One of the exciting aspects of interviewing various female engineers is gaining an understanding of the diverse education and work experience that comprise the women representing ‘The Power Women of the Wire Harness Industry’. The message that I am hopeful readers ascertainin is that these ladies are not all interested in a particular area of engineering. Some are strong in mechanical aptitude while others are perhaps deficient in that area. They may, however, be stronger in another discipline within the engineering realm. In meeting with Erin Schultz, a Senior Electromechanical Wire Harness Engineer with Lockheed Martin, I found yet another female engineer with a background and work experience unique from the previous highlighted in this series.
Erin was raised in New Jersey, just outside of Manhattan in Randolph. While she did not have a familial background in engineering, her parents are both professionals who stressed education. As a result of her interest in and love of animals, Erin had a fondness for science. Combined with a strength in mathematics, she gravitated toward STEM fields. Her development of math knowledge began at a young age. She particularly remembers that while in the 3rd grade, her mother often arrived home late from a long workday in the pharmaceutical industry and would quiz Erin with math flashcards. Erin remembers that while her classmates were still tested on basic subtraction, she had easily mastered not only the addition and subtraction concepts but also had already conquered multiplication and division. She was well-ahead of the class and attributes much of her mathematical ability to her mother’s prioritization of Erin’s education.
During high school, Erin took general and advanced classes including AP Environmental Science and Marine Biology. She also greatly enjoyed the logical thinking required for Statistics. She developed an interest in coding. She thought of programming tasks as puzzles and challenged herself to create solutions.
As an avid snowboarder, Erin was interested in attending college in a different geographical location, but not necessarily one across country. Once deciding to major in Computer Science, she researched college programs located in the Northeast. She opted to attend the University of Vermont due to both the location and the reputable computer science programs at the school. She remembers that most of her classes were about 60% male, though the percentage increased with the level of class difficultly and progression. The classes outside of the major were fairly divided among men and women. While enrolled, she also worked. She was a teaching assistant for 2 semesters in where she worked with a professor supporting him in two environmental studies classes. She assisted with classroom activities and graded most of the students’ assignments. She also created fact sheets focusing on various green infrastructure techniques. She wrote, produced, edited and created YouTube videos about rain gardens and green stormwater solutions. She also held a position as a Stormwater Infrastructure Engineer with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. In this job, she created a report on public outreach techniques used by other organizations across the country and surmised how Vermont might implement such ideas.
Post college, Erin was ready for a cross-country relocation to an area boasting highly technical corporations. She opted to take a position with Microsoft in Redmond, Washington. During the nearly 5 years in the employ of Microsoft, she worked as a Geocoding Software Engineer. In this assignment, she focused on geo-accuracy and Natural Language Processing (NLP) while utilizing a map interface to understand, develop, and improve mapping software.
After five years in coding, Erin decided that she was ready for a career change to a more engineering-specific profession. She investigated various programs and landed in the Master of Engineering Program at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She found information on the university website showing a partnership between the school and Lockheed Martin. She visited the campus and fell in love with the school. She actually reviewed the online courses and selected her classes before even being accepted into the Master of Engineering program with a concentration in Engineering and Industrial Management. She was able to work during the Master’s degree and performed GPS mapping for the City of Boulder as a Quality Engineer during her final year of the program. Since graduating and beginning employment with Lockheed Martin, she was sponsored by Lockheed Martin and is continuing to further her education by obtaining an additional graduate certificate though the program.
Since leaving the University of Colorado at Boulder with her Master of Engineering degree, Erin applied to a cable and harnessing position within Lockheed Martin. She opted to pursue this particular assignment because she became intrigued by it through interfaces she met at the college. One influence was another student in her program who worked for approximately 10 years in the wire harness area at Lockheed Martin. The second was one of Erin’s professors, her mentor, who also previously worked at Lockheed Martin and cited positive feedback about the company. After only one year in the role, Erin was already promoted to a Senior Electromechanical Wire Harness Engineer and leads her team of software librarians for the electrical engineering tool: Zuken E3. She is currently in the initial stages of her third year in the assignment and is happy to have made the change to engineering and the choice to work at Lockheed Martin.
In terms of male and female representation, Erin indicated the genders are fairly evenly represented within Lockheed Martin as a whole at her site, but that there are significantly more males in the wiring harness engineer roles. Despite this, she does not feel she is treated any differently than her male counterparts. She also participates in the Lockheed Martin Chapter of The Society of Women Engineers as it presents an opportunity for her to meet other females in engineering from other companies.
Erin advised that she would 100% recommend that other females pursue engineering collegiately. She believes that obtaining her own Master’s Degree in Engineering significantly changed her life for the better. Via the program, she interfaces with many different companies and people. She was provided leadership opportunities, only enhancing her own feelings of self-esteem and worth. She is also the lead librarian at Lockheed Martin Space for Zuken E3, a cabling schematic tool used in the wire harness industry. Through this role, she meets with other corporate lead librarians for the purpose of standardizing processes across companies. While she spends a lot of time researching connector and wire data sheets, she finds the role to be very rewarding. She uses her platform to aid designers with their tasks.
She also believes that there is a niche for everyone in engineering as there are so many aspects, fields, careers, and paths within the discipline. Thank you, Erin, for sharing your insights and best wishes in the future.