Hello from Dallas, Texas! My name is Kim and I am a controls engineer in a company focused in industrial automation. When you order your headphones online or pick up a single serve pre-made salad from your local grocer, your product may have at one time, been my work product. The work that I do implements sensors, conveyor and robotics to get product from one location to another – its a happy medium of hardware and software.
To get here, I studied electrical engineering at The Ohio State University , but my internship in a similar company best prepared me for this job. I am the only female engineer in my office and as I write this, the only female controls engineer in the company. I’m here to change that.
As a woman in engineering, hearing backgrounds similar to mine helped develop my interest for a career in STEM. I was drawn to it because I was determined to make my career invigorating and challenging. Many people ultimately want to make an impact in the world and for me, finding a pathway to realise it in the form of a college major was the first step. Most definitely, I knew I wanted to avoid the notion of showing up to a job that I hated hoping time would fast-forward to retirement.
Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors
As my senior year of high school neared, the social pressures of deciding what my lifelong career became more prevalent. I was taking Advanced Placement classes to prepare for college, but an auto maintenance class with afternoons of popped hoods and clanging wrenches sparked my interest in tangible problem solving. A Wikipedia article in electrical engineering persuaded me to claim that major and I began the next chapter in my academic journey.
While I found some of the classes difficult, my passion was fuelled by joining a student automotive engineering group practicing real world applications of engineering. In Buckeye Current, we built electric motorcycles, travelled and learned to communicate effectively (for better or for worse).
As a young professional today, every challenge I have faced and how I have reacted to it has created a foundation for how I solve problems. The learning curve in my current position is steep and keeping my head is vital. Outside of my air conditioned office lies a plethora of environments for a controls engineer to commission projects and solve problems, which unexpectedly affects that reaction.
Ask all the questions
For example, a project earlier in my career was spent troubleshooting on a cold dirty floor in a dark warehouse-like space in Toronto. In addition to the dismal atmosphere, my spirits were low from unsuccessful work locating the issues in safety wiring – a vital part to any system. To mitigate the situation, I left for the night and took a local dance class to both take my mind off the stress and celebrate something I could do well.
The next morning, I came in refreshed and rooted out all issues with a fresh set of eyes. I am living proof you don’t need straight A’s to become an engineer and when I speak as a member of the Society of Women Engineers or a role model from the online international FabFem database, I make sure to share that with the many young ladies that are conditioned to avoid risk and not make mistakes. I challenge them to be brave.
If I could say anything to those interested in STEM, I’d want them to above everything else, foster their passion and let it take root. For what it’s worth, that social pressure that I experienced in high school doesn’t need to be experienced by everybody. 4 years at a university isn’t a good fit for everybody especially when STEM can be fostered in so many venues, trade schools included. Ask all of the questions and if you’re willing to stand up to it, there is no lack of challenge here.
More in Women in STEM: http://beyondscience.co.uk/catharinas-story/