What it’s like to be a Female Engineer: an Interview with 4 Brilliant Women Working at Philips
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I absolutely love talking to female engineers because not only they are badass as a rule, but they are also super down to earth and give the best advice. These women are defying stereotypes and are thriving in a male-dominated (for now) industry – and every single one of them has their own unique story.
I was honoured to ask 4 brilliant female engineers working at Philips in 3 different locations around the world some questions about their experiences. Please meet Anahis, Christine, Jasmin and Priyanka!
1. What is your job at Philips? What are you working on?
Anahis (North America): I’m a mechanical engineer working on wearable devices for patient monitoring. My job demands that I think creatively to solve problems. I’m constantly collaborating with my coworkers, coming up with new ideas to prototype and theories to test.
Anahis in front of the electronics lab at the Philps office in Cambridge
Christine: I’m a software developer co-op (intern) currently working on tool validation (to ensure that the usage of our software development tools are accounted for and that any requirements/risks of tool usage are addressed and mitigated) and I am also working on automated unit testing for our Android application (to be used in a hospital).
Jasmin (Germany): I am Software Development Engineer in the PC-Software Department General Ward & Serviceability. I am working on a Software that is responsible for monitoring patients in the General Care, that by collecting their vital signs and using an early warning system can detect high-risk patients.
Priyanka (India): I am working as a cloud admin (sysops) since June 2017 in the EIS team. We help hospitals and other business units at Philips to host their solutions on AWS cloud. I contribute to this, by setting up the infrastructure as per client requirements in the AWS cloud and maintaining it (monitor, apply patches and access control).
2. What inspired you to become an engineer/software engineer?
Anahis: When choosing my career, I let my interests guide me. I’ve always enjoyed solving puzzles, working with numbers, tinkering… I was looking for a career that would test my critical thinking skills and allow me to be creative. Prior to college, I didn’t know much about engineering. As I got to know more about what engineers actually do every day, I started to warm up to the idea. In a lot of ways, mechanical engineering is like liberal arts for the sciences, giving me a set of tools that I can use to solve real-world problems. So far, I’ve had really rewarding career opportunities in the medical device field, where I get to develop products that will help people.
Christine: My dad is a software engineer, and he’s always encouraged me to think of creative and efficient ways to problem solve. I’ve always been interested in medicine growing up, and am currently studying Computer Science & Biology at Northeastern University. Although I’ve definitely found engineering to be extremely frustrating at times, it’s always inspiring and motivating to see what incredible ways it has been impacting medicine…I am so honoured to be part of igniting these changes.
Christine at her desk, most likely working on some ground-breaking technologies as we speak
Jasmin: Since a young age it was clear for me that I wanted to study and work in an engineering field, as my strengths were always in math, physics and chemistry and I was always curious on how things work. This is why I studied Medical Technology, where I was introduced to a number of different engineering fields. By the third semester, we started with software engineering and it was like I found my destiny: From all introduced engineering fields, Software Engineering was for me the most exciting and fascinating one.
Priyanka: I was always fascinated by the advances in technology around me. Hence I choose to obtain my bachelors in electronics and communication. During this course, I fell in love with the world of internet and in particular, the data transfer. This new found love urged me to pursue masters in computer networks. By the end of the degree, I knew that I wanted to be a part of something as amazing as cloud technology.
3. Why is it exciting to do what you do at Philips?
Anahis: It’s exciting to be involved with innovative products, like wearable health technology. I’m not following a routine, but instead, writing my own blueprints for how to develop new products.
I love working on this small team at Philips because I get to have a voice at the table. As a recent college grad, I really appreciate how my older colleagues respect my opinions and I’m grateful to learn a lot from their experiences!
Christine: The people are not only down-to-earth and intelligent, but are always willing to teach! I’ve loved my year at Philips–seeing our development grow and witnessing hospital involvement around areas I’ve lived in! Having volunteered in hospitals quite a bit before, it’s amazing to see how our technology can and already is a disruptive innovation!
