Engineering while female: A continuous quest for quality

To follow up our sponsorship of the WoMENAIT event and to celebrate women's history month, we're putting the spotlight on some of FUTEK's talented female team members. This week we're profiling Maria SanFilippo, Quality Manager and one of FUTEK's most important leaders.

If you know anything about FUTEK, you know that, here, QC does not stand for "quality control" but "quality culture". Our commitment to quality runs through every aspect of our business, from the moment when the idea for a product is conceived until after it leaves our premises and functions flawlessly many years to come. One of the key people building and continuously evolving FUTEK's unique quality mindset and processes is Maria SanFilippo.

Let's start with your background: Where did you grow up and how did you end up in the US?

I grew up in Barranquilla, Colombia. Barranquilla is Colombia's fourth-most populous city and its economy is concentrated mainly in the manufacturing, commerce and services Industries. I completed my bachelor's degree in Industrial Engineering there, and started working for the manufacturing sector, in the quality field right after I graduated. Since my early childhood I traveled frequently with my parents and came to the US often since many of my relatives had migrated here many years before to look for better opportunities. During my travels, I felt captivated by this country and decided to move permanently about 16 years ago. My decision to move to the US was mainly driven by my search for personal and professional growth.

How did you first discover that you were interested in tech?

Everything related to science and manufacturing interests me. In the beginning of my career, I didn't have a particular interest in tech, but that changed when I started at FUTEK 10 years ago. Now I find it fascinating.

When did you know that you wanted to become an engineer?

When I was in middle school I was always more interested in math than in any other subject. I really enjoyed solving math problems and the structure and logic it involves. Also, personality wise, I think engineering fits me well since I am very logical and structured and apply a lot of critical thinking. I also enjoyed science. I decided to study engineering during my last year in high school and started pursuing my degree at the Universidad Del Norte as soon as I graduated.

How did your interest in Quality start?

It started when I was in university. I had an excellent professor in quality control and he would always talk about how quality control relies on statistics similarly to baseball (I am a baseball fan). He would teach the subjects in his classes using baseball analogies.

What does Quality mean to you?

It means a continuous search for excellence to provide confidence that the requirements and expectations of the product and/or market are met.

Why do you think that you excel in this field?

I prepare myself for the constant change and demands of the market and customers. I believe in continuous learning, I am honest, curious and impartial, and my decisions are data-driven.

When you first started your career, how did you experience being a young woman in such a male-dominated field?

When I started my career in quality, women had a good representation (At least where I used to work). I think it has a more diverse representation because quality brings together many disciplines such as statistics, engineering, business management, etc. One of the quality managers at that company was a woman and she was very well respected. I used to work with people of my own generation, both males and females so I always felt welcomed.

Did you move to the US in order to have better career opportunities?

Yes, part of my decision of moving to the US was related to career opportunities. The US has the largest economy in the world so moving here was the best chance I had to learn and grow in my field. There are many differences (and also similarities) between working in Colombia vs the US., such as the work schedule, the amount of holidays and paid time off, and the relationship between co-workers is more casual and more friendly there, among many other things.

Do you think that dealing with gender bias has affected the way you work in any way?

No. Even though there is bias in the world against women, I don't remember having the feeling of people being biased against me at work because of my sex. My parents taught me you can achieve your goals with hard work, so that is what I focus on.

You are sometimes the only woman in the management morning meetings. What is that like?

There is definitely a sense of pride and accomplishment for being part of the team. I really enjoy working with everyone.

What advice would you give a young woman who wants to become an engineer?

To follow their dreams. It is a great career that impacts every part of modern life.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

The feeling of contributing to society in a positive way.

To learn more about FUTEK's quality culture, and to see Maria in action, check out this video:





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