The Engineering Process
Katy Pioch is a Michigan Technological University student pursuing a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering. She loves engineering and wants you to be open minded when considering a career in the field.
How did you decide to go into engineering and what do you love most about it?
I love how parts, pieces, and details come together to create a seamless product. It’s amazing to see how the smallest input can have a big effect. Engineering allows me to oversee a product go from an idea to reality.
Did you have a role model who inspired you to go into STEM?
I never really thought about engineering before high school. I signed-up for Drafting my freshman year just to fill an elective requirement, but ended up loving it. I could use my logical and creative sides at the same time. Additionally, the teacher of all drafting, mechanical design, and architecture classes was a woman. She had been in industry for a number of years and then went back to school to become a teacher. It was inspiring to see such an accomplished and respected woman leading these technical classes.
What was your favorite school course?
This past semester I took Introduction to Manufacturing. It was interesting to see how different processes can impact the same product. While decisions are often influenced by budgets, the process of how things are made can have major effects on the quality and characteristics of the finished product.
You are doing an internship this summer. Can you tell us more about your role and how you applied for it?
I will be working for a defense company in their Quality Assurance department. It’s a mini-rotational program that will give me a taste of their different processes near the end of production cycle.
I think the secret sauce for getting an internship are connections and passion. I had a few connections at the defense company from career fairs and from my personal network. They boosted my confidence while applying and helped me get my foot in the door.
Secondly, employers can see when you truly care about what you do. Passion gives you purpose and drive to do your best everyday and that can be the difference between a great or a miserable work experience.
What is it like to be a young woman in your engineering program and your internship?
I am definitely outnumbered by men who are both my age and who are older than me. It’s intimidating to have to speak up in a crowd of men. It can feel like a disadvantage, like you shouldn’t be there (“imposter syndrome”). But I’ve learned that being a woman in a predominantly male field has a major upside. You’re different. If you’re speaking up in meetings, contributing, and carrying yourself with confidence then people are more likely to notice. This gives you the potential to be a leader and make an impact, especially in today’s world where more and more companies are recognizing the importance of diversity and inclusion.
Can you tell us about your role at SWE, Society of Women Engineers?
I got involved in leadership positions at SWE within my first few weeks at Michigan Tech. There was an opening for co-social chair within our section and I took it. I got to be an integral part of the connections SWE members make with each other within our section. My second year, I became a Secretary and got to know more about what goes on behind the scenes of the organization as part of the executive board. This past year I was voted in as our President where I learned all the inner workings of our section and how it runs to help put us in a dominant and visible leadership role on campus.
What was your favorite SWE event?
My favorite event was the national SWE 2019 conference in Anaheim, California. It was mind-blowing to see this many likeminded people at the same place. I learned so much and feel like I really grew over the course of the conference.
The speakers were all amazing. From major keynotes to smaller breakout sessions there was something for everybody. Their career fair was enormous. At first, the sheer size of the venue and number of companies was intimidating but then you look around, soak it in, and realize how many opportunities there are at your fingertips. It blows you away.
All these companies have come to recruit members of SWE. That’s the reputation this organization has. We produce and support such strong and intelligent women that companies seek us out. If anyone is ever on the fence about going to the SWE conference, I would say you should go.
What do you personally like about SWE and would you recommend it to other female engineers?
It’s amazing to see women building each other up instead of competing. I’ve gotten to attend national conferences, networking events, outreach events, social activities, and so much more. It has been a great experience and I’m so glad I got involved as soon as I did. SWE is open to all genders and majors. I would say if you can join, you should. I have made life-long connections with people within our section and others. SWE is unlike any other organization and has a little bit of everything that helps accelerate both your personal and professional growth.
What else do you like to do?
In addition to being involved with SWE, I’m the Resident Assistant (RA) in residence halls on campus, and have recently been elected President of the SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge Enterprise at Michigan Tech.
Since my school is located in the picturesque upper peninsula, there’s just so much nature to enjoy! I love exploring the Keweenaw, going hiking to the beautiful waterfalls, and seeing the lookouts over Lake Superior. In the winter, which is most of the time in the U.P., I go ice skating, snowboarding (even though I’m not very good), and snowmobiling on countless trails.
Do you have any advice for girls who are thinking about going into engineering?
Engineering has so many different opportunities and avenues. You can really shape your career into whatever you want it to be. Forget the old stereotype of a man sitting in a cubical while starring at a computer screen all week long. In my eyes, in the simplest terms, engineering is the process of identifying a problem and finding a way to fix it. Think of how many times you’ve seen a problem and done something about it … don’t doubt, you’re already an engineer!