Engineering while female – A passion for learning and capacity for doing

In our last segment for our Women’s History Month series, we highlight Siyon Kim and her inspiring journey. One of FUTEK’s specialties is to make the impossible possible. Siyon lives this concept every day. Thanks to hard work, steadfast ambition and a curious mindset, she has gone from a technical novice in the wiring department to an invaluable production expert who oversees every step of the manufacturing process of new sensor designs. “Siyon is able to come up with the optimal methods and help the team streamline the process,” says Richard Walker who leads FUTEK’s mechanical engineering. “Seeing her work is like watching an artist masterfully create a wonderful piece of artwork that will be produced thousands of times over again.”

In 2010, a young woman from Cambodia arrived in Southern California. Through her friends and family she’d heard about FUTEK, and even though she had zero technical experience, she applied for a job in production. “We don’t just hire people for their experience—character matters, too,” says Maitte Galvis, Production and HR Coordinator, “Siyon immediately stood out. First of all, her English skills were impressive. We could tell that she was not only capable of doing the job, but that she was able to communicate really well, too.”

Growing up in the Battambang province in Cambodia, Siyon was raised in a family of farmers. She was an excellent student who never failed a single class. Besides going to school full-time, she also worked a part time job and took English classes two hours a day (hence the language proficiency).

After getting her start in FUTEK’s wiring department, Siyon advanced to a special team that worked on prototypes for new designs. She also discovered how much the work fascinated her and that she wanted to deepen her knowledge. “I thought that the applications we worked on were very interesting,” she says “So I wanted to learn more.” FUTEK’s leadership enthusiastically supported her educational endeavors and accommodated her work schedule accordingly. “To help her develop her skills and growth is a win-win situation for us,” says Maitte. “She brings us so much value.” Even CEO Javad Mokhbery took an interest: “Siyon is one of many individuals at FUTEK whose achievements I admire,” he says. ”She has faced all challenges and difficulties head-on and furthered her higher education while also continuously working harder and smarter. She reminds me of Charles R. Swindoll’s quote: ‘Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.’”

Enrolling at Orange Coast College to get her electrical technology associate degree was challenging in several ways: “I was the only woman in the class. I worried that the guys wouldn’t want to team up with me for projects,” she says. And, not only was the subject matter demanding, the language barrier sometimes caused miscommunication and made it even harder to follow along in class. “I had to start recording the lectures to make sure that I could go back and listen if I missed something. At first, I didn’t think that I would be able to make it,” she says.

Back at FUTEK, Siyon kept evolving her production and development skills—from wiring to lamination to temperature compensation and assembly. “She has a great understanding of how each department functions”, says Richard, “She knows what is needed to optimize the placement of components, wire routings and best assembly tooling and what methods are needed to not only streamline the process but also to ensure that the highest level of quality is maintained throughout. To be able to achieve all of this you have to be a great listener, critical thinker and have the ability to effectively communicate with other team members.”

Even though balancing her full time job at FUTEK, her college education, and a weekend part time job was a lot, Siyon somehow did it all, and well to boot. She recently received her Associate’s Degree in Electrical Technology, her proudest achievement so far. “I don’t really know how I managed to do it,” she says. “It’s so impressive to see how she has really invested herself,” says Maitte, “Unlike a lot of other women, Siyon has put her work first and the rest of her life on the backburner.” That could change though, as Siyon is contemplating taking a break from her educational path to start a family. Regardless, her future at FUTEK looks very bright.

When asked how he envisions her future growth, Richard sees a manager in the making: “With Siyon’s critical thinking skills and drive to continuously educate herself, I envision her being an impactful leader on our sensor manufacturing team.”





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