Christine Benz, Training Manager at TRUMPF Inc.
Christine Benz, Training Manager at TRUMPF Inc.
#WiMHearHerStory | @WomeninMFG
At Women in Manufacturing, we are committed to supporting women in the manufacturing sector. We firmly believe that mentorship and community-building will help attract and retain women in manufacturing. As part of our mission, we feature on our blog the stories of women we admire who are currently working in manufacturing. The following is the latest installment of our "Hear Her Story" series.
Please tell our readers a little bit about your job and what your work looks like every day.
I lead TRUMPF’s training center which is located in Farmington, CT. TRUMPF is the largest manufacturer of fabricating equipment and industrial lasers in North America. Every year, our training center welcomes over 2,500 students who enroll in machine operation, programming, maintenance and service training courses. To some extent, my job is like being a college dean. My responsibilities involve our students, our instructors, course content and calendar, teaching techniques and budgeting.
How did you arrive at your current position? What attracted you to a career in manufacturing?
After graduating from high school in Germany, I started my professional career as a medical-technical assistant in a children’s hospital. I was fascinated by the advanced medical diagnostics equipment I operated. My desire to develop and build these machines, rather than just operating them, became greater and greater. At some point, I decided to go back to school and I enrolled in the Micro and Precision Engineering program at the University of Applied Sciences in Munich, Germany. During a semester abroad, I worked with TRUMPF’s laser development team in Connecticut and I rejoined TRUMPF’s U.S. laser development team after I graduated. I really enjoyed working in development and supporting the production teams in introducing our products to their assembly lines.
At WiM, much of our work is dedicated to refuting outdated stereotypes about the manufacturing sector: stereotypes like the workplaces are dirty and dangerous and that the field and skills required are a better fit for men. Have you encountered stereotypes like these in your education or career and how did you overcome them?
Of course. As a student, I wished there were more women in the lecture halls of the University of Applied Sciences. But I have to say, I personally have not encountered any of the stereotypes about manufacturing in my career. Our laser development and production areas need to be extremely clean to be productive, and working with high-power lasers requires a very safe working environment. Plus TRUMPF’s female president, Dr. Nicola Leibinger-Kammueller, makes sure TRUMPF’s corporate culture makes her company a great place to work for women.
Research shows that women, especially women in STEM fields, do better if they have a mentor. Has mentorship played any role in your career?
Absolutely, the support of strong mentors has been so important. I was very fortunate to work with people who believed in me, allowed me to make mistakes and showed me how to recover from them. These people gave me their honest feedback and expected me to take it, and allowed me to take on more responsibility when I was ready for it. I would not be where I am today without strong mentors.
One of the key findings in WiM’s survey is that there is significant overlap between what young women want in careers and the attributes of careers in manufacturing today. But the survey also found that, too often, young women are not aware of the opportunities available in manufacturing. What do you think can be done to spread the word to women about career options in modern manufacturing?
I see many great initiatives out there to get school-age kids and college students interested in STEM careers. This is wonderful, because it is so important to get the message out about today’s career opportunities in manufacturing to girls and young women. WiM is doing a great job spreading the word about successful women in manufacturing. At TRUMPF, we host open houses; we invite schools, colleges, boy and girl scouts, and the kids of our employees to show them the modern work environment in today’s manufacturing firms.
Our survey also found that the majority of women in manufacturing today would recommend the sector to young women considering career options. Would you recommend a career in manufacturing? And, if so, why?
My recommendation to young women is to follow their dreams and to not let norms or stereotypes make decisions for them. I encourage young women to not try to “fit in” but to embrace their curiosity and intelligence. Whether they choose a career in the medical, technology, financial, arts, education or manufacturing sector – these are all good choices as long as girls and women stay true to themselves. I certainly congratulate young women who choose a career in manufacturing, because I know from personal experience: It is a great place to be, because you have pride in what you do!