30 Under 30: Meghan West
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Meghan West has been going to machine shops for as long as she can remember. Her father founded Mastercam/CNC Software the year she was born, in 1983.
As the oldest of five, she heard a lot about manufacturing growing up.
But choosing it as a career, Meghan said, was her choice. “My father never pushed me,” she said.
Gary Hargreaves, Vice President of Business Development at CNC Software, recalls Meghan growing up and learning at the company. “Just about as soon as she could walk, she spent a lot of time in our offices and in the machine shop with her Dad making parts and proving out toolpaths,” he wrote. “In the first grade, she brought her Girl Scout troop in to cut out reindeer heads on an old DynaPath CNC Mill.”
As she matured through her teen years, Meghan said she and her father talked a lot about the business. The two also recognized the perils of passing a business down through generations, so they signed up for a class together, when Meghan was 16, on managing family businesses at the University of Connecticut. The program advised getting out of the family business to learn and experience business and life elsewhere.
That led Meghan to pursue her bachelor’s degree in business at Bentley College in Waltham, MA, in 2001 and to a job in real estate in California, where she gained experience in a non-technical field. A year later, she moved to Hawaii, where she worked as a development associate at the Pearl Harbor Memorial Fund. She also earned an MBA in management at Hawaii Pacific University.
In 2009, she returned home and to the family business. She went with no title. Meghan said her father told her to “figure out where you’re needed.” Since then, Meghan has been hands-on in every department: sales, marketing, customer service, software design and coding, training, technical support and packaging.
She also spent time in the company’s education office in Gig Harbor, WA, which is responsible for Mastercam placements and support in middle and high schools, colleges and universities. It was in that realm that Meghan discovered her passion. She strongly believes that the more people that are trained to be manufacturers, engineers, programmers, and machinists, the more robust and innovative our country will be in the long run.
Her passion led to a surge in people getting trained by Mastercam University and other software enhancements.
“I had used the software a lot growing up,” Meghan said. “As I got more involved, I asked what did my generation want to see in the software.” And so she focused on user experience, creating a department in that area. “It’s not just functionality, it’s how the customer feels about it,” Meghan explained.
Meghan currently oversees the manager of the company’s educational department. “For me, education is really important for this industry,” Meghan said. “ Not just training students, but getting them to understand the value of manufacturing and improve its image. I don’t think people understand the kind of jobs they can have in manufacturing. I also think there’s a misconception that women aren’t interested in it.”
As evidence to the contrary, Meghan points to Team Jag, which has a Mastercam-sponsored all-girls robotics team. It operates out of Miami Lakes Education Center in Miami, FL.
While Meghan said “it’s fun being a woman in manufacturing,” she also acknowledged there are challenges. “You just have to show them you are confident and know what you’re talking about.” ME