Today is International Women In Engineering Day – a day dedicated to recognizing the outstanding work of women engineers across the globe. At Lenovo, we’re thankful for our women engineers around the world who are not only doing the hard work, but also paving the way for the next generation of women in engineering.
To help celebrate, we sat down with some of the incredible women engineers that represent our company to talk a little bit about themselves, what they’re most proud of as women in a male-dominated field, and some words of advice for the next generation of women engineers.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at Lenovo?
Flavia Vilas Boas (LATAM Regional Product Manager, MBG): I’m Flavia Vilas Boas and am from Brazil. I have a bachelor’s degree in Electronic Engineering at EFEI “Escola Federal de Engenharia de Itajuba MG/Brazil” and a Master’s degree in Quality & Production and an MBA from FGV in Sao Paulo/Brazil.
Ruthie Sellers (Product Design Mechanical Engineer, MBG): My name is Ruthie Sellers, and I was born and raised on the south side of Chicago. I have a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and Aerospace Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Currently, I am a Product Design Mechanical Engineer for Motorola’s flagship smartphone division.
Elaine Rezende (Global Product Manager, MBG): My name is Elaine Rezende, I joined Motorola in 2000 and I work on the MBG team. I am based in Brazil and responsible for launching New Products in the LatAm and AP/EM regions.
Mounika Vanka (Researcher, Lenovo): I am a graduate student from Duke University with a Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering. I am passionate about applying machine learning principles to solving problems in healthcare and am currently a researcher for Lenovo’s Augmented Reality solutions.
Q: What are you most proud of when it comes to being a woman in a historically male-dominated field? Do you feel that engineering is still a male-dominated field?
Ruthie Sellers: As a woman in this field, I am most proud of the way we’ve been able to break down barriers and stereotypes of what an engineer is and looks like. I am a “girly-girl” and I have encountered many people who don’t associate that with this field. I want girls and women to know that they are not limited to stereotypical women’s careers. They can have careers that are known to be what men do and still be themselves. I am proud that I can still embrace who I am and show other women that they can also be their authentic selves with any career choice.
Absolutely, engineering is still a male-dominated field – that hasn’t changed. I do, however, see more and more women every day getting involved. I think this is important as we present the opportunity to offer a different perspective on all aspects of the field; which, I believe is key in bringing new and innovative products to life.
Overall it feels good to be a woman working in this environment, and it’s empowering to know that I am a successful woman in a male-dominated field. This is not to say it doesn’t come with its challenges, actually, it is hard at times, but I can honestly say many of my colleagues have been supportive from day one; as a result, I feel welcomed, I feel accepted, and I feel like my opinion matters.
Flavia Vilas Boas: I’m very proud of being a woman in engineering and think more can be done to help raise awareness around women in the field. For example, while the field is still male-dominated I do think we’re seeing a more “natural diversity” in engineering positions – asking the same responsibility and results regardless of your gender, race, etc. A good engineer should be able to adapt to any situation and perform at a certain level – and I think we as women in engineering, have been able to prove that we can do the job just as good as our male colleagues. Of course, I think there is still more to do to encourage more women and the next generation to explore this field as a career, but the recognition that things like International Women In Engineering Day brings is a great step in the right direction!
Mounika Vanka: Yes, I definitely feel that it is, but it is changing slowly. For example, my team consists of 9 members with two women engineers. I have also seen other teams with just a single woman. But the trend is definitely changing and more women are sharing their journey to empower others and help reduce the misconception that engineering is a male-only field.
Q: What are the biggest misconceptions people have about being an engineer?
Elaine Rezende: A common misconception is that engineers are nerds (which isn’t a bad thing!) – but I’m definitely not a nerd and think you can find many different types of people in this field! In fact, engineering is a pretty broad and diverse field – the many different types of people are needed to develop innovative solutions.
Mounika Vanka: I have heard this phrase a lot “You must be really smart to be an engineer.” I believe that every individual is smart, but their skills and interests are suited for a different field. To me, being an engineer does not mean you are smart, it means you really enjoy solving challenges and have a knack for technology.
Another myth I have heard is “You cannot be an engineer and raise a family”. I think having children can be a challenge in any career, but with supportive employers and the right infrastructure, there is no reason why it should be harder within the world of engineering.
Q: How do you hope to inspire the next generation and/or your fellow colleagues? What advice would you give them?
Flavia Vilas Boas: This is a fantastic career with huge opportunities to work with leading tech companies, to learn different cultures and languages, and to travel all around the world. As an engineer you have to learn how to solve very difficult problems at a very quick pace – I would encourage the next generation to hone in on this skill in college. I would also encourage them to not be afraid to open their minds to a new way of thinking both while on the job and in their personal lives, as this can really help you grow as a person and in your career.
Ruthie Sellers: I hope to inspire my fellow colleagues and the next generation to be fearless, to take risks, and leave no stone unturned on their journey. I hope to encourage them to live boldly and to remember just because you are a woman doesn’t mean that you are incapable of rising to any challenge that may come your way… and lastly, I want to inspire them to always be their authentic self through it all.
Elaine Rezende: To the next generation of girls interested in this field, I’d say never stop reading, studying, asking questions – and don’t be afraid to fail a lot, learn from those failures and use them as an opportunity to further your knowledge. Be prepared to receive minimal information when pursuing answers, but do not get discouraged and allow these instances to fuel your journey. Your success depends on your drive, and you are the only person who is able to determine what your success means.
Mounika Vanka: Drawing off of my experiences, I would say follow your passion, and success will come to you automatically. When you are doing something you love, it becomes all the more enjoyable and you don’t feel the stress at all. But also sometimes, you do have to take on tasks or projects that you might not enjoy the most, in those situations I would suggest you take this on as a challenge and try to give it your best. I would also suggest for them to take part in women in STEM programs either at their school or college level to get exposure and stay up to date with the latest trends.
I also think sharing personal stories of struggle and achievements can provide empowerment to young girls. A lot of women are open about sharing their stories in the hope to inspire young minds and I am really happy with the way it is happening. Giving young girls the freedom to choose their career based on their interests and not based on how they will be perceived by others would also definitely help.