Alyssa Hiedeman, Application Development Engineer, Beckhoff Automation
B.S. Electrical Engineering, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota
Alyssa Hiedeman started working in Technical Support at Beckhoff Automation’s U.S. headquarters in Savage, Minnesota, in 2016. In 2019, she relocated to Denver to take a position as an Application Development Engineer on the recently created Advanced Applications Group. Working on this select team of New Automation Technology experts, she helps Beckhoff sales and applications engineers test and validate complex applications and novel uses of TwinCAT automation software to ensure the success of customer applications before they even start.
Talk about the culture at your company. What makes it inclusive or supportive of women in engineering and automation?
The culture at Beckhoff is very welcoming, inclusive and has a close family feeling. I have had the chance to work in several different roles during my time at Beckhoff and grow my career with the support of some very knowledgeable mentors. The work that we do is often collaborative, and I always feel my opinion is considered equally whenever I give it. I have never been made to feel any differently due to being a woman. Beckhoff USA is currently launching a women’s leadership group, which is an exciting resource for employees from any department working to grow their career in the automation industry.
Describe a recent company project (in which you were involved) that went particularly well. How did you and your team go about ensuring success?
The biggest success I’ve experienced has been in helping develop this new Advanced Applications Group at Beckhoff USA. At first, the challenge was defining what it would do and where the team fit within the existing support structure for customers. In the past, the sorts of questions we address would often be handled by the Technical Support Department, applications engineers in the field or the product management team. It took time and internal communication, but we were able to carve out a specific, beneficial niche that fit well within the organization.
Now, when we are brought in to assist, we sit down with the customers and listen to their goals and concerns. Typically, we end up building a small demo, delivering some sample code and/or provide 3D simulations to validate that an application will work the way they want. Other times, we simply provide a definitive response that a concept will not work and offer alternative options that will do the job. Either way, customers are often very appreciative. I was able to help grow the Advanced Applications Group as well as grow with it, and that has been extremely rewarding.
What first drew you to engineering and this industry?
Growing up, I was always very interested in math and science. When I was in middle school, I had the opportunity to attend an engineering camp for girls, STEPS Camp hosted by the School of Engineering at the University of St. Thomas. During the camp, we had the chance to learn and explore everything engineering. We built HAM radios and model airplanes that we got a chance to fly at the end of the week, and I was hooked on engineering from that moment on.
Describe your biggest career challenge. How did you solve it — or what was the outcome or lesson learned?
When I took my role with the Advanced Applications Group, I felt like I had “imposter syndrome” at first. The most intimidating part was going from the Technical Support Department directly to Advanced Applications. It felt like I was skipping over the application engineer stage, and I was worried about not having that experience. On top of it all, when I transitioned to Advanced Applications in 2019, I was often the youngest person in the room at meetings and company gatherings.
As I gained experience in the new role and spent more time deepening my knowledge, I was able to gain the confidence necessary to know that I am capable to fulfill the role and excel at it. One of the most important things was figuring out that it’s OK to say, “I don’t know.” No one has the answer to every question all the time. Being confident in your abilities and working hard to track down the information is what really matters.
What career advice would you give to your younger self?
Be confident in yourself and your abilities. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – it is okay to not know everything. And don’t be afraid to speak up and give your opinions. There is a reason you are in a position to give them.
Filed Under: Women in Engineering