Director of Process Engineering, Velo3D
PhD Mechanical Engineering
Maritza is the director of process engineering at Velo3D and has been with the 3D printing company for nearly 5 years. As the director of process engineering, Maritza oversees the qualification of new metal alloys in the company’s Sapphire family of printers. She also develops new processes and techniques to improve the material properties of parts printed using Velo3D technology and maximize the capabilities of the lasers used in Sapphire printers. Prior to joining Velo3D, Maritza was a Mechanical Design Engineer at the solar energy company SunPower. When not working with Velo3D’s world-class technology, Maritza enjoys mountain biking in the Santa Cruz mountains, gardening, and spending time with her husband and 6-month-old son. She has a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from UC Berkeley with a focus on heat transfer and energy.
Talk about the culture at your company. What makes it inclusive or supportive of women in engineering and automation?
At Velo3D, we have a very innovative environment which means we must be inclusive of diverse mindsets. We try and encourage innovation across all levels and we regularly see junior engineers and members of other non-technical teams provide possible solutions to various problems.
We also encourage internal mobility within the company, due to our collaborative environment. We regularly have people on adjacent teams—manufacturing, support technicians, and others—change teams to progress in their careers.
Describe a recent company project (in which you were involved) that went particularly well. How did you and your team go about ensuring success?
Early on in my role here at Velo3D, we had an issue where one of our printers was generating a safety hazard, stopping production on the printer. We created an action team to work on the issue and come up with solutions that would ensure safe operation of the system.
To solve the problem, we had to approach it from a fundamental science perspective to mitigate the inherent risk in our system. Team members from a diverse set of groups came together to resolve the issue. This included the operations, hardware, software, and process engineering teams. Together, we came up with a system that would test our theory of what was happening on our machine, and validate the plan to ensure its safe operation. Through these experiments, we were able to come up with a novel solution. Since this solution was implemented, we’ve never had that particular safety hazard arise again.
What first drew you to engineering and this industry?
I’ve always been quite interested in physics and I love solving new problems. The field of additive manufacturing has a lot of growth potential. There are endless amounts of unresearched areas in the industry.
When I joined Velo3D, we were extremely focused on how to build parts with low, unsupported overhangs. This was nearly impossible to do in conventional metal additive manufacturing solutions. The physics behind building these surfaces was very interesting. We had to consider how the laser meltpools develop in the powder bed, and how the part reacts to various conditions throughout the build.
Through extensive trials and learnings, we developed a technique that would make large unsupported overhangs possible to print. This created many new opportunities for our company and is one of the reasons our customers purchase our technology—especially those in aerospace who are using our technology to product a variety of components in rocket engines
I really enjoy solving these types of new problems that have a huge possible impact.
Describe your biggest career challenge. How did you solve it — or what was the outcome or lesson learned?
The biggest challenge I’ve faced in my career is the changes that come when you grow from being an individual technical contributor to becoming a manager. I’ve always enjoyed the technical aspect of my role. Working as an individual to finding creative and effective solutions.
As I became a manager, I realized I was losing some of the opportunities to solve individual technical problems. However, I also realized I could have a broader impact on the team. I needed to become comfortable with not owning the technical solution for everything my team was doing. I had to learn to delegate and trust in my team to find solutions to the problems we encountered and be there as a support resource instead. This was difficult, but has been immensely rewarding. It has taught me that to grow in your career, sometimes you need to give up a little control.
What career advice would you give to your younger self?
In order to grow in your career, or when starting a new role, you need to be comfortable with not being a superstar in everything you do. No one is immediately an expert at everything they work on, and you need to be ok being uncomfortable in your role.
As a female engineer, sometimes you can feel like you need to be overqualified in order to fill a certain role, and for me it tended to make me only want to do things that I was sure I would succeed at. At Velo3D, I was hesitant to begin directing a team that includes technical aspects I’m not an expert in, but it has been a very positive experience overall and a great growth opportunity.
Filed Under: Women in Engineering