Thea Sander Mon Jun 24

Women in Engineering Day 2024: A Spotlight on Vertech’s Innovators

Happy International Women in Engineering Day! We're celebrating some of our amazing Control Freaks at Vertech this week. Read on as we hear from seven women at Vertech who share their experiences as engineers, life beyond engineering, and their perspectives on making the industry a better place for all.


Why Did You Choose Engineering?

People get into engineering for all kinds of reasons. A common thread is often a love of math and science early on

I had a good physics teacher who made the subject really fun for us my senior year... [so] it was really easy for me to pick mechanical engineering as my major when it came time for me to start applying to colleges,” said Jeong-Won Lee, Industrial Programmer III.

Marketing Operations Lead Wendy Brodeur agreed. “In high school, I was named Drafting Student of the Year two years in a row. And math was always my favorite school subject. So I chose a field that combined my favorites and pursued a degree in civil engineering.”

But for Lorelei Hopersberger, an Industrial Programmer II who started in biochemistry, it was the problem-solving aspect of engineering that really drew her in. Even while working as a scientist in a research lab, she found a way to make her experiments more efficient. 

"I didn't like copying long sample numbers by hand because it was time-consuming, and the frozen samples could thaw. It was also ripe for human error. So I figured out the bar code system and how it assigned the test and timepoint for each sample, and I designed a spreadsheet where I entered one sample number, and it filled in the rest of the numbers associated with the test subject."

After hearing this story, her friend encouraged her to apply for a job in engineering. 

"My first employer in an engineering role took a chance on me because I had regulatory, manufacturing and QC skills that many other people joined without, and they said they'd train me on the programming side. I'm glad they took the chance on me to develop my skills and later come to Vertech."

We're glad she chose engineering, too!

Sezen -1

Thoughts on Being a Problem-Solving Control Freak at Vertech

Given the nature of our work, it’s no surprise that our engineers love solving problems and making things more efficient.

It's certainly a concept Courtney Smith, an Industrial Programmer II at Vertech resonates with.

"While studying, I quickly realized I liked the problem-solving aspect of my engineering courses more than anything else. So when I found Lee Smith, Matt Holman and Andrew Hunt at my local career fair recruiting for a company that wanted problem solvers and Control Freaks, I quickly felt at home."

Her advice is to approach engineering problems like a jigsaw puzzle. She commented, “Start with the edges, then break it up by color. When you break down any problem small enough or logically enough, there are very few things you can’t figure out.”

As Sezen Sanli, Controls Systems Integrator III, puts it, "To me, there is something so satisfying about being able to find a solution to any problem given to me using logical, mathematical steps."

These two make it look easy.

On another note, Jeong-Won Lee is grateful for the training and support Vertech gives to young engineers.

"I learned everything I know now [about programming] at Vertech, which I am very grateful for... I started out as a developer who knew nothing about Ignition, and six years later, I am a tech lead on multiple projects, making sure they all run smoothly and efficiently."

We can attest to the fact that Jeong defines excellence and is an incredible resource to her team.


Wait... Engineers Have Fun? 

It's shocking, I know. And they're not a monolith! The women we interviewed had unique hobbies and ways to spend their free time. 

We have our creatives who enjoy making art and music. Lorelei mused that most of her hobbies involve art in some way. "I like to do aerial silks, sewing, painting, and working on my house, which I now consider my biggest art project."

Sezen mentioned that she enjoys singing and is currently teaching herself piano. Control Systems Integrator II Laura Niedringhaus also plays piano and paints. And she's training for a half marathon (no big deal)! 


Laura Niedringhaus painted the adorable cartoon cookies in the background. Yes, those are cookies!

Then we have our nature and adrenaline junkies. Kelly Colligan, Digital Plant Manager, says she mostly enjoys being outdoors. She said, "I live in Salt Lake City, so there are mountains for hiking and snowboarding only a few minutes away. I also love cars and will head to the local motorsports track to do laps or roll racing... and I [recently] tried drifting."

Now that's cool.

Kelly_outdoor photos 

Kelly Colligan enjoys the outdoors.

Sezen rides a horse-1 

Sezen Sanli rides a horse! Enough said.

Still others like to take on mental challenges. “I study Russian for fun, and lately, I've been crocheting a lot," commented Jeong.

Of course, these categories can be too confining. People just follow their passions, however diverse they may be. And to some, like Courtney, variety is the point!

"I specialize in micro-hobbies. My favorite thing is trying something new until I'm happy enough with my skill in it that I get bored. Currently, my hobbies are pottery, embroidery, and sewing. The only hobby that has stayed with me all my life is reading. I read for 30-60 minutes a day and rotate through genres like I rotate through my micro-hobbies."

