. I am determined to create solutions that are applicable and help improve existing conditions.
What are your goals for the future?
I’m one of those people who is still trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up. A lot of my core passion lies in two areas. The first part is: I love helping people, especially children. The second part is: I genuinely enjoy creating solutions, which is more in line with how my brain works as an engineer. If I could somehow combine those two passions, that would be my dream come true.
As far as personal goals—I’d like to be able to run another half marathon. Well… running is a loose term, if we’re being realistic! I walked through most of the end, but my son was waiting at the end, so I ran across the finish line. It took me about two weeks to recover!
What is your greatest fear?
The idea of failure is genuinely my biggest fear. At work I’m going through a role change. It’s just so new and so public—it terrifies me. I almost did not take the position because of that fear. That’s something I try to get over. We’re all human, we’re all imperfect, but recognizing where you can improve is a really big step. Because, honestly, if I didn’t have that fear of failure, I don’t think I would work as hard.
Do you have a motto you live by?
My dad used to tell us: “People can be cruel. They can take everything from you—your life, your money, your job—but the one thing they can’t take from you is what you have in your mind.” He was a dad to six girls and one boy in Iran. He told us that, as girls, we needed to be able to provide for ourselves and our families. No one can take your education from you.
What makes you unique?
I have a tendency to be able to understand where people are coming from. I can empathize with people naturally. I think that comes from being an immigrant—coming to the States and experiencing people who did understand you and people who didn’t, and being able to see the difference. You have to adjust to a whole new environment and it gives you a different lens to look at people through.
What’s your favorite place in Kansas City?
Crown Center (LEGOLAND, Union Station and Fritz’s all within walking distance = perfection!)