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Conversations with a Manufacturing Engineer: Ane Marie Harb

No matter the road or timing, never give up on your goals.

One initiative SME proudly supports is International Women in Engineering Day, which observes the extraordinary women engineers across the globe that are making an impact through careers in STEM. Started by the Women's Engineering Society (WES), International Women in Engineering Day celebrates outstanding achievements and promotes the amazing work that women engineers are doing around the world. The goal of this international awareness campaign is to raise the profile of women in engineering and focus attention on the amazing career opportunities available to girls in this exciting industry.

A perfect example of these success stories can be seen by the many women who are members of SME. It’s important to acknowledge the people in your community who’re making an impact through manufacturing and helping others along the way. SME Membership team sat down with Ane Marie Harb, Quality Manager, Comefri USA. She is currently an Officer of the SME Nashville Chapter 43 and has been an SME member since 2013. Learn more about Harbs manufacturing journey beginning in Romania and the path that ultimately led her to become an engineering manager within manufacturing in the United States.

Can you briefly share your journey as a female engineer? What inspired you to pursue a career in engineering?

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Ane Marie Harb, Quality Manager, Comefri USA, Officer, SME Nashville Chapter 43

My journey in engineering started in Romania when I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, and my journey continued in the United States. My career continued in the United States when I became a process engineer for 5 years. I then decided to pursue my master’s degree, graduating with a master’s degree in professional sciences/concentration in engineering management. Initially, I was enrolled in occupational health and safety, but I changed to an engineering management degree because it was in line with the career I wanted to pursue further.

Both master’s degree classes and internships gave me the knowledge needed when I started my current job as a quality engineer while overseeing safety/environment. Master’s degree classes and internships opened new opportunities for me, and as a result, I got involved with an SME student chapter while attending Middle Tennessee State University. I taught Six Sigma classes as a graduate assistant and coordinated Six Sigma Greenbelt and Lean Manufacturing projects with local manufacturing plants/healthcare. The master’s program and experiences encountered during that time were the best fit for me, and I found a passion for what I was good at.

I was inclined toward math and science as a child, and my mother was very proud of me that I went to a college that offered a degree in a foreign language (English). My mother was very supportive of my decision. The university degree in dual languages was something fairly new in 1998 and I was very happy to be accepted into the bachelor program which offered chemical engineering in both Romanian and English.

How have you overcome any gender-related challenges or biases in your field? What advice would you give to other aspiring female engineers facing similar obstacles?

I’ve overcome challenges or biases in my field by striving to do my best in my job, and over time biases disappear when the companies see the potential and benefits that the person brings to the company. I advise aspiring female engineers to take pride in their work, be reliable, and in case there are biases in the field they’re working in, discuss the challenges with their superior and/or HR. Aspiring engineers’ hard work, dedication, integrity, determination, and respect for coworkers go a long way. I feel there are fewer biases in 2023 due to other women’s work that has paved the road, and created a place where aspiring female engineers can prove themselves through their own work.

The environment, location, people mentality, and company culture play big factors in female engineers’ retention and advancement. The right company/people will see the value that the female engineer can bring to further develop products, processes, and work environment. Life in general is a journey and can take the candidate along all kinds of roads. No matter the road or timing, never give up on your goals. At some point in life, those goals can be achieved, and it’s up to the candidate to pursue what she wants to achieve.

In your experience, what unique perspectives or strengths do women bring to the field of engineering?

Women have good interpersonal skills, and attention to detail, especially when dealing with documentation. Overall, women are good role models for aspiring engineers. These are needed skills that promote teamwork and change the work environment in a positive way. Some women are born leaders that learn to deal with challenges and overcome obstacles to make a better workplace for everyone.

Are there any specific projects or accomplishments in your career that you are particularly proud of? How did they contribute to your growth as an engineer?

I am very proud of my degrees, and the certifications I’ve obtained. I am a certified quality engineer with the American Society of Quality (ASQ CQE) and Six Sigma Black Belt. I’ve also earned additional certificates in my current job that gave me the knowledge and competency to maintain quality and environmental management systems, and to obtain safety management system certification for my current company. All the degrees and certifications have helped me in my journey. I am the type of person that goes above and beyond when respect and support is there.

I am also proud of being an SME member and volunteering with SME Nashville Chapter 43 for the last 7 years. I’ve worked with great chapter volunteers that continue to keep the chapter active, promote manufacturing and inspire future engineers. The leaders in the chapter are good role models for engineers. This year, I am the Chair for SME Nashville Chapter 43. I started with the chapter in 2016 as a secretary and moved through different roles over the next several years.

I’ve also had a lot of great opportunities and benefits in my current role with Comefri USA. I am currently a Quality Manager with Comefri USA located in Hopkinsville, KY, where I oversee safety/environment. My education and experiences in the engineering field gave me the confidence and expertise to run these departments.

How do you think we can encourage more women to pursue careers in engineering? Are there any specific initiatives or strategies you believe can make a difference?

Having current female engineers and managers share their stories and experiences with other women is a great example. Also, it’s important that schools and colleges have the necessary funding for STEM programs to encourage more women to pursue careers in engineering. With the right setup and teachers in place, it’s more impactful and can influence women/girls to pursue a career in the engineering field.

Are there any technical fields or areas within engineering where you believe there is a need for more female representation? If so, why?

I believe there is a need in manufacturing for women in mechanical engineering and mechatronics due to the increasing trend of manufacturing companies using robotic engineering.

On International Women in Engineering Day, what message would you like to convey to young girls who are considering a career in engineering?

I encourage women to pursue a career in engineering because it’s a rewarding career and improves the quality of life. It will give women a different life perspective and motivate them to improve the quality of life of others. An engineering career is fun, challenging, and rewarding. I’ve been enjoying it for the last 16 years.

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