International Day of the Girl – Being a female engineer is something to be proud of

Sarah Tempelmann, Technical Project Leader for Electrolux, knew she wanted to be an engineer at the age of 16. In the third in our series of interviews to celebrate International Day of the Girl, find out how Sarah got started as an engineer and what advice she would give to other girls considering a career in engineering.

How old were you when you knew engineering was the career for you?

As a young girl growing up in Germany, I realized early on at school that the subjects I achieved the best grades in – and enjoyed the most – were math and natural science. Over time I just became more interested in choosing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematic) subjects in school.

Then when I was 16 I had the experience that made my mind up. I spent a week attending a course at the local university for girls interested in STEM subjects. Every day we had different lectures to choose from, hearing from professors working in different areas within STEM.

At the beginning of the week I wanted to become a mechanical engineer, then I had a new dream every day, and by the end of the week I was back to mechanical engineering again. I just knew after this course that I wanted to become an inventor, because an inventor solves problems we face in our everyday life.

What are you most proud of working as an engineer at Electrolux?

There’s much to be proud of. Firstly, creating household appliances was the first step to enabling many women to have a career, so we have historically shaped society in an important way.

This trend continues as we create appliances that people use every day, so we have a lot of impact on shaping living for the better. By taking care of the dishes in the household, we free up time that can be better spent focusing on family and wellbeing for example. Simplifying people’s lives is fun, and working with household appliances I can easily see the benefit in my own private life.

It’s also a challenge to develop products that suit everybody’s needs, which can vary so much from individual to individual. To find the right balance between performance, quality, cost, legal and test standard requirements within the technical boundaries of the system – with the result being an appliance that is effortless to use – is a complex task. It takes effort to create appliances that deliver best-in-class consumer experiences and I’m proud of my contribution.

What would you say to girls who might think a career in engineering is a boy’s world?

If you study what you love, it doesn’t matter who else is studying it. This is about you and your own future! Going to university and meeting other young people with an interest in a similar subject also teaches you that there are so many things that are connecting more than gender can ever do. And both at university and in a career in engineering there are, of course, other women – it’s not a boy’s world any longer.

What career advice would you give your younger self?

Something I would advise anyone: Focus on the things you’re interested in and you will do good! Something I would advise my younger self: Understand the value that even an unexperienced student has for engineering companies. An open mind that comes with lack of experience can be an asset, so don’t hesitate to contact companies for internships and summer jobs.

Tell us something about you that we wouldn’t learn from your CV.

When I tell people I’m an engineer, being a woman it always gets a reaction. I actually like this as being a female engineer is something to be proud of – but my hope is that we bridge the gender gap so one day there will be no reaction when a woman says she’s an engineer. It will just be considered normal.