Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare
For Dana Hankinson, a passion for math proved the pathway to engineering. When Hankinson was in 7th grade, her algebra teacher noted her math skills and suggested she think about engineering as a career.
“At the time, no one in my family had ever attended college and my grandfather had worked on the railroad, so I immediately thought my teacher was suggesting a career as a train engineer. However, I began to research the various types of engineering careers and from that point forward, I crafted my classes and high school path towards becoming an engineer.”
Hankinson attended the University of Pittsburgh where she served as president and held various other offices within the Society of Women Engineers and was a sister within the engineering sorority, Phi Sigma Rho. She graduated in 2009 with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Bioengineering and a minor in Mechanical Engineering.
Upon graduating, she was hired as an Associate Mechanical Design Engineer at McKesson Automation, Inc. (which later became Aesynt, Inc. and now operates under Omnicell, Inc.). She worked there in a Support and Services capacity for nine years, with a special focus on engineering changes and cost reductions.
She recently accepted a job as a Mechanical Engineer at Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare in the
From a thought to actuality
After her teacher’s comment, Hankinson explored engineering more through her high school senior project. She shadowed a mechanical engineer, Eric Brown, at her father’s workplace and learned a great deal from him.
“I was definitely intrigued by seeing a concept/design go from a thought to an actual part that was used in production. After finding out that I already knew 3D CAD modeling, I was allowed to design a frontal strobe light housing for a tanker truck. They called me back when the tanker truck was ready to be sent to the customer so I could see my portion of the design in its full glory. I knew from that summer that I was choosing the correct career path for me!”
During her years at Omnicell, Inc., Hankinson worked heavily with the internal Engineering Change Notice (ECN) database and eventually took over as the ECN Manager for all legacy Aesynt, Inc. products. The database was outdated and difficult to navigate, and forced users to rely on Excel spreadsheets and other documents to keep content organized.
“I helped organize a team to determine the exact process that would be appropriate for all departments to follow from creation to completion of an Engineering Change Notice. We outlined screens, inputs, and outputs that we wanted to use to streamline the process and came up with a new and improved version of the ECN database. I assisted with or led various trainings for all of the different departments that would have to interact with the database. This was a long and sometimes tedious process and other departments had to be eased into this change, but in the end, the process improvements that were made were very successful.”
Lessons in leadership
During her experience leading individual projects, Engineering Change Management teams, and leading the Engineering Ambassadors team, Hankinson learned many lessons and continues to develop her leadership capabilities.
“I have found that organization and preparation are key when leading an effort or leading a team. Also, the more open and honest you are with the people on your team, the more respect and cooperation you will receive in return. The main reason that conflict and issues arise during projects or process changes is a lack of communication. When candor and open communication are present within a team, especially in regards to project goals, timelines, and expectations, the more successful and collaborative your team will be. No matter if you are the leader or a minor contributor to a team, communication is extremely important.”
Programs involving STEM or STEAM are opportunities to practice and expand leadership skills. Hankinson has strongly participated in these efforts.
“I truly believe that introducing the idea of engineering careers at a young age and incorporating more STEAM/STEM programs within schools, particularly during middle school age is a great place to start to promote greater participation of young women in engineering. It was during my middle school years that I first heard about and considered the idea of engineering as a career choice and it stuck with me. Every choice I made from then on was geared towards having the appropriate classes in both high school and college to allow me to work within industry as a design engineer.
“I have worked in numerous capacities, both internal and external to my work, to promote STEM and support young or future engineers in their career endeavors.”
These efforts include:
• Guest speaking at the Bioengineering Seminar (sophomores through seniors) at the University of Pittsburgh to discuss what it is like to work within industry and provide recommendations for how to find a job. Provided resume critiques for engineering students preparing to apply for internships or jobs.
• Served as the SWE Counselor for Grove City College for a number of years.
• During her nine years at Omnicell, Inc., Hankinson served as a mentor for both interns and new hires to get them acclimated to the company’s policies and procedures and to provide introductory guidance into their respective engineering role.
• Hankinson created, organized, and led the Engineering Ambassadors group at Omnicell, Inc. (while we were operating as Aesynt, Inc.). A group of 10-20 engineers paired off and spoke to local middle school-aged students about engineering during National Engineers Week. She promoted STEM careers through a fun and interactive presentation and then had the students split up to do a team-building activity (making the highest free-standing tower from gum drops and spaghetti). One year, she spoke to approximately 1500 students.
Diversions along the typical engineering path
Women who pursue engineering often encounter situations that can affect their careers, typically more so than men. These situations rarely involve a woman engineer’s skills. More often the situations involve perceptual biases or individual choices.
When Hankinson first graduated and joined the workforce as an Associate Mechanical Engineer, she did not feel many of these potential barriers. But as her personal life changed with marriage, children, and moves to be closer to family, she had to make some decisions that deterred her from her original career path.
“My choices were to prioritize my family. I wanted to be there for my toddler and my little one on the way and I wanted them to grow up around family and cousins. I feel like women, and not just women in engineering, are more often making sacrifices in their careers for their families. There are, of course, exceptions to this, but I have seen many female friends giving up career aspirations to be there for their family. I feel very blessed that I have a supportive husband and family who allow me to continue my engineering career as a full-time working mom.”
Presently, Hankinson and her husband, Shane, await the birth of their second baby boy in January, who will join their handsome 2-year-old son, Owen.
If she were to offer advice to younger engineers, Hankinson says this:
“Remember that having a passion for engineering is important, but it is also important to have good working relationships with your colleagues. You spend more waking hours with your coworkers than you often do with your own family. Therefore, if you are surrounded by a great group of colleagues and bosses, you will look forward to going to work every day and enjoy your job even more.
“In addition, stay humble and never be afraid to ask questions. Remember that when you graduate from college, you don’t know anything. You have been taught how to think like an engineer, but every company that you may work for operates differently. They have different processes, procedures, software packages, and tools that they use to get the job done, and it is better to ask questions first than to waste the company’s time and money doing something incorrectly.”