Jasmin: We always work towards adapting and enhancing the software to address the needs of caregivers and patients. Therefore we always work on new futuristic concepts and projects and get to know new technology.
Jasmin in her natural habitat ?
Priyanka: I interact with hospitals on a day-to-day basis and handle patient data all the time. My team helps hospitals visualize their nurse workforce delegation, patient experience etc. and thus helps the hospital to improve their services directly and patients to improve their health indirectly. What could be more exciting than knowing that one is helping improve lives across the globe while pursuing their passion?
4. What are your thoughts on diversity in the tech industry? What can we do to make it better?
Anahis: With male-dominated spaces, often the loudest, most forceful voice in the room wins. Female voices can get snuffed out, meaning their opinions are not represented despite physical presence. I think the tech industry can foster a more collaborative environment where everyone is comfortable sharing ideas. In a truly democratic space, the best ideas will win, not necessarily the loudest.
Christine: I’m optimistic about the tech industry’s progression towards a more diverse AND inclusive workplace! Regardless of the imposter syndrome and demotivation that comes with my struggle being one of the only females in a tech-dominated space, I think it’s important to always remain a trailblazer in this community and to seek people who will continue to push you to higher levels that you don’t think you can reach–they are out there; my team especially!
Jasmin: What makes me very happy to work for Philips, is the clear diversity in the company. My team includes a large number of female software engineers and people with different backgrounds. Sadly this wasn’t the case in the companies I worked for before or the University Institute, where I wrote my thesis in Software Technology, as female Software Engineers were a minority. But it is clear, that people are working on improving this situation. Both the University Institute and Philips Boeblingen offer a Girls Day, where young school girls have the chance to experience how amazing and exciting the tech industry can be.
Priyanka: Technology is fast growing and not biased by gender. Then it only makes sense that tech industries remain unbiased too. Although the percentage of women working in the tech industry has been on the rise, I personally feel that we still have a long way to go. As it is said that home is one’s first school, the interest in technology has to be started right from childhood by introducing young girls to toys that improve engineering skills over the usual Barbies. Technical excellence among women can be promoted by conducting tech workshops (for women) at grad and post-grad levels. Although there have been proofs that women handle stress better than men, there are very few women at top positions in companies and this needs to change.
Priyanka rocking that Philips Lanyard over her beautiful Saree
5. What advice would you give to your younger self – when you were just studying to become an engineer?
Anahis: In tech, there’s often no “right way” to get the job done. I would tell my younger self to embrace the open-ended nature of work instead of fearing failure.
During an internship in college, I was working closely with a male intern to develop a machine for manufacturing. The older engineers on the team asked us how to solve an issue with the system we created. In my head, I was like “Oh no! There’s an issue! We failed!” but the male intern gave a bold, off the cuff response for how to fix the problem. My fear of failure prevented me from making an educated guess and, in the eyes of the older engineers, it looked like I wasn’t contributing. Since then, I have worked on expressing my ideas with (tempered) confidence, just like the male engineers.
Christine: Do not let anyone tear your confidence down, especially not yourself. Try and try again. You can do so much more than you think you can. Don’t be afraid to ask more questions and be afraid to fail. Failure just makes your successes so much sweeter.
Jasmin: I would rather give an advice to myself, when I was in school: You shouldn’t doubt your ability to become an engineer just because you are female, as in the future everything will work out to be great.
Priyanka: Honestly, I would have advised myself to relax and not stress out. It isn’t necessary to be a master of all. Try to master that which you love but remain open to learning the new – as learning is the only constant in this world.
This is what girl power looks like ?
Thank you so very much ladies, I find your stories very inspiring and have a huge smile on my face as I’m writing this. Girls rule and you are a perfect example of that!
And for all of the readers, if you’re interested to learn more about opportunities at Philips, check out this link: https://www.careers.philips.com/student
You can also watch my Vlog from the Philips office – or read a blog post about it, and learn more about internship opportunities at Philips.
Thank you for stopping by!