MFG Women

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Childhood Wonder

  • 1.  Childhood Wonder

    Posted 04-26-2019 09:33

    Do you remember being a child? A kid, not a pre-teen, a child. Who showed you how things were made? Who asked the question, how do you think it does that?  

    I remember being on a wooden roller coaster on the NJ Shore during a trip for a sibling's soccer tournament. It was late on a Saturday, maybe late afternoon or early evening and I was going up the roller coaster in the middle of the car with my dad, a mechanical engineer. As we could hear that slow, click, click, click, cha-chink, cha-chink… he asked me, how do you think they figured out how to pull the car up here? He then pointed out how small the chain pulling us up looked. Then we hit the top and went racing down and the whole time I thought, who figured this out? How did they do that?  

    In my current job, I'm often an ambassador for manufacturing careers. I point out to my own kids – constantly apparently – that pretty much everything around them was manufactured. The chair, their allergy medicine, the refrigerator they love to stare into, the car, my smart phone, their favorite Girl Scout Cookies. They're used to it now, but too often when I'm out speaking to kids and I ask about manufacturing they say, "manufacturing, that's boring and old" and I hold up my smart phone and ask them where they think that came from.  

    But here's the secret. It's not the things we make that makes the impression, it's the people who make them. Yes, each one of you. That's why it was so awesome for me to see the wonder my own daughters expressed when they heard the stories and the jobs of the 100 Honorees and the 30 Emerging Leaders who were honored this month at the STEP Ahead Awards, being recognized for being the best of the best in our sector – leading in their companies and communities – today.  

    One of the best parts of the STEP Ahead Awards program is talking to the honorees and hearing their amazement that they were selected and learning about what they have accomplished. But the most inspiring part of the program is hearing them pledge to Pay It Forward and engage the next generation so that they can inspire wonder and maybe even spark a lifelong love for the sector that makes everything in our lives possible.  

    Whether it's with your own children, engaging students in your local school or at a club or after school activity, be the one who sparks wonder. Or think bigger, start talking to your facility about how to host an event for students, parents and community leaders on National Manufacturing Day and show off the amazing things you do each and every day in manufacturing. Click here to learn more about National Manufacturing Day on October 4, 2019 and join the grassroots nationwide movement to engage our next generation of makers.  

    So, it's your turn… who sparked your wonder?  

    Carolyn Lee
    Executive Director
    The Manufacturing Institute
    Washington DC

  • 2.  RE: Childhood Wonder

    Posted 04-28-2019 10:23
    I was a very young trial attorney when the big light bulb lit up for me. I was defending a truck repair shop in a personal injury action. The issue at trial was whether the shop was negligent repairing the hydraulic brakes on a truck that barreled downhill, through a T-intersection and rolled in farm field injuring the truck driver. He (and a driver behind him watching his brake lights flash on and off) testified that he repeatedly applied the brakes while going down the hill but with no effect. It didn't look good for the defense.
    Yet, the more I dug into the design and function of the hydraulic brake system, the physics of the speed and mass of the loaded truck and the slope of the hill I realized that we had a good defense. The brakes functioned as designed, and the truck driver was going too fast for the conditions and applied the brakes too late in the process. A defense verdict was the right conclusion-but only if you understood how hydraulic brakes work. If the jury focused solely on the facts that the shop repaired the brakes a day before the accident and that the driver (and witness) testified that the brake lights were going on and off to no avail, we were sunk.
    Jury selection resulted in 8 jurors: 7 middle aged farm wives and one male factory worker. I told the jurors in opening statement that before the end of the trial, they would understand the ins and outs of hydraulic brake design and function, and that they must understand in order to render a just verdict. There was some initial eye rolling, but they dug in. I know now that, before this jury, being a young female trial attorney helped. If I understood it, they could too. In every statement to the jury, and through every witness on the stand, we went over design, function and physics. I was a wreck with nerves and bolted from the courthouse after the jury went into deliberations. Four hours later the jury returned with a defense verdict and newfound expertise in hydraulic brake design and function.
    I'm not an engineer, but I've worked happily and proudly with manufacturers through my entire career. My job started as a lawyer, defending engineers, designs and design processes, traversed through sales leadership before culminating in organizational leadership. The skill set that helped me win that first case served me well for my entire career-the ability to understand complex issues and communicate an effective message to the audience-jurors, customers, employees, regulators and industry peers. Most of the time I was the only woman in the room. But I believe much of my effectiveness came from being female in an overwhelming male industry. It wasn't easy, but the most rewarding things rarely are.

    Marcia Kull
    SheGoes, Inc.
    Mpls MN