Cockrell School of Engineering
The University of Texas at Austin

With an almost perfect GPA, a long and impressive list of activities and honors, plus three industry internships under her belt, it is no surprise junior Tara Sharma is among the six honorees receiving the prestigious 2014 President’s Leadership Award.

In 1985, the President’s Leadership Awards were created with an endowment from Texas Exes past president Frank Denius. These awards recognize undergraduate students who have demonstrated outstanding leadership within the student community at The University of Texas at Austin.

Microsoft Corporation Founder Bill Gates said, “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” Tara is a perfect example of that statement, as she serves as a role model and inspiration to fellow UT PGE students through her Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) presidency, to other women engineers as a peer assistance leader in the Women in Engineering Program (WEP) and to children as the programming officer of Student Engineers Educating Kids (SEEK), to name a few.

UT PGE had the opportunity to sit down with Tara for a Q&A session to learn more about how she views leadership and how it will serve as a valuable tool in achieving her career goals.

Sharma poses by pressure valves in a hardhat emblazoned with UT logo.

UT PGE junior Tara Sharma

What does this award mean to you?

It means a lot. It shows that what we are doing here at PGE means something on the larger university scale and it’s nice to be recognized for my work, especially from faculty and staff.

Who is your inspiration?

There is not just one person, but different aspects of different people. When I first started the program, I met with [UT PGE Assistant Professor] Dr. Masa Prodanovic. Seeing a female role model with a math background come into a different area and accomplish so much was very inspirational. My parents are always encouraging me as well – they tell me to never doubt myself and that I can achieve anything.

What leadership advice would you give?

Communication is everything! If you can communicate what you want and how you want it, people can help you get there.

What does it mean to you to be a leader?

Understanding what your peers want and being able to put it into a plan that can be accomplished. The most effective leaders are not only able to come with the big idea, but also have the ability to follow through and achieve the goal through a realistic timetable.

How will your leadership skills enable you to be successful in the field?

What we do here in the department is in some respects a small-scale version of what companies are doing – there are a lot of overlapping concepts. I think my experience at UT PGE will translate well out in industry.

What are your plans upon graduation?

I am going abroad in my last semester to Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands to study with a former UT PGE faculty member, Dr. Bill Rossen. Hopefully a few other students will join me as well. Post-graduation, my plan is to go into industry and then maybe a few years down the road think about a graduate school program – of course, at UT Austin.