January 12, 2012Her job: Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, Praxair, Inc.
Describe what you do in your current work situation?
I am a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt which means I work on productivity projects every day. I have anywhere fro 2-4 projects at one time, and my current focus is on distribution-related projects.
Why did you choose engineering?
When I was young, I went to some science programs in my community and we also had some speakers come to our school to talk about science. Where I grew up in Minnesota, 3M is a big employer, and I remember hearing about how they make tape, getting that sticky side and the not sticky side--I was hooked on science from then on! I also had a great role model in my mom, who is a microbiologist.
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have?
I attended the University of Pittsburgh where I got a chemical engineering degree and a certificate (similar to a minor) in petroleum engineering. I also have my MBA.
What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work?
I work mostly on a computer but do travel to plants to meet with my internal clients and plants. I also mentor other people on productivity.
What do you like best about being an engineer?
Productivity is all about being efficient and using data to make improvements in processes. I love making something better, finding a solution to a problem by using data--how can you argue with numbers? But I also enjoy the human side of being a woman engineer. I appreciate the personal connections I make. I am good at selling ideas and explaining technical concepts in a less complicated way. I truly enjoy being a "people person" engineer.
Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of?
I am proud of helping young women gain access to my company and recommending and hiring them for jobs in engineering. I also organize and lead virtual Career Path discussions with high profile men and women in my company where they can share secrets of their success with anyone in the company who is interested in building a great career. On the technical side, I am proud of saving the company about $1,000,000 in projects and achieving my Black Belt certification.
What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career?
As a young engineer, I faced the challenge of people not listening to me or believing I could help them. I learned quickly that if you show people respect and admit what you don't know, you'll gain respect in return. I also always try to be a positive influence on any office or plant I visit.
Please tell us a little about your family.
I have been married since 2007 to my husband, Marco. We met in college. I also have a wonderful little boy named Carter, who was born in October 2011. Two dachshunds named Coco and Bear complete our family.
What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals?
In the next couple of years, I would like to continue to work in productivity and operations. Long term, I would like to become an operations director where I would have the responsibility to oversee several plants in a given region and help set goals and strategy for the region.
What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices?
I credit my parents and my teachers in high school and college for setting a great example for me and encouraging me to pursue a field not many girls pursue. I also am so grateful for the relationships I've made through my engineering sorority, Phi Sigma Rho. I have made terrific connections with women who support each other both technically and outside of work.
What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering?
Engineering is a great career choice for women who want to use their brains to solve problems, and still work with people. Women bring something special to engineering. Your problem solving can make such an impact on other people, allowing you to leave your mark. Also, be willing to take on projects that are above and beyond what you've been asked to do. Volunteer to do something new or create a new program. Your efforts will be noticed--taking initiative is always a good thing. And try to connect with as many women in the fields you're interested in as possible. Everyone you meet will be happy to share their experiences with you and tell you what their life is really like as an engineer. Women can be engineers, make a difference, have a family, take vacations, and have lots of girls nights out. You can have it all!
Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book.
I love to read and scrapbook, and I love traveling with my family. When I have time I also love some good reality TV!