Raised as the eldest child in a middle-class family, Chitrakala’s parents precisely understood the role education would play in their daughter living an empowered life. They invested in good schools to give their child the best possible start to her career. “Even then, I was thrilled by technology,” says the 39-year-old. So in 1999, she began studying electronics and electrical engineering at Madras University. After graduation, she started her professional career as a lecturer at an engineering school. “I wanted to give something back to my parents and help them finance the education of my two younger siblings,” Chitrakala continues. “From 2008 onwards, I could then devote additional time to my postgraduate studies in power electronics and drives.”
A married mother with a career
Chitrakala is now married and has two children of her own, aged nine and six. In 2016 she decided to do a PhD. “A married mother with a career – and a PhD on top – entails negotiating many obstacles,” she explains. “But I’m very determined and thanks to my husband’s full support, I coped well.” Over four and a half years, mostly in the evenings and at weekends, she conducted research on multilevel inverters. Alongside, there were the research trips. “We live in Nagapattinam – a small place. Advancing my career often meant being away from home,” Chitrakala continues. Finally, in December 2020, she was at long last able to hold the coveted PhD certificate in her hands.
Help young people qualifying for a technical profession
Midway through her research in 2018, she joined the Freudenberg Training Centre in Nagapattinam. Freudenberg supports women in realizing their career plans and also assisted Chitrakala with her doctorate. As a result, the young Indian woman taught natural sciences and electronics part-time, freeing up more space for her scientific research. Freudenberg originally established the Training Centre in 2004 following a devastating tsunami. The Centre’s goal is to provide young people with apprenticeships and help them qualify for a technical profession that will shape their own and their country’s future. Every year, roughly 120 young people receive theoretical and practical training at the Centre for one to two years, along the lines of the vocational training system in Germany. Classrooms, workshops, meeting rooms and a canteen are located on a 57,000 square meter site. By the time they come to leave, the young apprentices have acquired the right skills to build their own lives as electricians, mechanics, welders or metal workers. Over the years, the training program has enjoyed considerable success and is today certified by the National Council for Vocational Training, known throughout India for its stringent standards.