Mahantesh Hiremath discusses his early career, his up-close observations of Washington, and his ongoing involvement in the Society.
6 Questions with ASME President Mahantesh Hiremath
Aug 30, 2021
by Jeffrey Winters
Q1: What are some influences from your youth?
Mahantesh Hiremath: My father was a mechanical engineer. In his early career, the British left India, and the whole leadership of the mechanical engineering department of the state of Maharashtra fell into my father’s lap. I got to watch him develop his leadership skills, how bold and decisive he was. He was very revered and admired, so that left a lasting impression on me. Two of my brothers turned out to be engineers, too.
Q2: It seems as if you were born into engineering.
M.H: Well, two other brothers became cardiologists. But being around my father, going to irrigation projects and seeing heavy machinery hauling heavy loads, that really excited me.
Q3: After studying engineering in Pune, you got a job with the prestigious Indian Railway Service of Engineers. But then you changed direction, received a doctorate from Ohio State, and went to Silicon Valley. What happened next?
M.H: My graduate work was in structural dynamics. I started doing analyses of strategic petroleum reserves, which are 5,000 feet below ground. From there, I moved to offshore oil platforms. Then in 1989 and 1993, two major earthquakes hit California, and I started doing seismic analysis of high-rise buildings in the San Francisco Bay area. My last stop was in space. People tell me that I may be the only engineer who has gone from deep underground to offshore to land to space. And I don’t want to discourage them from saying that.
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Q4: What makes working on satellite systems and space projects so satisfying?
M.H: Of all the engineering work I’ve done, I found aerospace and space technology to be the most fascinating. For a structural analyst or mechanical engineer, the challenge is how to put the maximum payload into orbit. Also, once you launch a satellite, you cannot bring it back to fix it, so you have to do things right the first time, every time. And you need to demonstrate to the customer on the ground how the satellite will operate in orbit 22,300 miles away. Those are challenges that you will not see all together in another industry.
Q5: How did you become involved with ASME?
M.H: I had a colleague at Space Systems/Loral who asked me to come to an ASME seminar on fracture mechanics. I was dealing with that in my work, so I joined. I attended the professional development seminar, and at the end of the seminar, my friend told me, you know, if you become a volunteer for the section, you may be able to attend this at no charge. That piqued my interest. I became a volunteer, then a sectional leader, and so on. I give a lot of credit to my friend, who started my initiation with ASME.
Q6: You’ve had a lot of roles at ASME, including the Board of Governors and now President. What stands out?
M.H: Working on Capitol Hill was a life-changing experience. ASME Congressional Fellows are very highly regarded. I worked on a science, space, and technology committee, so I got to work with and make friends with people on both sides of the aisle. Some of the spreadsheets that I developed are still being used by the energy subcommittee.
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I came to admire the decision-making process of our political leaders. Patience and communication are two things that I learned from them. They were such good listeners—they would listen to people who would come with lot of grievances, but then they would win over those people by being good listeners. That is something that doesn’t come to me naturally, but I try to practice it as much as possible to learn that art.
Jeffrey Winters is editor in chief of Mechanical Engineering magazine.