Similarly, Wendy enjoys reading (especially SCi-Fi & Fantasy), trying new foods, volunteering at church, and ALL things Disney. 


Wendy Brodeur being captured by the First Order on Rise of the Resistance in Hollywood Studios at Disney World in Orlando, FL.

Making Engineering Better for All

The women we interviewed are truly passionate about engineering. And many have had a positive experience in the industry. As Lorelei put it, engineering at its core promotes a "culture that wants to learn and encourages asking questions," which sets it apart. A focus on problem-solving means that, often, when you do a good job, you're recognized for it. 

However, women in engineering still face prejudice in the workplace. Wendy shared one such story about her experience as the project manager and crew leader for a land surveying team hired by a local university.

Another contractor called my employer with questions about the project. When I offered to discuss it, he replied, "No darlin', I want to talk to the man in charge."

I explained that I was in fact the person in charge... but that did not go over well. He responded, "Lemme talk to your boss."

"He's not here at the moment."

"Is there ANY man there I can talk to?"

"Sure, but they all report to me." 

[He] was not pleased. But because we were both contracted by the [university], he was forced to work with me. Unfortunately, he and his team were very unpleasant, condescending, and even degrading throughout the entire project. 

Sadly, I have experienced this type of interaction more often than I'd care to admit. Engineering is hard work. But being a woman in engineering? Even harder. 


Sezen added, “There have absolutely been times that I was treated differently because I am a woman. Sometimes, men avoid me altogether because they are unsure how to interact with me. There have also been times when they intentionally push me to see what they can get away with.” 

But on the flip side, she said that having good people on your team makes all the difference. “Being a part of a great team that has my back makes these situations much easier to navigate. Overall, I have felt very welcomed in this industry and am very grateful for that.”

Changing the Story

So, what can we do to cultivate healthy engineering teams and a culture that benefits everyone?

1. Recognize that women belong in engineering and always have. Lorelei stated, "Growing up, I feel like we were told a story that computers were not for girls. I'd like to remind people that programming has always involved women, from Ada Lovelace (considered the first computer programmer) to the women who worked with ENIAC in the 1940s (some of the first modern coders)." Use inclusive language, and don't assume everyone on a call is a man by default.


2. Understand that the women on your team may be facing challenges beyond the engineering problems they solve. Male peers and managers can do their part by:

  • Making sure the women on your team are heard, and standing up for them if others are disrespectful. Diverse perspectives add so much to the discussion.
  • Treating women with respect and recognizing their unique personalities, skills and humanity.
  • Providing women with the same opportunities for networking, pay, personal mentorship and leadership development. 

3. Just be normal. Workplace interactions with women don't have to be complicated. Be friendly, kind and respectful, and get to know them like anyone else. 

Final Words of Wisdom

We're so grateful to have a group of incredible engineers on our team. Cheers to the women in our industry who love what they do and are changing the world through their innovation and tenacity. With that in mind, I'll leave you with some parting words of wisdom from the group:

“Don’t be afraid to speak up and be heard! Our voices and ideas are valuable. You may have a different perspective or eye for certain matters; you may have a better approach to solving conflicts…there are so many things we bring to the table; having the confidence to make yourself heard is priceless.” – Sezen Sanli

“From a human standpoint, I hope we get to a point where diversity is seen for the business advantage it is and that it is reflected across all organizational levels of the industry. From a technology perspective, I would love to see digitalization become more accessible... I see it moving in that direction. From free online training for [industry newcomers]... to new and more efficient software, the access for both people and companies to enter the industry continues to grow." – Kelly Colligan

“I really hope that more women join the industry. I think we have a lot to bring to the table. Besides knowing just as much knowledge, I've noticed we sometimes bring more organization and communication to the projects we work on.” – Laura Niedringhaus

 “The men make it look a lot harder than it is. Don't be intimidated... In my experience, good work transcends gender. I can’t speak for other demographic categories, but as long as the work that I produce is solid, I feel respected... I feel proud of my reputation as a reliable developer.” – Courtney Smith

Happy International Women in Engineering Day!

At Vertech, we believe there’s a human way to do industrial automation. Yes, we design bulletproof MES, SCADA, OT, and controls solutions that are a joy to use. But we're also your long-term ally. Whether you're a client or on our team, we're here to help you succeed. Learn more About Us. 


Thea Sander

Thea, our Technical Marketing Lead, has been a part of team Vertech since 2021. With a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, she is passionate about bringing engineering to life by connecting tech to human emotion and experience.



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