Today is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, established by the United Nations to “recognize the critical role women and girls play in science and technology.” We thought this would be a perfect opportunity to celebrate DesignPoint’s Application Engineer, Colleen Moore. We sat down recently to learn a little bit more about Colleen and her STEM journey. We hope you have as much fun reading this as we did during the interview!
DP: We know you but for someone who doesn’t know you…tell us a little bit about yourself, who are you?
CM: Im Colleen. I come from Lancaster, right here where the DesignPoint Lancaster office is located. I grew up here my whole life. I like snowboarding, hiking, camping — all kinds of outdoor stuff. I like going to the beach with friends.
Colleen jokingly explained that she came to her family as a bit of a surprise (her older siblings are 13 and 15 years older than her). With such a big age difference between herself and her siblings, she was surrounded by nieces and nephews at an early age. Her close knit family influenced and supported her throughout her life…and that support ultimately helped her to follow her passions and become the engineer she is today.
DP: Did you always have a knack for STEM growing up? When did you know? Did you naturally just excel at Math and Science as a kid?
CM: Yep, math and science, I just really enjoyed those classes. I absolutely hated social studies and English classes—(chuckling) those just weren’t for me.
DP: As a child, whether in elementary or middle school, how do you think that your interests in science and math were supported. Both in and out of the classroom?
CM: Let me think about that one. I had female teachers growing up in elementary school and they were my introduction to math and science. But then once I went to middle school and high school I can’t think of a female science teacher that I had. So I really didn’t have that representation.
Representation, or lack thereof, is one of the first things we think of when it comes to women in STEM. If more young girls saw themselves in these roles, perhaps more of them would strive for those careers.
CM: When I thought about science it wasn’t really about going down the engineering path. It was more the nursing path. That’s the field that you typically see more women falling into. And my mom actually went to school for nursing and so I thought well maybe that’s what I need to be doing, but I really didn’t know.
For Colleen, it wasn’t just a matter of personal uncertainty but also an ignorance to what other fields a women interested in STEM could pursue. Colleen didn’t know engineering was an option because she had never been exposed to the STEM field. She said it best when she told us…
“If we don’t know about it, how could we pursue it?”
So she went on to York University to pursue a biology major.
CM: I like science…I also like art …I didn’t think either of those worlds could collide at any point.
While studying biology she kept her passion for art alive by by taking classes in jewelry, metals, clay and sculpture —
“I like the hands-on kind of art…all the 3D stuff.”
We’re not surprised. But biology still wasn’t bringing her the satisfaction she hoped for.
CM: After being in the biology major I realized this isn’t for me. What can I do that is really fulfilling and feels like I’m actually making an impact in the world?
So she took a career exploration course and discovered a profession that could combine her love of art and science – Engineering.
“I went to Millersville (University) and discovered their CAD program.”
We’ve all heard it before: Women in STEM are outnumbered compared to their counterparts. From blatant discrimination to subtle snubs, women face a fair amount of challenges. It takes a lot of passion to pursue a field when you are in the minority, but Colleen got a lot of support along the way.
DP: When you decided to pursue Engineering. What happened? I’m curious, were you the only female in the classroom?
CM: Oh I was one of the only ones. A lot of the time I’d look around and I’d maybe see one other girl out of 25-30 students. I remember one moment where there was a boy sitting next to me and he looked around the room and he goes…’ So ? What? We have 1, maybe 2 girls?’ That was the only time I ever felt that anyone was making a big deal out of it. And I remember looking back at him and saying ‘What does that matter?
Overall though, Colleen had very supportive classmates that weren’t focused on gender.
CM: I also got lucky with a great adviser. She was my CAD Professor, and she was very young. She really helped me develop in my career. I worked with her on a project where we partnered with our local homeless shelter.
The engineering initiative was to revamp some of the rooms in the shelter and make them multi-purpose. Colleen was picked out of a handful of students and is extremely grateful for the experience. She was finally doing what she wanted — helping others, making a difference. This professor, in turn, was a great female role model that Colleen could look up to. To this day, she still has a healthy relationship with that CAD Professor.
DP: Is that one of the perks to being a woman in the STEM field? Due to the fact that you are the minority, when you find another female, do you tend to stick together?
CM: Oh yeah, absolutely.
DP: Is it ever the opposite, where it pits you against one another and forces competition?
CM: I don’t think so, no. For the most part, we all face some of the same challenges in our field and so we just want to support each other!
DP: So what other obstacles would you say women in your field are facing?
CM: I wouldn’t say this about everyone, but there are people who do expect to see the male roles in the engineering field and so it feels like you almost have to try a little bit harder to prove yourself to them and have them take you seriously. I’d say the majority is not that way, but it still exists.
DP: What advice do you have for girls that are currently pursuing engineering?
CM: They need to know that they are going to see some push back at some point. They need to be ready for it and ready to accept that. But don’t let it tear you down. Push through those barriers and don’t let anyone tell you that can’t do what you can’t do.
DP: Is there an area of engineering that really excites you personally? And is there an area where you think women could really carve out their niche within engineering?
CM: For me, I really like [the] creative side of engineering. So design engineering has always been what I’m most passionate about.
Colleen believes that other women in creative fields, like fashion or interior design, could also get more involved with engineering and product design.
“Women have that creative side and they could bring that into the engineering field.”
DP: What do you, personally, bring to the table as a woman that helps you be a good engineer?
CM: I think a lot of women…really want to help other people and make a bigger difference in the world.
For Colleen, it’s all about compassion. She recounted a story about a baby who was only 1 out of 11 children in recorded history to be born without a trachea. Out of those 11, only 2 have survived.
CM: Some female engineers developed a splint to support a reconstructed trachea, which helped that baby be able to breathe. You really need to have that sense of compassion to want to help other people and make a difference in someone’s life that way. That’s a huge difference. That couple got to bring their baby home.
DP: Is there something you hope to do with your engineering skills? In other words, what is your ‘trachea’ moment?
CM: I hope I can make a difference in someone’s life to that extent, where I can help in saving someone’s life.
Colleen’s work at DesignPoint is already helping her to fulfill this desire as she works on a project that will assist children with their medical challenges. It’s not surprising to hear that the compassionate student who initially considered a career in nursing has become the engineer who utilizes her skills to help those in need.
DP: What makes you get up and go to work each day?
DP: Well it’s a few things. I’m getting to design the things that I’m excited about designing. But it’s also that sense of family we have here at DesignPoint. It makes you excited to come in here every day.
Most importantly, Colleen also takes pride in the support she provides to DesignPoint’s customers.
CM: [When working Technical Support] I could be completely giving somebody’s day a 180, and that feels really good.
Colleen’s passion for engineering and design doesn’t end when she leaves the office. She loves using SOLIDWORKS to create pieces for herself and her family.
CM: If my family ever needs anything, I’m like, ‘Just tell me and I’ll take the measurements’ and then I design it. And those are the pieces that are super fun. It makes you excited about your piece, too because now I have that coffee table in my living room and I think, ‘I made that’ and its super cool.
We think Colleen, is super cool, too. A compassionate and intelligent woman who is extremely sure of herself and her career. We’re proud to have her as a member of the DesignPoint family and we hope that her enthusiasm, grit, and brilliance continue to grow for many years to come!
Before you go, we asked Colleen some random, rapid fire questions just for fun. Find out whether or not she loves pizza below!