SOLIDWORKS Women in Engineering Series: Catherine Wagner


Women In Engineering - Catherine Wagner

Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering: When Catherine was a junior in high school, her dad challenged her to consider her strengths and hobbies and asked the age-old question: “What kind of work do you see yourself doing?” She knew that she enjoyed and excelled in math and science, that she was curious about WIE Catherine Wagner FFBoatseverything, and that she absolutely loved the water. “Up until that point, I really didn’t know much about engineering or what that job would really entail. I started researching it and learning about all of the different branches and exciting things you can do as an engineer. Along my research, I discovered Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering and I just knew that was exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to build boats.” 

University of Michigan Sailing Team: Her love of the water and desire to build boats led her to the University of Michigan (“GO BLUE!”) where she quickly got involved with the student-run sailing team. “When I started off, I was just a member of the team. We practiced twice per week and drove to compete all around the Midwest and the East Coast on the weekends. It was a huge time commitment but I loved it. Soon, I wanted to be involved beyond just sailing, so I joined the board. I gradually gained more and more responsibilities in the logistics of the team, and eventually I became the team captain. It was a challenge learning to balance school and sailing, but in the end it made me a better and happier person.”

Sailing Instructor: Catherine is a U.S. Sailing Association Level One instructor and during her college summers she spent her time teaching younger kids how to sail. “That was a really fun experience. It was my first exposure to being a teacher and how much fun that can be. Especially now, when teaching is one of the aspects of my job, I can draw from those experiences. For example, I’m training adults now instead of children, but I still lighten the mood of a frustrated or overwhelmed student by telling a silly joke. It is amazing how laughter can change your attitude about a situation.”

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Pirate jokes: “I love corny jokes. I have a large library of classic pirate jokes that I draw from – that probably comes back to my sailing instructor experience. My favorite one is probably ‘What’s a pirate’s favorite letter?’. Most pirate jokes have ‘rrrrrrr…’ in the punchline so most people think they’ve got me, but then I say, ‘iiiiiiii…’! I love the twist; it always makes me laugh!”

SeaPerch: This year was Catherine’s first year volunteering with the SeaPerch Program. The SeaPerch Program provides students with the opportunity to learn about robotics, engineering, science, and mathematics (STEM) while building an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) as part of a science and engineering technology curriculum. Building a SeaPerch ROV teaches basic skills in ship and submarine design and encourages students to explore naval architecture and marine and ocean engineering principles. “It was kind of a perfect fit for me with my background. I was actually paired with two groups of girls so that was even better – the female engineer working with and inspiring the next generation. I had a lot of fun working with them! It was just so exciting to see them get pumped up about using the drill, soldering, and learning why we had to water-proof everything. It was really fun to see that kind of excitement in those girls.”

Senior SOLIDWORKS Support Engineer: “I first used a CAD program while working on my senior design project in college.” While interviewing with and researching companies after graduation, Catherine began asking them what CAD programs they used for designing. She got several responses about SOLIDWORKS, “which I wasn’t aware of yet, so I went ahead and signed up for a SOLIDWORKS Essentials class in my area and added that to my resume. When I started my first job and I started using SOLIDWORKS full time, I kind of fell in love with it and really enjoyed that aspect of my job. So later in my career when I was relocating to upstate New York and re-marketing myself for a job outside of the sailing industry, I decided that I wanted to focus on making SOLIDWORKS a key component of my job. I actually found my current job by making a connection at the local SOLIDWORKS User Group.” Catherine currently works for CADimensions, Inc. where she uses SOLIDWORKS full time consulting with customers on design challenges, teaching a variety of training classes, and creating and writing content for the company’s blog.

A different kind of technical content: “I think my blog posts are very reflective of my personality. I like to keep them fun, lighthearted, maybe a little bit silly – all while providing quality content.” Catherine gets most of her blog post ideas from questions her students ask during training, or from challenging design problems she faces with customers. Once she has an idea, she brainstorms a model or a method of delivery that she can get excited about. “If you’re excited about something, I really feel that comes through in the post and SOLIDWORKS Women in Engineering CWFF5hopefully that feeling will be shared by the person reading it.  When someone reads one of my blog posts, I know they’re taking time out of their day and it’s important to me that my content is worth that time. I also try to make them fun so that maybe someone who wouldn’t necessarily be interested in the topic will still read the blog and learn something new. I want your experience to be enjoyable and we can learn along the way.” Check out her unique methods with her post explaining sheet metal bend parameters: Goldilocks and the Bend Parameters.

Women in Engineering

Working in a male dominated industry: “My personal experience has always been one of equality and support. I think part of that is because I consider myself an equal. I hold myself to the same standards and expectations that I hold my co-workers to. When I meet a challenge, I don’t even stop to consider whether it’s because of my gender. I just take the challenge, I tackle it, and I move on. I let my actions speak for themselves.”

Advice for the next generation: “There’s a huge push right now to tell people that engineering is out there and I highly encourage that. I was in high school before I even really thought to investigate what engineering was. My interests carried me there, but I was close to never discovering a career that I love. I definitely think it’s great to let younger people know earlier that opportunity is out there for them and I encourage anyone to pursue whatever their dream is. If you like math and want to build something, go build something. You shouldn’t let anything stop you. That’s my biggest piece of advice for anyone who’s out there, girl or boy, be yourself and be passionate about whatever it is you want to do and you’ll be successful.”

Favorite fictional heroine: “Kate Bass, from the sailing movie Wind. The movie is based around the America’s Cup which is a famous sailing competition. She’s a young, talented female sailor and she ends up designing this amazing sail which she nicknames the ‘whomper’ and it ends up helping them to win the race in the movie. When I was considering becoming an engineer, I was thinking about her and thought, ‘wow, she’s kind of like me. I like sailing. I like math. I can design things.’ I could just see myself in her shoes and I got really excited.”


Have someone in mind? You can nominate the next recipient for the SOLIDWORKS Women in Engineering Program, honoring the outstanding achievements that women are accomplishing day to day in the engineering community. Find out more information or get started today!

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