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Raising the Profile of Women in Engineering - An interview with Christina Ciganik

Monday, November 9, 2020

Raising the Profile of Women in Engineering

An interview with Christina Ciganik, Process Engineer at Hamilton Precision Metals

In her role as Process Engineer, Christina Ciganik is actively involved in all processes at Hamilton Precision Metals, a precision manufacturer and re-roller of metal strip and foil offering some of the thinnest gauges in the world. We ask Christina about the subjects she loved at school, why she is passionate about engineering, what her day-to-day job involves. Christina also explains why being a process engineer is the best job in the world and offers some great advice for young women who are interested in engineering.

Q. What made you want to become a process engineer?

My favourite subjects in school were always math and science and then, once I started to study chemistry and physics in more depth, I gravitated towards physics specifically. By the time I reached college, I was thinking more and more about finding a career that allowed me to use all three subjects. Engineering seemed like the perfect fit. It’s a good mix of all kinds of scientific areas, and it is a lot of fun to do each day.

Specifically, process engineering involves handling quotes and orders when they come in from customers, evaluating how we are going to make the materials needed and supporting the process all the way through to delivery and after-sales support. Sometimes, the customer doesn’t know exactly what they want, so we help them along the thought process. That’s one of my favourite parts, as I’m passionate about meeting customer requirements and it brings some of my technical schooling back to the job.

Q. Tell us about Hamilton Precision Metals and what the company does.

Hamilton Precision Metals specialises in re-rolling precision metal strip, foil and ultra-thin foil products. We offer some of the thinnest gauges in the industry, working with almost every alloy and specialty metal wherever precision, quality and consistency are key to successful performance. Hamilton Precision Metals is one of five specialty metal business units that make up AMETEK SMP, a leading metallurgy company with customers around the world across a diverse range of industries and sectors.

Q. What is the most satisfying part of your job?

I think it has to be process improvement: identifying areas where our team has been doing processes the same way for several years and coming in with a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective to see where we can increase efficiency. My recent engineering studies coupled with my on-the-job experience has allowed me to make a few process change suggestions and improvements that are now saving us time and money. It feels very satisfying to see my input have such a positive impact on productivity.

What really makes my day, however, is if I help somebody else to solve a problem. If we’re trying to get an order out to our customer more quickly, or there is an issue to solve, we all pull together to help fix it. Everybody is in alignment and it’s a good day indeed when everybody’s on the same page and we are able to sort out an issue that would have caused far bigger problems further down the line.

Q. Why is being a Process Engineer the best job in the world?

It’s the best because I literally get to be involved in all aspects of the business; it’s a real mix of engineering, science and the business perspective as well. We liaise with the operations, business, and finance teams every single day and I am learning a lot about the wider operational aspects of working for a metallurgy company. It’s not just about making the process more effective; my role is also about how we influence and work with everybody else. It’s a unique perspective.

Additionally, I am a metallurgist at heart – a hard core scientist. I like how metallurgy underpins everything the company does. My role is a mix of processing, operations, and science. In other words, a lot of fun!

Q. What advice do you have for young women who are interested in a career in engineering?

I would say go for it, work hard, and recognise your own worth. Your voice is one that the world of engineering has never heard before, so you’re bringing something new to the table right from day one. Additionally, you’re setting new ground and making a name for yourself, but you are also paving the way for the women who come after you. That’s really important. It’s not just about personal development. You are inspiring other women by saying, “Hey, I can do this too.” Get involved in different projects, classes, and engineering events early so that you can explore the different options – mechanical, civil, material and so on – and find out what it is that sparks your interest.

Finally, being the only female engineer in a location need not be daunting if you speak up, speak your mind and don’t be too concerned about what others think of you. You know what you’re talking about and so you should also know that your opinion matters. Having everybody’s opinions and input is often what gets an engineering team past a problem and towards the right solution.