February 20, 2020

How Justina Sanchez Went from Administrative Assistant to Product Engineer

When Justina Sanchez first began working at TÜV SÜD 15 years ago, her role had absolutely nothing to do with engineering. She began her career as an entry-level administrative assistant, with no exposure to what an engineering path would look like. During her few years at TÜV SÜD, however, Justina found herself surrounded by engineers constantly testing and certifying products before they shipped to ensure consumer safety. Intrigued by the constant experimentation process going on around her, she felt drawn to learn more.

“[The engineering team] would get to do all kinds of experiments and test products in the safety lab. I thought that was a lot more intriguing than what I was doing, so I sat down with my boss and asked ‘how do I become an engineer?’”

After Justina took the initiative to learn more, her boss told her she needed a degree in electrical engineering in order to pursue a career as a product safety engineer. Justina spoke with other engineers at her company to learn about their academic paths, and decided that the ITT Technical Institute of San Diego would be the right school for her. She applied to the program, got accepted, and stuck through the unfamiliar and challenging coursework.

After graduating, Justina returned to work at TÜV SÜD, but this time, as a product technician. In just five years, she made her way into a product safety engineering role, responsible for pre-market testing and certification.

“We test things like gaming machines, spa equipment, flat irons, and all kinds of household products. My specific discipline is electrical safety and I run the products in different hazardous conditions. If we test LED fixtures we make sure there are proper flammability ratings or put them in our wetroom to test if they can withstand water. Our end goal is to make sure the consumer of the product is going to be safe.”

Justina enjoys the challenges that product safety engineering poses. She works with dangerous elements such as fire and high levels of energy, but she finds her job both exciting and fulfilling, knowing her work ultimately serves to keep people safe. When Justina is out in the world and sees the products she tests, she feels a profound sense of accomplishment.

As one of the few female engineers at her company, Justina has encountered cultural challenges that she ultimately credits for making her a stronger person.

“As a woman in engineering, I don’t always initially feel like I get the respect that I should. Once I start talking in a meeting, [my colleagues] realize that I know what I’m talking about. I know how to show a bit of grace, act professionally, and speak technically so that I’m given the respect I deserve.”

In order to support more female representation in her field, Justina has started a women’s network for employees at TÜV SÜD Americas. She has increased membership to 100 women, and after working with and garnering the support of the CEO, was granted a budget for future event programming. Justina advises young women starting a path in engineering to build confidence by taking on new challenges, and by asking as many questions as possible along the way.

“People are more than willing to help if you ask them. I’ve been doing this for a while and I still ask a lot of questions. I know it helps me move forward. Try to get your hands on every opportunity that comes up and gain confidence through each experience that you have. Every challenge you take on makes you better, stronger, and more experienced.”

This was originally posted here via Wogrammer

Highlighting women engineers and breaking stereotypes one story at a time.

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