Mahek Naresh Oberai: Reshaping Global Supply Planning 

Mahek Naresh Oberai: Reshaping Global Supply Planning 

Born in Mumbai as the middle child of three, there was always plenty for Mahek Naresh Oberai to learn. Her siblings had a wide set of interests, and her mother was a serial entrepreneur, starting several small businesses selling consumer goods. Oberai soaked up the knowledge eagerly. 

“Looking back, I remember being curious about how things work, how to make things better,” said the staff industrial engineer for global supply planning at Western Digital. “I felt comfortable following my own interests.” 

Surrounded by a bevy of paths, Oberai took a shine to math and science. She loved uncovering the machinations of systems and processes. When it came time to start her undergraduate degree, Oberai decided to stay broad and selected mechanical engineering as her focus. Being well-rounded was important to her, and mechanical engineering provided a wide field to learn from. 

“You never really start in the hyper-niche fields,” she joked, “so I started broad and figured I could narrow it down.” 

Looking to explore in a more practical setting, Oberai joined a competitive all-terrain vehicle-building team at the university, where teams of engineering students compete to design, test, manufacture, ship, and race a quad bike. The nationwide competition was one large project, really, and the perfect place for Oberai to cut her teeth. 

“I was one of the senior leaders for the team, so there was a lot to keep track of,” Oberai said. “There were teams of students, local authorities, stakeholders, and then the whole task of moving our design across the country to compete.” 

After that experience, Oberai’s time in school was focused on finding a field that aligned with her interests and the experience on the team. A class focused on industrial engineering and project management piqued her interest. It spoke to her fascination with systems and processes, and she was amazed at how small parts of an interconnected system could have global impacts. She had found something that spoke to her, now it was time to test herself. 

“I found I had an affinity for the work, and that’s what really pushed me to continue studying and go to grad school for industrial engineering,” she said. 

After completing her undergraduate degree, Oberai shipped out for graduate school at The Pennsylvania State University, almost exactly on the opposite end of the world. While the transition was challenging at times, she found an endlessly inspiring mentor in Dr. Rashmia Sharma while working as a teaching assistant. 

“Dr. Sharma was an expert in a very niche field,” Oberai explained, “proving that women can be leaders in anything. Intellectually, I knew this, but it’s so powerful to see it for yourself.” 

Filled with a deep passion, and inspired by her professor, Oberai completed her graduate program in May 2020. She landed a job in a supply chain rotational program at Western Digital and was assigned to the logistics center of excellence in the company’s global operations unit. Her first task as an employee? Address the supply chain crisis the COVID pandemic inflicted around the world. No big deal. 

Just like the national-level ATV building competition, Oberai dived headfirst into the wide world of a global supply chain for a multinational corporation. She studied numbers, emerging trends and technologies, spoke with colleagues all over the world, and learned everything she could. Within months, she was taking part in multimillion-dollar decisions, and moving hundreds of thousands of products all over the world. Thanks to the work of Oberai and her colleagues, the company was able to weather the uncertainty of routes and suppliers that the pandemic instigated. 

“I started in the logistics center of excellence. I was so energized by the newness of it all. I was going to learn something new, which always excites me,” she recalled. “As I got a better understanding of my colleagues, their work, and every part of the system, I learned that our work was never more important than it was in the pandemic.” 

Oberai continued to rotate through various teams, working on everything from virtual and augmented reality applications to sustainability efforts. During that first year, Oberai was also networking with partners and presenting at conferences, a rare opportunity for a new hire. All the while, she was soaking up knowledge and connecting with an incredible network of women engineers at Western Digital. Since completing her rotational program, Oberai has transitioned to a global supply chain planning role, much to her excitement. 

“The learning cycles have not stopped for me, and I love it,” she said. 

Text over blue gradient that reads, "There's a lot more that lies ahead for me, you know there's so much more out there. That's what keeps me driving toward the future."

Oberai is quick to celebrate those who support her. She highlights a whole host of women colleagues from across Western Digital who have taught and supported her. 

“I feel very thankful to have seen and worked with many women in leadership early in my career,” she said, “and they, in turn, inspire me to be a good mentor, to help teach what I’ve learned.” 

Western Digital offers plenty of opportunities for Oberai to grow. Internal groups like the Women’s Impact Network offer guidance and support. In the future, Oberai hopes to pass along the knowledge she’s gained from the incredible mentors she’s already met. But, she’s not thinking that far ahead just yet. For now, Oberai is focused on what’s in front of her. 

“Although I have all these great experiences, there’s so much more out there,” she said. 

“That’s what keeps me driving toward the future.” 

Artwork by Rachel Garcera

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