Members of the Society of Women Engineers share tips for building fulfilling careers in engineering, inspiring future engineers, and helping companies succeed.

Daphne Allen

March 13, 2024

5 Min Read
Society of Women Engineers Women in STEM panel IME West 2024
Society of Women Engineers Women in STEM panel at IME West 2024 featured Rosario Maltbia, Shell Trading & Supply Operations; Lucy Hoang, Thermo Fisher Scientific; Aileen Fahme, Solar Turbines; Sharon Pak, Blue Origin; Sireesha Muppala, Amazon Web Services; and Yue Ning, AWS. Daphne Allen

The engineering leaders who spoke in the Society of Women Engineers Women in STEM panel discussion at IME West 2024 will inspire you. These women explored engineering’s potential to improve lives, the opportunities for students considering engineering careers, and the challenges that still remain for women in engineering. 

The Feb. 7 panel discussion was moderated by Rosario Maltbia, facility engineer for Shell Trading & Supply Operations and FY24 President at SWE Orange County. The panel brought together women from multiple industries to discuss their career journeys in STEM as well as trends in their fields. Joining Maltbia were Aileen Fahme, manager, shipping and logistics, Solar Turbines, and SWE-SD Outreach Co-Chair; Lucy Hoang, director, IT manufacturing systems and Industry 4.0, Thermo Fisher Scientific; Sireesha Muppala, senior manager, solutions architecture, Amazon Web Services (AWS); Yue Ning, senior solutions architect, Amazon Web Services (AWS); and Sharon Pak, manufacturing engineer, BE-4 Ignition System, Blue Origin. Natalie White, solutions architect, Amazon Web Services (AWS), as well as treasurer at SWE Orange County, also helped to organize the discussion and was on hand during the event.

Maltbia asked the panelists what they enjoy about engineering, what advice they have for others considering STEM careers, what trends are unfolding in their industries, how they can help their companies be competitive in a global market, and more. Here we share some of their inspiring comments.

Related:Supporting Women’s Career Advancement in Manufacturing: Strategies and Best Practices

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Yue Ning on the Importance of Representation

“The part that I like about STEM and being a woman in manufacturing is this is the space where we are creating and innovating for the world. Everything that is created represents the view of the creator, so it’s great I can be there having my view represented by things that are being created and that the female has a view that is represented in the innovation.”

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Sireesha Muppala on Digital Transformation

“Technologies [like statistical learning, machine learning, and AI] will change industries like manufacturing, life sciences, energy, and automotive, which have a super impact on our planet—and as technologies change these industries, industries change the world. That gives me the excitement and motivation to be part of this STEM field and be in fields like manufacturing."

There is the perception that the manufacturing, automotive, and agriculture industries are “a little risk averse, which means that some of the companies in these industries are not quick to adopt the latest and the greatest technologies, because these companies have been successful with the processes that they’ve been following for years . . . . So digital transformation, cloud, IoT, AI/ML are a hard sell in some of these sectors,” she said. However, these industries are facing challenges with short supplies, the cost of capital, and labor shortages, she said. “One way to mitigate these issues is to adopt these technologies so we can improve productivity not only on the manufacturing floor but across the entire life cycle.”

Related:Engineering and Aerospace Can Be the Perfect Place for a Woman

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Rosario Maltbia on the Importance of Male Allies

When asked by a male audience member about what has to happen to better support women in engineering careers, Maltbia said: “Normalizing [speaking up for women] in the workspace. Be vocal about your support, especially when you’re in the room and you see your female colleagues aren’t represented or included in decisions. Be that voice. The more who have the courage to do so will make it easier for the women you are supporting and [will encourage] other males who are trying to become an ally.”

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Aileen Fahme on the Importance of Being Prepared and How She Is Helping Others Interested in STEM Careers

“For me, anywhere I go, if I’m more prepared, I’m more confident about myself. Prepare, even if it is just a one-on-one meeting with your manager or a group meeting or a standing meeting every Monday. . . prepare and do a little homework to be able to confidently go out there and know you have something to contribute.

Related:World Engineers Day: Experience Tells the Story

“Outside of my day job, I love spending time with the SWE San Diego Outreach Committee, where I find opportunities to tell my STEM journey and advocate for them and encourage them to pursue their careers in STEM.”

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Lucy Hoang on the Importance of Curiosity and Early Inspiration

For young girls considering a career in STEM, Hoang said, “continue to be curious about the world—there’s a STEM aspect to just about everything in the world. . . . Learn whatever you can about the things you are interested in. Over time, what you are passionate about will reveal itself. . . .”

“I give science gifts . . . anything STEM related,” she added. She also encourages parents to help their children learn from “small science experiments . . . that will foster curiosity.”

Sireesha Muppala on the Importance of Experimentation

When asked for a message to young women about STEM careers, Muppala said, “Try it out. Don’t be intimidated. Treat it like an experiment. Adopt a mentality of experimentation. Time bound it, and at the end of the period, you are either really sure this is the direction you want to go in, or you’ve learned a great lesson.”

Upcoming SWE Events

Don’t miss the upcoming "Girls in STEM Inspiration Day" on May 11, 2024. The event is an opportunity for under-served and under-represented youth to connect with industry and near peer role models, according to SWE. There will be a Ted Talk type of presentation, speed-mentoring session, and hands-on activities.

For more events from SWE-OC, please visit https://swe-oc.swe.org

For more events from SWE-San Diego, please visit https://www.swesandiego.org

For more events from SWE-Los Angeles, please visit https://losangeles.swe.org

For the national SWE organization, please visit https://swe.org

About the Author(s)

Daphne Allen

Daphne Allen is editor-in-chief of Design News. She previously served as editor-in-chief of MD+DI and of Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News and also served as an editor for Packaging Digest. Daphne has covered design, manufacturing, materials, packaging, labeling, and regulatory issues for more than 20 years. She has also presented on these topics in several webinars and conferences, most recently discussing design and engineering trends at IME West 2024 and leading an Industry ShopTalk discussion during the show on artificial intelligence.

Follow Daphne on X at @daphneallen and reach her at [email protected].

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