Empowering Innovators: Celebrating Women in Engineering Day with Ecovative

Celebrating Women in Engineering Day holds immense significance in our quest for diversity and inclusion within the STEM field. By honoring and recognizing the contributions of women engineers, we acknowledge their invaluable impact on technological advancements and problem-solving. It’s crucial to celebrate their achievements to break down gender barriers, inspire future generations of women to pursue engineering careers, and encourage a more balanced and equitable representation within the engineering community, leading to innovation and progress for all.

Q&A with Ecovative’s Women Engineers

Q: What motivated you to pursue a career in engineering? Were you inspired by someone?

Shaliya: “When I first started out, I never knew that I would be an engineer. There were a lot of challenges in the surrounding that I grew up with, most of the people in the environment were already engineers, which was a mostly male dominated field, and that’s something that encouraged me because I wanted to do something different. I was taking subjects in my school and being good at science led me to figure out that this is something that I could consider in my career in future. Eventually everything worked out for me one step at a time and here I am! I won’t say that I had any particular person or someone that motivated me, but it’s just the choices that I was making that led me to be an engineer today.”

Q: Engineering has many gratifying aspects. What do you enjoy most about being an engineer?

Shaliya: “Through all the careers of engineering that I’ve been, I realized that I enjoy designing and building different types of systems. So in the past, it allowed me to be creative, and I love solving problems, which I know has an impact in society or in the world. So in the end, I feel that such a feeling can be very rewarding. That helped me to be in this field in the long run and I really enjoy this occupation.

Shaliya Sultana DevOps Engineer

Shaliya Sultana – Ecovative DevOps Engineer

Kaylee Rae Presnell – Ecovative Engineer

Q: What are the most important skills or qualities for an engineer to have?

Kaylee Rae: “I think the most important skill for an engineer to have is technical communication. If you’re working on something that’s super complex and you’re talking about it with other engineers and they understand you, thats awesome, but if you can’t communicate with someone who doesn’t speak in engineering language then there’s no point in the thing that you’re building. I think also, something that makes someone a good engineer is someone who can truly identify what the real problem is. Engineers are always known for redesigning the wheel and making something super complicated that wasn’t complicated in the first place. So if you can figure out what the real problem is and solve that real problem, I think you’re going to be really successful engineer.”

Q: What has your experience as a woman in engineering been like?

Kaylee Rae: “Honestly, it’s been hard. I think being a woman in society is hard. You are constantly either not getting the respect you deserve or you are having to second-guess yourself between your male counterparts at anything you do. I think as a woman engineering that’s just heightened because you’re surrounded by all these really smart individuals and it’s frustrating to always be outnumbered in a room. At the same time, I’m very glad I am a woman in engineering because I have this extra lens that my peers don’t have and I can see problems in a completely different way. So yes it’s hard, but like I wouldn’t choose to be anywhere different.”

Q: What are the most common obstacles you’ve had to overcome being a woman in engineering?

Shaliya: “I think there are a couple of obstacles that come to my mind. The first being the environment itself in an engineering field. Most of the engineering fields are male dominated and it gets challenging sometimes to create your own space and make a mark in that field. That being said, it’s a lot harder when you’re hard on yourself. We all come into this field with imposter syndrome, but I think I’ve overcome this as I interact with people more. I also considered them to be a human, just like me, not everybody knows everything. That’s what you realize as you talk, have that confidence in yourself. There’s a reason why you’re chosen. Just believe in yourself and going through these challenges and sharing with people it really helps.”

Q: What would be good advice for students seeking to find their worth as they secure their first engineering job?

Shaliya: “So first thing first, I think congrats that you made it on that first job! When you’re fresh and new, as I mentioned earlier, there can be an imposter syndrome that you’re feeling, but make sure that you discuss with your manager a solid 30-60-90 day plan, that really helps. Your plan should include to network with your team members, knowing your stakeholders, what projects you’ll be working on and also kind of like self reflecting a lot to understand if you have this skill set. If you don’t ask for help, this is the time to ask as many questions as you want and know what problems you’re solving because the more you know, the better equipped you are to solve a problem. #Collaboration is key, don’t be afraid to take on or share or help yourself to participate in others’ problems. That way you’re not only putting yourself out there, but you are also showing that you’re a good team member in those 90 days.”

