Exceptional Women: Dana Utembayeva

This week, in exceptional women, we talked to Dana Utembayeva, Applications Engineer.

Degree: B.S. Industrial Engineering, M.S. Industrial Design 

Q: Where are you from? 

I was born and raised in Kazakhstan, which is a huge country right in the middle of Eurasia. I moved to the US in 2006 to pursue my education.

Q: What school did you attend? 

A: I attended the Pennsylvania State University and majored in Industrial Engineering and also minored in Six Sigma Methodology. After graduation, I completed my Masters at Philadelphia University in Industrial Design and Product Development. 

Q: Can you give us a quick rundown of your career?

A: After graduation, I started a full-time position at a medical device company where I also did my summer internship. I was lucky that they offered me a full-time position as an Industrial Engineer a year before my graduation, so I felt secure that I will have a job right after I get my Master’s degree. I focused on implementing Lean Manufacturing principles and improving processes with time-studies and revamping their SOP’s. I then got a job offer with Oberthur Technologies (now Idemia) where I worked as a Process Engineer. I was then assigned to be the Lead Process Engineer, and my last year was the Project Engineer where I managed Corporate and plant-mandated Engineering projects. I then decided to pivot my career a little bit and started working as a Sales Engineer at an Automation Company - IFM Efector. 

Q: How and when did you found out that (STEM) was your career to follow?

A: I always knew that I was my best at math and sciences ever since I was little. But I also really liked doing things that helped me be creative - like music and drawing. My parents and my teachers always highlighted how good I was at math, so it was a no-brainer. I was not that good at Humanitarian studies though, they just never interested me. 

Q: What aspect of your job is the most challenging?

A: I think the most challenging, yet most rewarding aspect of what I do is being able to constantly pivot when it comes to new trends in technology and marketing. 

Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of your career?

A: Working with people, I have met and networked with the most amazing people! 

Q: What can you say is the key to your success?

A: Confidence, assertiveness and high drive. All of these are learned skills so anyone can learn them. 

Q: What advice would you give young women who are considering pursuing a STEM career?

A: Always remember that you are good enough. Do not second guess yourself and take every challenge as an opportunity to better yourself. 

Q: If you could tell your 15-year-old-self anything, what would it be?

A: It’s a hard one! Believe in yourself and have confidence in your skills. It might not always be easy to stand up and speak for what is important to you, but it is very rewarding. And one wise person once told me “Everything will be okay in the end”, so just remember that. Also, don’t quit playing the piano, exercise more often and don’t forget to take your make up off every night before bed. Your skin won’t always look like this.