With Women in STEM Day coming up on February 11th, we are talking to various women working in Maintenance & Reliability – an arena where ‘Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics’ certainly play a fundamental role. This week we meet Corinne Nielsen, a Reliability Success Manager at Augury. “If anyone is interested in the M&R field, I just say ‘Do it!’ Because, unlike other fields, you’ll always be learning new things.”
Family Science Values
Science was always lurking in the background for Corinne Nielsen. “In my family, we are all naturally curious and like to learn things. My brothers are electricians and worked on cars when they were young. My mom in particular loves science. I remember as a child watching water boil and being curious about the steam, and she gave me a full lecture about phase changes and all that. Even to the simplest questions she’d always provide a very scientific explanation.”
Today, Corinne is a Reliability Success Manager at Augury and comes backed with a strong background in the Food & Beverage industry. She’s certified in vibration analysis, ultrasound, infrared, and reliability leadership. “I actually applied for another job at Augury but ended up taking a role that was a better fit several months later: Reliability Success Manager. So, I’m helping people directly while at the same time I can work remotely and have a lot of flexibility. It’s a great fit.”
From Operator To Maintenance To Reliability
“I definitely did not take the traditional route of going to high school, college and then work,” says Corinne. “I’ve been working in manufacturing since I was 20. I began as an operator on an ice cream line. And that meant that we were running freezers that would freeze the ice cream into a soft serve consistency before they go into the package. And then the packaged product would go into an automated deepfreeze to freeze the rest of the way.”
“Because we were the operators of these freezers, my company wanted us to have a basic understanding of refrigeration, so they had the refrigeration guy come out and do some training. It was so interesting – way more interesting than much of what I was doing every day. So, I told my plant manager that I was very open to any other training that may come up.”
As it turned out, the company was starting an apprenticeship program. “They wanted people who already worked for them with a good track record to train them as technicians.
So, myself and three others started six months of working with maintenance technicians and doing online training courses that were maintenance-specific,” recalls Corinne.
“After that, I got a job in maintenance and about a month after that my manager asked me if I wanted to head implementation of the site’s first reliability program. I had no idea what that was, but I learned fast. And that’s how I got into reliability.”
It’s A Man’s World. Not.
And how did she adapt to such male-dominated fields as maintenance and reliability? “You are definitely going to feel like you’re the only woman because most of the time you are,” laughs Corinne. “And while you might stand out as a woman, I haven’t found the industry to be unwelcoming. People have been very supportive.”
She does get asked a lot about how she got to her position. “When they see me, they don’t expect it. Some think it’s a bit odd. But for me, it’s my passion. And it doesn’t take long for people to see that passion, and the effort that I put into my work. And now since I’ve been doing it for so long, it’s not weird to me anymore.”
“It has taken hard work to get to where I am. But I find the work very rewarding, especially when I help people avoid a fault I have identified – and I help them understand something that’s not readily visible. I certainly have no intention of changing careers – though I imagine getting into management more in the future.”
Keep On Learning
Meanwhile, Corinne mentors other young women who are entering the field. “If anyone is interested in M&R, I just say ‘Do it!’ Because, unlike other fields, you’ll always be learning new things. And there are so many different options and avenues to specialize in,” says Corinne.
“One of the reasons that I got so interested in maintenance is because I had worked multiple production roles and once I learned to do them well, I would lose interest and start looking for something new to learn. So I got good at learning and I’m still learning today.”