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International Women in Engineering Day – Leah Adams

International Women in Engineering Day 2022

International Women in Engineering Day is celebrated annually on June 23rd, to raise women’s profile in engineering and focus attention on the amazing career opportunities available to girls in this exciting industry. By shining a light on the women in engineering throughout the world, it gives us a chance to celebrate outstanding achievements across this industry.

Whilst we’re always looking to champion outstanding people in the engineering space, this day is an ideal opportunity to celebrate women’s achievements in engineering, raise awareness about the types of careers available, and share stories of inspiring women.

Figures as of June 2021 showed that 16.5% of engineers are women, this is a 25.7% increase in women in engineering occupations since 2016.

For this IWED, join us in celebrating just some of the inspirational women in our community and the empowering work they do for women everywhere.

Leah Adams

Leah is a design and systems engineer at ColePak Inc., which is an interior packaging company based out of Ohio. She is responsible for optimising company processes and workflow, as well as aiding in the creation of product drawings.

While this role involves a myriad of tasks, Leah’s primary role is as a DriveWorks administrator, working to create a comprehensive software tool to be used throughout a multitude of departments within ColePak.

Leah talks about how exciting the opportunities are for someone working in engineering while accounting for how much of an inspiration her mother has been throughout her life and encouraged her to strive for greatness in both her career and when balancing life with a new child.

“I would consider my mom, Julie, to be one of my greatest inspirations….I am so grateful for her, the example she has set, and the inspiration she is to me.”

Where did your initial interest in Engineering start?

”I’m sure my engineering “origin story” shares many similarities to those of others in the field – my childhood was filled with hours of constructing Legos, building forts in the woods, and creating Minecraft worlds – but my actual path to engineering was rather indirect.

When I began my senior year of high school in 2015, I knew I wanted to move on to higher education; however, I had little idea of what field I wanted to pursue or where I wanted to study. As I evaluated my interests, I found that I really enjoyed my calculus and art classes, so I settled on architectural engineering as a combination of the two.

I committed to Cedarville University and declared a major in mechanical engineering. Why mechanical engineering? Because that was the closest major to civil engineering which, as you will remember, was the nearest option to architectural engineering. As I said, it was a slightly convoluted path but, looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing as it has brought me to where I am today.”

Please share with us a bit about your background and how you ended up in your current role…

”The backdrop of my current role is a bit unique as I am the oldest grandchild of ColePak’s founders, Rick and Debbie Cole. ColePak has always been, in a way, my second home – I grew up playing tag with my brother in the offices, building forts with sheets of corrugated materials, and turning the entire factory into a game of hide-and-seek with my cousins during after-hours. In that time, I grew familiar with the ins and outs of the company.

In the summer of 2018, I interned at ColePak and was tasked with recreating and expanding on a process that an outside consultant had created nearly a decade ago to automate the generation of product drawings using SOLIDWORKS design tables.

The following summer I interned for a material handling solutions company. While I really enjoyed the work there, what I found most inspiring was how the senior engineer had transformed and streamlined the processes within the engineering department. At the end of that internship, as I began my senior year of college, I knew I wanted to do the same at ColePak. Using the knowledge of the industry that I had learned by growing up around the business, the skills I had acquired while studying for my degree, and the inspiration I had received from my intern roles, I presented my ideas for improving the processes and systems at ColePak, and I was hired.”

Can you tell us about some of the exciting things you get to work on in your role?

”The thing I find most exciting about the work I get to do is how ripe the opportunity for innovation and automation is within the company. ColePak has grown so quickly that, for nearly the entirety of the company’s history, they have simply had to do what it takes to get orders out the door.

Many of the programs and methods used to create quotes, price items, schedule orders, track shipments, etc. have hardly changed since the early 2000’s. Needless to say, the capabilities of technology have grown drastically in that time, providing huge opportunities for us to automate repetitive tasks, save time, and optimize company resources.”

How has the role of women in engineering changed over the course of your education and career?

”I have certainly noticed an increase in the number of women joining engineering. In one of the halls within the engineering building at my university, there is a picture of each graduating class of engineers, and it is so cool to walk past those pictures and see how the number of females has steadily increased.