Ecovative rendering of early stage air mycelium growing

AirMycelium™ Technology

Q: In what field of engineering did you begin your career, and what led you to join the Ecovative team?

Kaylee Rae: I’ve had a lot of internships before Ecovative. I worked at a really big manufacturing company, I’ve worked at NASA and did research, I did program management, so I had all these different experiences before I got to Ecovative through an internship. I just typed in “eco-friendly companies” and obviously they were the first ones that popped up! I really vibed with admission, so I started as an intern with my degree is in biosystems engineering, which is actually kind of what I do every day.

Q: Compared to other technologies, mycelium technology is fairly new. What is it like working with mycelium on a daily basis and what are your opinions on mycelium materials? Would you consider them to be the future of sustainable materials?

Kaylee Rae: Mycelium is just such an underrated and under researched material and life form honestly! I think it’s so cool, I have so many meetings and we talk about all of the things that just our scrap could be, so I think it’s just so underutilized. I think we’ve all heard the phrase “we’ve explored more space than we have our oceans,” and I think the same principle is going to apply the more we explore mycelium, the more uses that we’re gonna find out of it, similar to all of the technology we found in the ocean after researching it more. I’m super excited to see that growth in mycelium exploration.

Q: Do you find your experience at Ecovative to be different from your previous companies? If so, how?

Shaliya: Yes, it’s the most different among all the industries that I’ve worked for. Because, first of all, I was someone who was running away from biology, but now here I am working in a biotech industry! So ideally, you know, as anyone in software engineering, you would be working with software developers, project managers, or even other technology related roles, people within those technology related roles. But here at Ecovative, it’s really interesting because I get to work with scientists, pilot operation engineers, pilot operators, which is not the norm actually. I get to hear different problems, and it’s challenging as well as interesting for me to solve their problems so that I can build something that works for all of them.

Kaylee Rae: Yes, very different! I worked at a 24-hour, full steam ahead production facility and Ecovative works at a faster pace. Stuff is always changing around here because it’s R&D, and I really do love it. The places I worked at before, there were so many bureaucratic hoops you had to jump through just to fix a valve or to turn a knob, so many different approvals that you had to go through to make an impactful change. At Ecovative you have the power to make those changes because everyone around here knows you’re smart and capable to do that. Also, I’ve never been at a place with a better work environment and culture, I work with super kind, knowledgeable, and just inviting individuals.

Mycelium harvest from our vertical farms

Mycelium harvest from our vertical farms

Pure mycelium foam grown for fashion, apparel, and automotive industries

Pure mycelium foam grown for fashion, apparel, and automotive industries

Q: How can someone be a better ally for #WomenInSTEM?

Kaylee Rae: I think of a very famous quote, “powerful women empower women,” and that goes for people who are not women. Being sponsors to your female and non-male co-workers is super important. Give them a voice when you’re in a meeting and when they say something, acknowledge you heard what they’re saying, acknowledge what they said was awesome or explain why you agree with what they’re saying. I think it’s really important to give people a safe space to actually express those opinions. If you’re being super loud or obnoxious, you can’t create that space for your women coworkers. Just making the space for them to grow it’s really important.

Shaliya: I think to be a good ally to women in STEM, it’s important to avoid any unconscious bias and know that this problem is real. Anyone can do that by creating a safe space for women to open up and share or that allows them to share their ideas and feel heard. So, just that support and having the ability to communicate or talk about some problems together with fair and equal chances allows us to contribute.

Stay up to date on MycoComposite™ & AirMycelium™ technologies!

Follow to join our mycelium network: Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

Click the links to learn about more of our home-compostable Mushroom Packaging & Forager pure mycelium foam and textiles!

Interested in working with #biomaterials? Join our Grow.Bio myco-community and easily grow mycelium at home, in the classroom or wherever you are!

Related Posts