My motto is “a curious voice is a good voice.”
As long as I can remember, I’ve asked questions to learn more about all the things that interest me. What is that? How does this work? Who discovered that? When can we do this? Where can I get the answers? Why can’t we do that?
As you might imagine, my parents were very patient people. They didn’t know all the answers to my many questions, but they always encouraged and supported me in my efforts to learn. I was always busy with one project or another around the house. These projects were either in the kitchen, garage or garden, or sometimes all three. My parents knew that my many trials and errors didn’t always yield spectacular results, but they continued to support me by letting me use our home as a laboratory and the supplies I needed to experiment.
As the youngest of three children and the only girl, I was interestingly the one who would rewire a broken lamp, turn an art project into a welding project, or jump at the chance to help retile the bathroom. My parents always involved us in the DIY activities to help teach us practical skills. They also let me tinker on a 1973 MINI Cooper, my childhood dream, through high school. They even entrusted me to drive my own, rather unreliable car as long as I had my pocket knife with me to fix the inevitable breakdown.
I believe it was this perpetual curiosity that led me to pursue a career in engineering. As an engineer, I get to ask a lot of questions. The answers I discover work together to help me solve our customers’ problems and move the world forward.
I started my career back in 2004 as a college student working a manufacturing engineering job in my native South Africa. Armed with my constant curiosity, I was able to quickly learn, adapt and move on to roles with increasing technical and managerial responsibilities. One of my first projects was to document packaging that was used in the manufacturing facility. Within a few days on the job, I asked many questions about a certain imported packaging material. Because I ran into dead ends with the local team, I got engaged with the overseas vendor and realized that we weren’t buying what we thought we were. I was able to find a local source that was quicker, cheaper and could provide a more tailored product, which improved efficiency on our assembly process and gave us a better product. And it all started with a question.
My interest and expertise in engineering has taken me around the world. Today, I’m leading product strategy development and implementation for one of Timken’s key growth markets, and I’m raising a family right here in Northeast Ohio. And, yes, my two preschoolers ask just as many questions as I did as a child! I wouldn’t want it any other way. As a parent and leader in my company and community, I enjoy being able to serve as a mentor for inquiring minds.
I’m particularly interested in getting girls interested in engineering and helping women advance in the field. I’m actively involved in Timken’s global employee resource group, Women’s International Network, which helps increase innovation in the company by emphasizing how to approach business with a more inclusive mindset. I also serve on the board of the Women in Engineering Advisory Council at the University of Akron, working to promote relationships between engineering leaders in the community.
As we celebrate National STEM Day (Nov. 8), I can’t help but think about all the folks who’ve helped mold me. From my childhood through today, I’ve been blessed to know people who’ve patiently listened to my questions and, with their answers, stoked my interest in science, technology, engineering, art and math. Now, I have a question for you: What are you doing to help quench the curiosities of the people in your life?
Published in the Canton Repository Nov. 8, 2019