What are you most proud of about working in manufacturing?
Manufacturing has always been on the cutting edge of technology innovation. With the introduction of Industry 4.0 technologies like additive manufacturing, advanced robotics, IoT, industrial augmented reality, wearables, autonomous vehicles, I guess innovation in manufacturing is just getting started. For example, additive manufacturing is revolutionizing how various companies are now approaching manufacturing. With its design freedom, we are able to take advantage of mass customization, manufacture complex shapes, reduce the cost and timeline of product development as no tool, die nor mold are needed, decentralized supply chain with the “print-on-demand” model and reduce energy consumption. How exciting and humble is it to be able to work with new technology before the public gets its hands on it? This is the reason I get up and go to work each day as I am excited to be ahead of the curve.
What has been the most challenging obstacle in your career journey? How did you overcome this obstacle?
Additive Manufacturing provides a mix of manufacturing and digital transformation that has kept my career thriving and exciting. One of the challenges I have encountered has been deciding on whether to shift gears from the technical/engineering track to the people management track to be able to spend more time with my family and really grow our family. How have I tried to solve this? Ensure that I work for a company that allows me the work-life balance that I need to thrive, embrace agility, and allow me to bring my best self to work daily. I am proud to work for Desktop Metal where all of these are possible alongside intensive digital transformation.
What is your identity lens?
I wish I lived in a world where my gender and the color of my skin is not used to identify me. But since I don’t I identify as a black woman as none comes before another. When you see me, you see both simultaneously and I do not have the luxury of blocking one out for another.
Do you feel that you have experienced more challenges and impediments because you are black or a manufacturing woman?
YES. When I was new to manufacturing, I quickly noticed that a non-black man with or without gray hairs may need to validate my points and plans before they become widely accepted. I also felt like I wasn’t sociable enough and some decisions were made when the men went golfing or hunting together. I blamed being young, my gender, accent, color and so on. So, I decided to find mentors who helped me overcome the hurdles.
What impact did the George Floyd murder and subsequent protests have on you?
The issue of racial inequality is not new, but the death of George Floyd was a defining moment for all of us -- customers, suppliers, employees, shareholders and so on. How the people I work with and the company I work for responded, how their policies are contributing to a more equitable and inclusive workplace mattered. George Floyd could have been my husband or my son.
Why is Black History Month important to you?
Knowing the past opens the doors to the future, it is important that we remember and educate everyone about how African Americans have played crucial roles in the creation of innovation and contributed tremendously to this country. Therefore, Black History Month offers us all a full month of remembrance and learning about the struggles of those who paved the way for me and many others. As I remember, the reminder challenges me to not only stand on the shoulders of those who came before me, but to actively be a shoulder upon which those coming behind me may stand for them to see further. Black History Month is a yearly call to action for me to be a light, be a leader, to stand and be seen by many young black girls and boys who need to see what is possible; to ensure that I maximize the opportunity that I have been given because someone before dared to fight for me before I arrived here. For me, my obligation of being a shoulder these young black boys and girls can stand on goes beyond Black History Month. Through the STEMHub Foundation, I am continually fighting to increase the number of black youths with access to STEM education and providing mentorship to young black professionals who deserve to be supported as they navigate through their careers.
How do we get more young African American women to pursue a career in manufacturing?
As digital transformation introduces new opportunities to manufacturing, it is important that cultural transformation accompany digital transformation to be able to make room for millennials. Secondly, people cannot be what they cannot see. Therefore, it is important to encourage the few black women in manufacturing, especially those in leadership positions, to kindly make out time to help provide guidance, support and mentorship to students and entry level employees. Further, the current landscape of manufacturing must move from recruiting people who “fit into the culture” and focus on intentionally hiring those who bring cultural shifts and change to their organization. Lastly, companies must get intentional about partnering with HBCUs to increase their black talent pool. For example, you may create specialized programs designed for underrepresented identities at your company or develop a working relationship with the HBCUs career centers with willingness to provide support to students seeking mentorship opportunities.
What is one thing you wish manufacturers did or knew to retain black talent in the industry better?
That they must hire right by striving to pay black talent exactly what you are paying others. Hire to empower, provide a clear career path with promotion metrics and get intentional about your employee’s career development opportunities. Provide resources that help all employees be aware and address unconscious biases.
Has race and gender played a critical role in your selection of mentors and sponsors? If so, what impact has this decision had on your career success?
On race, it has been hard to find people who look like me in senior technical leadership positions. Therefore, most of my mentors are non-black and mostly men. However, I am lucky to be mentored by Lisa Farrell who is female, a Director and also has a PhD in Engineering. I call her the best mentor money can’t buy as her advice and support propelled my career further and enabled me to climb the ladder faster.
Any recommendations on must-see movies or television shows?
These are not new movies but you should see “Hidden Figures” and “Black Panther.” Please watch out for Princess Shuri in black panther because I might be the real-life Prince Shuri haha.
What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
That she is right to want to innovate and should keep going. That she should ask for help when she needs it. That she should not be afraid to take bolder and bigger risks. If she falls down, she should rise, optimize and try again.