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Raising the Profile of Women in Engineering

Monday, September 6, 2021

An interview with Shannon Steiniger, Quality Assurance and Systems Manager at Superior Tube

Shannon Steiniger joined Superior Tube in June 2021, following successful engineering roles in the aerospace sector with increasing levels of responsibility. Shannon now heads up Superior Tube’s quality systems strategy, overseeing the development of and adherence to key quality standards. She also manages all quality assurance activity, certification processes, and audits.

In the following interview, Shannon talks about her award-winning career in quality assurance and management systems. She also discusses why encouraging women to choose engineering as a career must begin with shifting people’s perceptions and altering mindsets.

Q. Tell us about your current role as Quality Assurance and Systems Manager – what does it involve on a day-to-day basis?

I’m relatively new to the company, so there is still quite a lot to learn. My role as Quality Assurance and Systems Manager involves looking after our quality management systems to make sure we comply with industry accreditation AS9100 as well as other key nuclear standards required by our customers. This means ensuring that all our procedures follow the correct compliance standards and that our products meet both customer expectations and industry requirements.

I also manage our audits program, co-ordinating with customers who want to audit us and making sure we audit our suppliers in turn. When I’m not doing all of that, I’m working on continuous improvement projects for the future. There’s plenty to do!

Q. Which industry sectors are you involved in at Superior Tube?

I’m not really limited to one or two sectors. I have good exposure to all of them, including space, defense, medical and aerospace. We do a lot of work in the nuclear sector so that does take up a fair bit of my time. However, I also work in several others as required, depending on the areas of work our customers are involved in themselves.

Q. What skills and expertise do you think you bring to the role?

I’ve seen and been involved in a lot of Lean Six Sigma processes and projects, so that is one area of expertise I’m definitely able to share. I gained my Lean Six Sigma green belt in 2017 and am very interested in gaining my black belt in the future. Lean Six Sigma is all about producing things in the best quality possible, using streamlined processes to eliminate downtime and wastage.

I pride myself on my strong data analysis skills too, so will definitely be able to contribute plenty around that aspect of the job. I am keen to look out for opportunities for improvement and to help add value wherever I can.

Q. What attracted you to work in the engineering sector?

I always enjoyed science when I was younger. However, it wasn’t until I reached high school and a physics teacher suggested engineering that I considered it seriously as a career. I took a closer look and ended up majoring in mechanical engineering at college. I knew engineering could be a career that would open a lot of doors for me and introduce me to different industries.

Additionally, I like feeling that I have made a positive impact on the world around me. Whether that’s brought about by a customer leaving me positive feedback, or knowing that I have helped save the company money, it always leaves me with a real sense of fulfilment and pride.

Q. What continues to inspire you about engineering?

I’m inspired by the opportunities in my work to be creative and to ‘think outside the box’. The fact that there are so many different solutions and approaches you can take to solve a problem. I love being part of a growing community of women in engineering too. It’s incredible to be able to talk to other female engineers and hear their stories.

In fact, I’m going to be attending the Women’s Leadership Conference being arranged by The Manufacturing Institute’s STEP Women’s Initiative in Washington DC in November 2021. I was lucky enough to be invited to attend when I won an award from the STEP Ahead Emerging Leader Awards. I was one of 30 women under the age of 30 recognized and will be formally accepting the award it at the end of the Conference.

I was selected after my previous company submitted a profile on me, detailing my work on reducing costs and increasing reliability of quality inspections. Winners are coming from all over the US for the two-day event and awards gala. I am really looking forward to it and to meeting everyone involved.

Q. What are some of the challenges facing women working in engineering in today’s world, in your opinion?

Many women talk about how engineering remains a sector that is mainly populated by men, and I agree that this is definitely our biggest challenge. I’ve seen for myself how female engineers often need to work harder to prove themselves and gain the respect of their male colleagues. At Superior Tube, I really want to make my mark as a successful female manager in the company. You don’t see all that many female leaders in the engineering world, so I hope that my work will prove to be a good influence on other women and girls seeking to do the same thing.

Q. How can we encourage more women to consider engineering as a viable career, especially those just coming out of school, college or university?

I think giving young women the chance to participate in engineering projects and get a taste of what it’s actually like is a step in the right direction. I have previously been involved in a couple of projects aimed at encouraging middle school girls to go into more technical work fields, which I found very rewarding.

Working to change the overall mindset that engineering is just for men is a big part of it as well. Seeing women and men working alongside each other in engineering roles needs to become more commonplace. As more and more women have been entering technical fields of work in recent years, this is becoming easier to achieve.

Q. Finally, what advice would you give a young student seeking to embark upon a career in science or engineering?

Summer internships and schemes like that definitely help young people gain valuable experience. However, there are so many different opportunities out there to get into engineering. You can aim for management or sales, for example, or focus on developing technical skills on the engineering front line. The longer you spend in the sector, the more opportunities will open up. It truly is the best industry to work in!