The Power Women of the Wire Harness Industry Nov/Dec 2020 – Devon Gonteski
by Melissa Femia
Devon Gonteski is the feature engineer in this edition of The Power Women series. Originally from the East Coast, Devon attended elementary and middle school in New Jersey, subsequently high school in Colorado as her father’s job transferred the family there. Her mother worked after her younger sister was born while her father had a career in communications. Devon’s dad often brought home equipment and technology from the workplace, sometimes setting up and testing video chat equipment or other new products. At one point, she recalls, he acquired and modified an old projector and ended up creating a theatre room with it. Interested in science and knowledge from a young age, she could often be found avidly watching the Discovery Channel.
Despite early science-related interests and introductory technical exposure, Devon was interested in liberal arts in high school. Enrolling and completing the International Baccalaureate program, she took the standard level science and math courses while choosing to enroll in the higher-level English classes. Following the liberal arts path to university, she decided to pursue a degree in Philosophy in college. Preferring to live in the East, Devon chose to attend The Catholic University of America located in Washington, D.C. Within her Freshman year, however, she grew dissatisfied with her academic path; she did not enjoy the Philosophy program as much as she had hoped and decided she wanted to move toward a more STEM-related field. She considered Electrical Engineering but opted on a path towards a bachelor’s in Physics instead.
Moving along the Physics track, Devon found herself often one of two or three women in the majority of her physics courses during college. With at most only around a dozen students in the entire undergraduate program, she recalls being frustrated at the lack of study partners and groups. While perhaps unintentional, Devon felt that she had something to prove as one of the only women in the technical program. Luckily, upon forming a friendship with another female student, they were able to collaborate with each other to teach each other the material. Devon actually attributes a lot of her college success to having had a female friend with whom she could do coursework.
Amidst her collegiate years, Devon worked as an intern at the university’s School of Engineering and the Vitreous State Laboratory. Post college, Devon submitted many resumes and had workforce interviews, ultimately choosing an employer that she met via a networking opportunity. As she recollects, her first interview for an internship with the company Lectromec, she was not offered the position, but nine months later and around the time that Devon completed her degree, she returned for an interview as a full-time junior engineer.
Lectromec is a small business specializing in wire and cable testing. Devon’s first-day training began with her creating wire bundles—cutting cable into pieces to be used for testing. She remembers that a client was visiting the facility that day, and the client asked her how long she was in her position. Of course, she answered that this was her first day, assuming the customer asked because she was fumbling with the wires clumsily. At that point, she figured she had some efficiency gains to make! Outside of creating test batches, Devon spent her early time familiarizing herself with test standards and various aspects of the lab environment. After gaining comfort in those areas, she was able to complete tests herself. After a couple of years, Devon is now a mentor figure to new employees and went from being the trainee to acting as a trainer. She loves the role and finds it very satisfying to master concepts, then teach others and watch them thrive.
When Devon started her job with Lectromec, she was the solo female technician in the lab. Since then, the company has grown to include several more. As the company utilizes unique testing equipment, there are limited suppliers. As a result, Lectromec often builds the specialized test fixtures in-house both for their own use and for other companies. Whether creating test bundles or manufacturing the equipment, she loves her position and the work environment, feeling very supported by all of the surrounding individuals.
Devon’s advice to others is to stay positive and recognize that any goal is achievable if you invest the time and energy. Regardless of what anyone says negatively, have confidence and self-value. Try to live in the moment.
Thank you, Devon, for your contribution to The Power Women series. Power Women
If you are interested in sharing the stories but missed the original WHN distribution, the articles are available on the Jana Diversity Solutions web- site at www.janadiversity.com, or at wiringharnessnews.com.
If you know a female engineer who would make a great candidate to feature in the Power Women series, please direct them to me at melissa. firstname.lastname@example.org