To support International Women in Engineering Day and showcase the diverse opportunities on offer in an engineering environment, we are focusing on four women at Smiths Detection who have established careers in very different aspects of the industry.
Assay Development Laboratory Manager – based in the USA
Samantha Wright became interested in science as a young child with the encouragement of her mother who works in the genetics department of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, USA. Aged eight years, a visit to a planetarium resulted in a further passion for astronomy. Her career began with an internship and five years in roles at environmental testing company, Pathsensors – a company which was subsequently acquired by Smiths Detection.
“Studying for my degree with a toddler at home was extremely difficult but my biggest challenge was recognising my own worth. It took a few years with lots of mentoring from both my managers and the women in my family for me to feel empowered. Now I am confident and know there is a solution to every problem – you just have to look at things from different perspectives until you find the answer.”
Samantha’s current responsibilities are maintaining inventory for the laboratory; managing and mentoring lab technicians; overseeing the completion of projects; and keeping it all within budget. Her innovations include working with the finance department to ensure an accurate and efficient lab ordering process. This work ethic and commitment have been acknowledged with a Smiths Excellence Award which recognises inspiring individuals who set a great example to those around them. She has also received a Momentum Award for outstanding work on individual projects.
“The engineering industry is a really exciting environment. Innovation is a continual process and it’s very rewarding to know you have played your part in helping to create or design something which will keep people safe. I don’t think it can get any better than that!”
Technology Finance Business Partner – based in the UK
As a Certified Chartered Accountant, Eva Dakers had worked mainly in a financial setting and was looking for a new challenge. Attracted to the global reach of Smiths Detection and the manufacture of products with important, practical applications, she joined the company in 2018 as Finance Integration Manager; and quickly worked her way up to Technology Finance Business Partner.
“I wasn’t at all daunted by the idea of joining a traditionally male dominated industry and found both the environment and the people very pleasant, helpful and welcoming. Throughout the company there is a good mix of genders, although the Technology team I currently work closely with is mainly men. Being a woman in engineering has never held me back – my managers have believed in me, encouraged me to progress and given me the opportunity to gain experience in a variety of roles.”
Eva loves her job and is proud of the positive impact she has through incremental innovation. She finds great satisfaction in finding solutions to the many different issues a whole range of people present to her on a daily basis. The next big challenge is an imminent 15 month maternity cover secondment to Sydney Australia as Financial Controller for South Asia. Taking your family across the world can be very stressful and Smiths Detection has been providing extensive support – from organising visas to finding a home.
“‘I can’t wait for this exciting new adventure and my advice to any women thinking of taking a job in engineering is definitely GO FOR IT! This is a very interesting and dynamic industry, just stay open-minded, go for a role you can enjoy and which keeps you motivated. I’m certainly not a trained engineer but there are always people on hand to help you understand the technology. It was the best career change I could have possibly made…”
Senior Engineering Manager – based in India
Shyamlee Bhambore was advised as a teenager to work towards a degree in science as it would open up so many options. She chose Computer Science and gained a Bachelor of Engineering (B.E) from Bangalore’s B.M.S College of Engineering – she is the third generation in her family to study at this College and hopes her teenage son will eventually keep up the tradition. Shyamlee spent 17 years in the avionics industry before joining Smiths Detection in 2020 as a Senior Engineering Manager.
“In India, women are generally encouraged and empowered to enter any field of their choice. My college group was about 25-30% women and that figure is reflected today both in the workplace in general and in my team. I deal with people all over the world and it’s interesting how different countries and cultures vary in terms of gender parity. As a company, Smiths Detection embraces diversity and the Smiths Way ethos asks us to be inclusive and respectful.”
Although Shyamlee organised the company’s first global Digithon, she believes innovation is an on-going endeavour and not just about the big break throughs. It is about continuing to improve in order to innovate and hence deliver added value to customers. Her focus is also on building her team, upskilling and mentoring to prepare individuals for new roles. Building lasting relationships with local and global stakeholders is also key to moving forward.
“Working with new technology is exciting and challenging and I want to keep learning and grow within the company to take on bigger roles. I would encourage women not to feel intimidated or have pre-conceptions of the engineering industry. If it’s in your heart, just do it – stay open-minded and give it your best shot whilst being honest and trustworthy.”
Business Process Manager, Global Service – based in Germany
Karen Widfalk has a passion for creativity combined with a technical aptitude. Her studies in Textile Design included industry placements where she discovered more about the different business functions and, as a result, decided to gain business management qualifications. In 2005 she took a temporary position at Smiths Detection as a Customer Relations Manager – and never looked back! She progressed through several different roles at the company to reach her current position of Business Process Manager, Global Service.
“The opportunity to grow, develop and explore has kept me interested and engaged and I get the chance to use both my creative and technical sides. My creativity enables me to ‘think outside the box’ which is a valuable skill in an industry where innovation is key. My focus is now on operational excellence and I have recently been involved in two major innovations. Firstly, the design and global implementation of a new Service Management Tool; and secondly, taking a co-lead on the development of a globalised approach to Service back-office.”
This is an exciting industry offering new challenges every day. Visiting the production lines and seeing the final product at customers’ sites adds a fascinating dimension to Karen’s job. Six Sigma, Lean and Continuous Improvement processes make every day a new challenge. Over the last five or six years, Karen has witnessed enormous, positive changes in terms of diversity and inclusion and was determined to reach the point where she could offer senior level, female mentorship to others coming into the business.
“It’s interesting to see the different stages of inclusion in countries around the world. I have, for example, witnessed huge steps forward in the Middle East in recent years. There are still times when you long for more women in your team or in meetings but overall, I find it a stimulating and motivating environment. I would encourage women to believe in themselves and their skills and go for a position in the engineering industry. My advice is always be proud to be a woman – you don’t need to wear a man’s hat to succeed!”