Karen Vintroux, Staff Scientist, Cinch Connectivity Solutions | a bel group
B.S.ChE Chemical Engineer, Florida Institute of Technology
Karen Vintroux is a Staff Scientist working for Cinch Connectivity Solutions, a bel group in Melbourne, Florida. She began working in RF and microwave electronics in 1983 and received her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the Florida Institute of Technology. Solving problems with avionics and automotive hardware led her to create novel alumina powder compaction materials and to develop low-temperature processes for gallium arsenide semiconductors. During the past decade, her work focused on developing hybrid technology for fiber optical transceivers. In that capacity, she defined best practices for the design team to assure robust performance in harsh environments. Her recent work can be summarized as designing and evaluating mechanical, electrical, and optical components, developing materials and processes to assure rugged performance, testing for reliability advancement, and implementing risk mitigation.
Talk about the culture at your company What makes it inclusive or supportive of women in engineering and automation?
Cinch retains a family-oriented spirit while operating at an internationally high level in advanced interconnects for over 70 years. We make it possible for our customer’s equipment to “talk” to each other, whether on the ground, in the air, or in space. The work is significant for end-user success on some of the biggest missions and has captured my focus for over 20 years. Our team is willing to embrace problems or new tasks rather than complaining or giving up. Our short design cycle continuously resulting in working prototypes is rare in these industries. With the resources at Cinch, the manufacturing and production steps are handled professionally and with respect to the original design. As a woman in the male-dominated engineering field, I’ve never experienced any team hesitation.
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 pandemic shattered supply chains on a global scale. Here at Cinch, our core multi-discipline team of essential workers came in daily to source replacements and get them qualified for customer approval. While meticulously following CDC guidelines, we laid out new schematics, made mechanical fit adjustments, performed in-house machining, built working parts, completed performance testing, and documented the qualification results for end-user review and feedback. Many of these program changes will move forward permanently since some suppliers did not make it back after the shutdown. The effort took everyone’s full participation, and we added to Cinch’s overall fiscal success during this trying time in history. The results were satisfying for our customers and us.
What first drew you to engineering and this industry?
In 1963, during the Great Space Race, my mom moved from West Virginia to Melbourne and started working at Radiation Incorporated. As a Florida native, long hot summers and crowded winter beaches
epitomized my home. We watched the rockets go up into space from our front yard. Mom taught me needlepoint and ceramic pottery, and we read way too many books, all while dinner was cooking. At my first job, I worked with ceramic circuit cards, semiconductors, and a needle-guided gold wire to create interconnects from point to point. It was natural to me. Little did I know that my mom did hybrid semiconductor technology work at her job. She supported the development of antenna, integrated circuit, and modem technology used in the NASA missions. After 30 years, she retired as a Field Quality Engineer from Harris Corporation. I learned best practices for integrating family and work from my mom. Embracing the lifestyle results in a meaningful natural gift to pass down to future generations.
Describe your biggest career challenge. How did you solve it – or what was the outcome or lesson learned?
When my mom was promoted to engineering, her work experience was used to fulfill the requirement. For my generation, a college degree was needed, so I worked and went to school simultaneously. I’ve come to know that the learning part never stops. Every situation I encounter has something to teach, and each mundane task I perform has its own secret to reveal. Therefore, I embrace a life of learning, giving, teaching, and working inside and outside the home.
What career advice would you give to your younger self?
Find your childhood spark, the one that motivates you. Develop its definition and hold it close to your heart. Throughout your life, feed it with knowledge and nurture it with time. Balance it with an opposite interest. Then, share with your family, friends, and co-workers while fully respecting they have a childhood spark too.
Filed Under: Women in Engineering