Name: Randa Mahmud Juma
Job title: Documentation Manager
Company: Svendborg Brakes
Degree: Bachelor of Engineering in Integrated Design, University of Southern Denmark
Talk about the culture at your company. What makes it inclusive or supportive of women? What do you enjoy about working there as an engineer?
I have worked at Svendborg Brakes for 6.5 years and I still think that there are a lot of things to learn. There are high ceilings. Svendborg Brakes does a lot to educate its employees and make them into experts. It is very inspiring to work together with colleagues that are very dedicated to their jobs. At Svendborg Brakes, we help each other and share our knowledge with each other. There is no difference if you are a man or woman, it is your skills and personality that matters. The communication in Svendborg Brakes is very informal and straightforward.
What first drew you to engineering? / When did you first know you wanted to be an engineer?
I always liked to draw, when I was a kid. My father inspired me to study to be a “Technical Designer.” Both of my parents worked as technicians. I wanted to become a Technical designer because I was fascinated by 3D-CAD modelling. My motivation was especially to become good at modeling complex models in 3D. Later on, when I worked as Technical Designer, I strived to learn more.
I was inspired by the engineers working together with me. I wanted to learn more about material science and I wanted to work with product development from start to end. Because of that, I finally decided to leave my job as Technical Designer, and study engineering at the university. I chose Bachelor of engineering in Integrated design, because it is about product development from start to end, and it combines the subjects of mechanical engineering and industrial design.
Were there any influential engineers (women or men) who helped shaped your decision to become an engineer? If so, who and why?
When I worked as a Technical Designer, some of my coworkers (the engineers and my boss) recommended that I study engineering, because I was clever and ambitious. In the beginning I didn’t want it, because I liked my job and I didn’t want to quit. I hoped to learn as much as possible, through my job as Technical Designer. At that time I didn’t have any high school education which is required to enter university, and I didn’t want to spend 3 years studying at high school before being able to study engineering.
I only had 9th grade and Technical School. Then some of my colleagues told me about a one-year admission course for the engineering education. 10th grade and technical school was required to enter that course. One of my colleagues told me about seeking for waiver to enter the course, even though I only went to 9th grade. I took the chance and sent an application. A few days later, I received a letter that I was admitted to the study program. I quit my job and started to study.
What barriers do women face in today’s engineering world, if any?
I personally never met any barriers working as an engineer as a woman in Denmark. But it might be very different in other countries.
Describe your biggest engineering challenge. How did you conquer it or resolve it, or what was the outcome?
I once worked with 3 engineering developing projects at the same time. We needed to develop three new product series of brakes. Many stakeholders (from USA, Denmark and India) were involved and had an opinion on the brake design. The product series had similar features. That meant that every time we changed the design on one of the brakes, all the other brakes needed to be changed as well.
The projects became bigger and bigger, ended up with many more products and features than originally described in the requirement specification. The time schedule was also exceeded. I solved the tasks with a lot of patience and I used my collaboration and structure skills. I have learned that next time it would be easier and more timesaving to develop one project at a time and then copy the design afterwards. Working on three big developing projects at the same time is not timesaving.
Talk about your leadership skills. What lessons have you learned?
I have 1.5 years experience as leader of the documentation department at Svendborg Brakes. Svendborg Brakes has payed for my education: A basic leadership course, a project management course and management coaching.
Have you worked with younger engineers as a mentor, to help them in their career? Or describe any involvement in any STEM or STEAM programs for young people.
I have a lot of experience with training Technical Designer apprentices during my career. I have had apprentices ranging in age from 16 to 50. I enjoy sharing my knowledge and I love to see the students grow. I also think that I learn a lot myself, by sharing knowledge, because sometimes I get tricky questions and tasks that I need to solve.
In your opinion, what more can be done to promote greater participation of young women in engineering today?
Some of the young women I met didn’t want to study engineering, because they were afraid that you need to be very good at math. But now there are many different engineering fields, and not all of them are focused that much on math calculations — eg. bachelor of engineering in integrated design on University of Southern Denmark. That is one of the reasons I chose this line instead of mechanical engineering.
50% of my classmates were women. But there were no women in the mechanical engineering class, even though the two educations are very similar.
What career advice would you give to your younger self?
I always followed my heart, when it comes to career. I never planed it, I just took the opportunities, when they came to me if it felt right. When I look back at my career road I am satisfied. I wouldn’t change it.
I could have taken the Technical High School and then studied engineering. Then my study time would have been shorter. But I am happy for the experience I have gained as Technical Designer, and It has benefited me a lot through the engineering studies.
[A condensed version of this sponsored profile appears in the November “Women in Engineering” issue of Design World.]