Women in engineering profile: Paulina Olesinska
International Women in Engineering Day, celebrated on June 23, 2018, celebrates the achievements of females in various engineering industries. Here’s a Q&A with Paulina Olesinska.
To honor International Women in Engineering Day, Consulting-Specifying Engineer asked select people to answer questions about their background and mentors and their career path. Here’s a Q&A with one of them.
Name: Paulina Olesinska
Position: Engineering Lab Manager, Victaulic Co., Bethlehem, Pa.
- Steven’s Institute of Technology, Hoboken, N.J.: Bachelors of Science, Mechanical Engineering with Honors
- Lehigh University: Master’s Degree, Mechanical Engineering
- New York University: Masters of Business Administration – in progress
CSE: What or who was your biggest motivation in becoming an engineer?
Olesinska: Growing up I was very interested in complex problem solving, so I was inherently drawn to fields, industries and jobs with teams solving many faceted problems. In high school, I was involved with rocket club and always leaned towards math and science as my interests. I chose mechanical engineering because it was so broad and could allow me to apply skills to any industry.
CSE: What advice would you give someone in high school about becoming an engineer? What resources or references would you suggest they look at?
Olesinska: I always recommend getting into field early and do internships. Internships are a great way to get a taste for how companies operate and try the different flavors of engineering. Try something different from peers and try everything while you can. Then reflect on what you enjoy most while honing in on what drove you and interested you.
CSE: Do you have advice for young women just starting in the engineering field?
Olesinska: More and more companies are beginning to be more receptive to prioritizing women for STEM roles. While there are not very many of us in the industry, the number of women pursuing STEM is growing. Despite this gap, I have largely benefitted and succeeded in my career by looking at situations without letting unverifiable inputs alter the situation. When you are faced with an issue, seek to understand the root of the situation and lay out all the facts. As you begin your career as an industry minority, learn to approach problem solving in this matter and it will be easier to find the solution without getting bogged down in extraneous detail.
CSE: What trends or challenges do you foresee in your field? What advice would you give to others to help adapt to these types of changes?
Olesinska: The biggest thing is to be flexible. Because of the way construction is moving to pre-fab (hotels with plumbing connection at manufacturing site), final connection is done on job site and a decade ago that was unheard of. We must be constantly ahead of the pulse for fabrication methods. Another new trend is involvement of automation (and perhaps artificial intelligence in the near future) for assembly of manufacturing, thereby removing more of the human element. This will make innovation ripe from new perspectives.
CSE: Describe an unusual project you worked on. What were the risks or challenges you took? Outline the success story.
Olesinska: One situation that comes to mind involves our large planning team who supports custom orders and typically make large purchase items. There is a lot of piping prep done at the start of job, usually knowing that many changes can still happen. Recently, we had a job here we learned that the customer then wanted a 76-in. roll groove even though we anticipated to use a 72-in. roll groove. We had to meet with specialists to modify the equipment to accommodate larger size. This caused us to have to be flexible and able to coordinate quickly while keeping the customer happy. The entire process is very exciting and fruitful when you can pull everything together.
CSE: Are there professional development tips you can offer other female engineers? What helped lead to your success? This might include public speaking courses, working with a mentor, or some other advice.
Olesinska: Gaining hands-on learning early and often is extremely important. It provides an additional credibility factor when making decisions and without it you will not have the best understanding to make strategic decisions. In my current role, I see a need for hands-on learning day in and day out. Without understanding processes and implementation we cannot be successful. Additionally, developing intellectual curiosity will help to advance your career. Because of the ever-changing nature of engineering, curiosity is essential or we would fall behind.
CSE: Many manufacturers want to be seen as the go-to resource for mechanical, electrical, plumbing (MEP), or fire protection engineers. How do you work with these consulting engineers to ensure you’re seen as a thought leader?
Olesinska: When engineers put together projects, they rely on experience and try to pull out some of the same elements. Engineers are on the hook to prove structural soundness, safety, fire protection, etc. while showing they are aware of trends in industry. Staying up-to-date with trends and having educated conversations will earn you respect and you’ll find more people will take into consideration your opinions and experience.
CSE: In your job, what’s the one thing you are most proud of? What do you want people to take away about you and your profession after meeting you only briefly?
Olesinska: My current role is the apex of all the experience I have been building to that point. I am very proud of myself and everyone who helped me get where I am.
After meeting me briefly, I would hope to impress upon others that I am an engineer at heart (thus my passion for creating new ideas) who is always looking to shape the next big innovation, which can only be done through clever out of the box thinking and collaboration with others.