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Raising the Profile of Women in Engineering - An interview with Robin Hofrichter

Monday, April 26, 2021

Raising the Profile of Women in Engineering

Meet Robin Hofrichter, Quality Assurance Manager at AMETEK Specialty Metal Products

Robin Hofrichter works as a Quality Assurance Manager for AMETEK Specialty Metal Products, overseeing the quality system at the atomized metal powder plant facility in Eighty Four, PA, USA.

Here, Robin discusses the variability of her role, her passion for learning, and the importance of early access to STEM toys, classes and events for girls and young women in nurturing an interest in engineering.

Q. Can you tell us about your Quality Assurance role at AMETEK Eighty Four?

I’ve been here for a little over five years – in fact I celebrated my fifth anniversary in December 2020. Quality Assurance tends to be a fairly standard process across the whole manufacturing industry. The role involves tasks like complaint logging, standard operating procedure writing, vendor surveys, internal audits, that sort of thing. Essentially, I manage Eighty Four’s quality system and ensure that we remain compliant to ISO 9001 2015 and other, customer-specific requirements at all times.

I’m also currently overseeing our transition to a new Microsoft Dynamics 365 operating system. It involves some pretty meticulous data transfer from our old systems to our new set-up to get things up and running. I’m creating test plans for all of our customer requirements, modifying items for specific packaging and updating production structures. This will ensure everything matches our current system, and that when we go live there’s no change in product quality.

Q. What is the best part of your job?

The best part of what I do is the variability of my working days. Hands down. Every day there’s something new to do, to research and to assist with. I love learning new things and being able to converse with the many different people here who know so much about our industry. We have personnel here who have been here for 20, 30 or 40 years and their willingness to share their knowledge is awesome.

I especially love it when the flow of information goes both ways – when I can help make someone’s process go better or smoother too. Helping to make my colleagues’ lives easier makes what I do feel really rewarding.

Q. How are you working during the COVID-19 pandemic? How has your job changed?

Just like all engineering companies around the world we have had to adapt to reflect the changing situation. I’m proud to say that we have stayed fully open for customers, with safety measures firmly in place to enable us to continue our work in mission critical sectors. We all wear face masks and practice social distancing. Everyone tends to stay in their own offices and we keep tallies on how many people are in a meeting, making sure that they are socially distanced and following the safety protocols required by our State.

All the working surfaces, eating surfaces, bathrooms and conference rooms are cleaned on a routine basis to make sure we are not spreading any germs. For the most part, there’s enough space for everyone to do what they need to and things are working well.

Q: Have you always been interested in working in engineering?

I have a degree in Biology and started out on my working life as a summer intern in an analytical lab. I really liked the routines of logging various samples and taking them to the lab. I ended up learning all about lab testing while I was in that role too, which has led me to experience a variety of different things around testing and quality control as my career has progressed. That eventually led me into Quality Assurance and the role that I do now with Eighty Four.

I think a large part of my engineering education has come about by having some amazing mentors who helped me along the way. I have had great bosses and supervisors who have really helped me to grow. One consultant I worked with basically took me under his wing and showed me specific engineering instruments, really getting into the nitty gritty details of how they all worked.

Q. How do you think we can encourage more women to consider a career in engineering?

I think things are changing in the wider world when it comes to inspiring women to work in engineering. When I was growing up, there wasn’t anything called ‘STEM’ to help inform or channel your interest in sciences or math. If you were good at those subjects, you just took more science and math classes. Now, it’s commonplace to see STEM related toys and events, even at pre-school age, which is great.

I for one try to encourage this love in my youngest niece, who is four. I buy her STEM and engineering toys to try and grow this facet of her personality. I have a couple of older nieces too, whom again I try to show how much I enjoy working in an engineering role myself. I encourage them to take coding classes or do coding games to develop their critical thinking.

Q: Finally, do you have any words of wisdom for women thinking about pursuing an engineering career?

I’d say start with taking extra classes and don’t be afraid to tackle some of the harder math questions or science topics. Really think about what could be useful for you to study and find out more about whatever interests you most. Sign up for an engineering mentor program if you can find one. All these things can help foster an early love for engineering.

However, I think my number one piece of advice would be to never be afraid of failing or ‘having a go’. If you can learn from your mistakes, it will become your key to success. Keep trying to find the right solution – it’s out there and can be yours for the taking!