Maroon Mentor Series: Smita Shah de Jeu


Matt Petres

Ms. Shah de Jeu speaking at a Maroon mentors event on March 2.

Ethan Swinger, Reporter

Every person in a team makes a difference, according to Smita Shah de Jeu, a 1991 U-High graduate, who spoke about her journey from U-High to starting her own company during a Maroon Mentors Series lunch event on March 2.

After a brief introduction, Ms. Shah de Jeu began by discussing growing up as a first-generation Chicagoan in a suburb without diversity and the impact this had on her.

The conversation later shifted to her career and the paths she decided to take, shaped by her lifelong interests in math and science.

Although Ms. Shah de Jeu went to Northwestern University and MIT to be an engineer, she eventually gravitated toward starting a company instead. She returned to Chicago and soon started her own successful company, SPAAN Tech, Inc., an engineering and construction management firm.

She wanted to engage herself in a valuable community, gaining the opportunity to meet and help others.

“I thought I had nothing to lose, and I think it is true when you are young and have the opportunity to engage in something and try it out, and the worst thing that happens is that you might have to get a job,” Ms. Shah de Jeu said during her speech.

Devoted to these goals, she is currently working to bring 5G coverage to the South Side of Chicago, and to the local communities that would benefit the most.

Ava Wilczak, a junior who gave an introduction to the event, believes that one of the values of attending was the perspective Ms. Shah de Jeu offered on Lab and on her own life.

“So you can not only get to experience Lab from someone who’s maybe here maybe five years ago, 10 years ago, but you also get to see, just see and hear the stories of really incredibly successful people, in various aspects of life,” Ava said.

Ms. Shah de Jeu’s journey resonated with Yaseen Qureshi, a junior who attended the event. He was especially captivated with how distant her experiences felt from his own life.

“I was really just blown back by the experiences that she had and the way that she worked up the ladder,” Yaseen said. “It was really interesting to see that as a high school student you can’t even think to see yourself in that similar type of circumstance.”