Engineering as a Mindset
When IBM Packaging Engineer Sharon Spaulding isn’t working in her field, she’s out promoting it
Sharon Spaulding is photographed at Highland Middle School in Highland, New York, Image by Natalie Chitwood
By Rebecca Lubecki09/01/2020
Whether it’s with potential, aspiring or current engineers, IBM Packaging Engineer Sharon Spaulding knows how to keep in tune with her community. Spaulding is currently a member of the Society of Women Engineers, a group that fosters the growth and development of women in the industry, as well as DiscoverE, a global program that encourages students to understand what engineering is truly about.
Women Supporting Women
In a male-dominated field, Spaulding was looking to meet more women. She joined the Society of Women Engineers for the social aspect and for the support available.
“There’s not a lot of women that are joining and staying in engineering, so it’s important that those who have an interest continue at the collegiate level, and that those who are in the working field stay there. It’s like-minded women, women supporting each other to keep women in engineering.”
Encouraging Tomorrow’s Engineers
Another way Spaulding facilitates growth in her industry is through her work with DiscoverE. Spaulding and other volunteers visit students from kindergarten all the way up to college with an activity tailored to the level of that particular age group. Projects range from building the tallest structure with only a few supplies to recreating a ski jump and launching a marble.
“There isn’t always a right and a wrong answer to this kind of problem that we present, so people need to think and solve things differently, work together with your team to come up with solutions,” she says. “It may be something really simple but what they come up with is just amazing.”
Spaulding notes a difference between the age groups she works with. Younger students surprise her because they don’t limit themselves in options for solving their activities and overall, they aren’t as afraid to get creative.
“Younger people have an idea of what engineering is but not what it can really encompass. Students always think it takes someone who is exceptionally good in math and science to do it. Well, in essence. it doesn’t. They just need curiosity of how things work or how to make things better.”
An Unexpected Passion
Spaulding's career as a protective packaging engineer was something she fell into. “I was offered the position. I said: ‘Sure, I’ll try it.’ I did this over 20 years ago and fell in love with it.”
Her team is responsible for designing packaging for the items that ship out of IBM’s Poughkeepsie, New York, location. That might involve shipping spare parts or packaging a multimillion-dollar mainframe.
“It’s my responsibility that when it leaves the plant, it’s in the correct packaging so when it gets to the customer, it’s undamaged. There’s a lot of engineering that goes into it, and it’s something that you don’t necessarily think about: How is it going to get from your manufacturing site to the customer?”
Today, Spaulding is considered an expert on the topic (learn more).
Rebecca Lubecki is an associate editor for IBM Systems magazine.
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