International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2023 - Interview with Lynn Bierworth
February 11, 2023
Lynn Bierworth is a design engineer at thyssenkrupp rothe erde USA Inc.in Aurora, Ohio. For “International Day of Women and Girls in Science” we talked with her about her career. She told us about her career path, the obstacles she had to overcome and how young women who want to become engineers can make their way easier.
If you like solving problems, engineering is a lot of fun!
Q: What is your job at thyssenkrupp rothe erde?
Lynn Bierworth: I am the design engineer. I help to design the slewing bearings to make sure that they are good to put out on the shop floor. And to make sure they have all the right technical data. In doing that we have a set of internal standards that we follow.
Q: How does your typical day look like?
Lynn Bierworth: I work in the office and a typical day would be I would come in and I would design bearings. Using AutoCAD or SolidWorks. I work with the team. In the design department there's two team members. There's me and another gentleman. And then I also work closely with the applications engineering team as well.
Q: How was your career path?
Lynn Bierworth: I attended Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio. I studied Mechanical Engineering Technology. My previous place of employment was at company producing cranes and components and I worked as an Applications Engineer. I was responsible for quoting fully automated overhead material handling systems, overseeing those systems through production, and then supervising the installation on the job site. I also provided technical support, trouble shooting and was in charge of product training for new employees, dealers and distributors. After that I came to work here, it was not thyssenkrupp rothe erde yet, at that time it was Rotek.
Q: How long are you working as an engineer?
Lynn Bierworth: I've been in my career for about 25 years. And I've been here for 15 years.
"My father took me out on the shop floor."
Q: Since when did you know that you want to become a scientist or an engineer?
Lynn Bierworth: My father was a mechanical engineer who worked in the medical and aerospace fields. When I was in elementary school, my father used to bring me to work and show me the machines he designed. He would take me out on the shop floor and show me how the machines worked. Also, he used to let me draw on the old drafting boards using his drafting tools. I continued going to work with my father through High School and was able to see the different types of machines he helped design, these would include box packaging machines, under the ocean exploration vessels, and even one of the United States military airplanes. As a young child, I was always very fascinated with how things worked. To the frustration of my parents, I used to take things apart and try to put them back together. Putting them back together was always the biggest challenge, and doing it in a timely manner so they wouldn’t find out. When my peers were playing house with their dolls, I was designing and building homes for my dolls. When my father would tinker around on any motor vehicles, I was always bugging him with questions and handing him the tools he needed as he worked on them. I have always been fascinated with how things work, why things are the way they are, what holds everything together, and discovering the meaning behind it all. Originally, I wanted to be a Science or Math teacher, but ended up pursing engineering instead. I felt there were more opportunities for continual learning of a vast majority of things through engineering.
Q: What would you have done differently when you were starting out?
Lynn Bierworth: The only thing I would have done differently was not to be so hard on myself for not knowing things I thought I should have automatically known being a new college graduate. When I first entered my field, I felt intimidated with asking too many questions. It would have been nice if I hadn’t been so reserved with inquiring of things I did not know or understand. I think part of my shyness came from feeling uncomfortable being surrounded by so many men who were not used to seeing a woman in their field. I never felt awkward with my father or while I was in college, but when I got out in the real world, I felt a little intimidated, but this might be true of all college graduates.
"I was the only woman on site managing steel workers."
Q: Did you ever feel that male colleagues had a problem with working with a female engineer?
Lynn Bierworth: I know that there were times in my previous job where I had to go on site and I was the only woman on site, and I was supposed to manage steel workers and tell them how to assemble a crane and how to put it up. I know some of those men were very uncomfortable with having a woman tell them what to do. So it was difficult, to navigate that type of work environment and to have enough confidence to say, well, ‘I have a few questions for you, let's sit down and let's talk about it.’ But I think the really important thing is: when you're open to learning from other people, and you're willing to be teachable, and maybe even at times a little bit vulnerable, it helps other people to understand you. And then it makes the communication barrier easier to overcome. I think that it was just basically through communicating and overcoming some of those fears by asking the question, saying, ‘I really need to know this and can you please help me?’ And 9 out of 10 people are very willing to help.
"I like challenges I can tackle."
Q: What do you like about your job at thyssenkrupp rothe erde?
Lynn Bierworth: What I like the most about the job that I currently have is to always get the opportunity to learn new things. And there's always the challenge, that I can tackle. I really enjoy working on a team with people. I like getting feedback from my peers and working towards a common goal. I feel that in this particular company, there's a lot of opportunity for that.
Q: Which character traits should someone who wants to become an engineer should have or cultivate if they don't have it yet?
Lynn Bierworth: First of all, I think we are each given certain talents and abilities. Engineering is not for everyone, just like interior design is not for everyone. Some people are more naturally outgoing whereas others may be more prone to be quiet. If a person naturally finds themselves looking to solving problems, making systems more efficient, and find enjoyment in technical things, then there is a possibility that an engineering field might be a good fit. Because then engineering is a lot of fun. It's challenging, it's rewarding. It's enjoyable. I know that it is often said that if you like Math and Science that one should pursue a career in an engineering field, but that is not always the case. Problem solving of systems is a big part of engineering. Being good in Math and Science can be used for a wide range of careers, not just for engineering.
"Know your strengths and weaknesses!"
Q: Is there anything you want to say to girls and young women who think about pursuing a career in engineering?
Lynn Bierworth: I would encourage young women and girls to continue their education through obtaining a master’s degree and to keep their focus on what they want to learn. Try to get as much real life experience as you can before committing full time to pursuing whatever type of engineering you are interested in. Know yourself, your talents, your abilities, and also your know weaknesses. If you like solving complex problems having to do with systems, then mechanical and electrical engineering might be is a good place to do that. If you are more interested in making a difference in society, then environmental or chemical engineering might be a good place for that. Whatever the case, in the process, try to relax, have fun and enjoy the journey. Don’t take yourself too seriously and be willing to listen and learn from those around you.
Thank you Lynn for this great interview!
If you also want to read the interview with her colleague Sue Schreiner, our metallurgist at thyssenkrupp rothe erde USA Inc., click here.