As more women have joined the field, the resources and community available to these women have also grown. At Cedarville University we have a collegiate section of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) on campus that organizes events, plans meals, and fosters mentor/mentee relationships for women studying any of the engineering disciplines. Even though our engineering class was comprised of just a small percentage of women, it was remarkable how many of those ladies were among the highest academic ranks of the class.

While this is all just one person’s experience, I think that these trends are likely apparent across the board: more women are joining the field and with them, they are bringing not just an increasingly vibrant and supportive community for their fellow women but these ladies are consistently marked by talent and excellence that is propelling them to positions of leadership.

Why is being in engineering important to you?

”Being a part of this field is important to me because of the inherently creative nature of it. The world is designed with order, processes, and natural laws that, as we grow in our understanding of these incredible realities, enable us to learn how to also design, innovate, and partake in that creative process. As engineers, we are given the opportunity to join that legacy of creativity, and that is why I find this field to be such an important one to be a part of.”

What advice would you give any young woman considering an education and career in engineering?

”If a young woman were considering the field of engineering, I would tell her to prepare for one of the most challenging yet simultaneously rewarding fields that she could pursue. It is mentally and academically strenuous work that requires perseverance and persistence, but in the end, you are given the opportunity to create, design, and innovate in this amazing world that we live in.”

Who has been your inspiration?

”I feel very grateful to be surrounded by many individuals that have often inspired me in critical ways at one point or another. However, I would consider my mom, Julie, to be one of my greatest inspirations. My mom had me, her and my father’s first child, halfway through her final year of college. Even though it took her three years to complete that final stretch, she persevered and finished her degree.

While home-schooling my brother and I through elementary, she instilled in me a desire to pursue excellence in all areas of life, including academics. Without this drive, I find it unlikely that I would’ve completed my degree in engineering; in fact, I doubt I would’ve pursued it to begin with. She has and continues to be an instrumental part of who I am today, especially as I have recently become a mother myself. I am so grateful for her, the example she has set, and the inspiration she is to me.”

What do you want people to remember about you?

”My Christian faith is of greatest importance to me and drives what I desire to be marked by. So, ultimately, I want to be remembered for walking faithfully with my God. In my relationships, this motivates me to want others to know me by how I have loved them, treating them with dignity, respect, and care. In my work as an engineer, it prompts me to give forth my best effort, desiring to be known for excellence and diligence in all that I do.”

How do you balance work/life responsibility?

”A year ago, balancing work and life was much simpler. I had specific hours during which I was at the office and, while I was there, I was able to be all in, giving my work the attention and focus it was due. When I was not there, I was generally able to leave those tasks behind and enjoy other aspects of life. I felt there were healthy boundaries that clearly distinguished when I was an employee and when I was not, which enabled me to be productive at work and present at home.

In November of last year, my husband and I welcomed our first little one, Theodore, into the world. With his arrival, balancing work and life has looked much different. As anyone who has cared for a small child knows, babies require constant attention, and the role of mothers in providing that care is especially unique and intense. I certainly don’t lament that role; in fact, it is quite the opposite – I feel immensely privileged and gratified by it.

Fortunately, I am able to work the majority of my hours from home. While this gives me a much greater opportunity to care for Theo, it also presents a challenge: the clear boundaries that I had previously established are gone. I am attempting to reign in work in the areas where it has crossed into times that I would typically reserve for family, rest, or other life responsibilities. I am also considering cutting back on the number of hours I work, at least for this season, so I can attend more effectively to the other life responsibilities that I care deeply for. I am trying to find ways to re-establish those boundaries.”

Do you have a support network?

”My husband, Joey, is one of my greatest advocates. He is constantly encouraging me, both in words and action. We attended the same middle school, high school, and university, so he has seen me through many phases of life. There were countless times when, during my undergraduate studies, I would be overwhelmed by school, but Joey would stop whatever he was doing, sit with me as I struggled, and encourage me to press forward.

Now, as I have felt the tension between motherhood and my career, he has made it abundantly clear that he would do what it takes to support me in both. Whether it is babysitting Theo, helping us move, or simply being present, our family is an irreplaceable network of support for us.”

Thank you Leah for sharing with us. It was interesting to hear how Leah developed an interest in engineering from an early stage in her life and then wanted to take her experiences from elsewhere to elevate processes at a company she is passionate about. This shows how introducing the prospect of engineering roles as early as possible can have a great impact on individuals, and on the engineering industry.

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