The most passionate SOLIDWORKS users are the user group leaders. These individuals are a very tight community of SOLIDWORKS users. And, even though I have been working for DS SolidWorks for almost 10 years now, I didn’t realize just how strong this network really was…until I spoke with Betty Baker. Betty is one of the most passionate people I have met, with a welcoming personality, who is a great benefit to those in her user group community. She has been heavily involved as a SWUGN group leader and extremely passionate about teaching STEM to younger students who are interested in design and engineering.
I recorded my interview with Betty in this podcast, which anyone in the design/engineering community could benefit from hearing. She has a strong belief in giving back and helping others, and has a great message for breaking down barriers and overcoming hurdles in your career.
I don’t want to give up too much in this post, as I would like for you to hear Betty’s message directly from her.
Listen to the Podcast: “Just Say Yes to STEM” here…
For more info on Betty, check out this blog post on Betty from 2016…
To learn more about joining a SWUGN group, go here…
More episodes are on the way. Subscribe to Born to Design now and never miss another minute!
Betty Baker 0:00
Teaching was so scary for me. And I said yes. And it was one of the best opportunities. And the same with becoming a female engineer. But if it’s something that you enjoy, and you’re passionate about, don’t say no, because it’s a male dominated field. You can do this. You’re smart. There’s nothing holding you back. So say yes.
Hi there. This is the Solidworks Born to Design Podcast, a podcast of inspiring stories about those who create, build invent an engineer new ideas into actual new products. By the way, they all use Solidworks. I’m your host Cliff meddling in this is episode number to call. Just say yes to stem. I will be talking with Betty Baker, at Solidworks world was a very inspirational story about her journey from working on the assembly line to becoming the first female mechanical engineer at our company. She is a Solidworks user group leader, a champion for women in STEM, but I’ll let her tell her story. Let’s jump right in.
Betty Baker 1:00
I’m Betty Baker domestic case goods product engineer at Ashley furniture in Arcadia, Wisconsin. And
you are the only female engineer I
Betty Baker 1:11
am. I am the only female engineer it’s a very male dominated field. Especially back in the day when I went back to school. It’s a struggle is only female in my graduating class. Really. Yeah, it was back in the 90s because I didn’t go to school right away. When I graduated high school, I waited and went back after a while.
after a while. Yeah,
Betty Baker 1:27
but even just walking around world yesterday said in CAD managers boot camp. And I like turned around and I told the guy next to me, it’s like, it’s like under five women in here. You know, it’s like, Where’s everybody? You know, even at world it’s still very male dominated.
So tell us how you get you know, you mentioned going back to school, how do you how did you find out that this is what you want to do that you want to be in the engineering focused or design focus field. And
Betty Baker 1:56
I’ve always liked art never been real good at it. Or real artsy, if you want to say, so I knew it wasn’t gonna be a designer. But I graduated high school as one of these people with a diploma in my hand. That was it. I had absolutely no future. No college, no job. I had a diploma. That’s all I had. So I lived eight miles away in a town in Independence, Wisconsin, from Ashley furniture, that was the big manufacturer in the area. So I decided I’m gonna go to Ashley furniture for one year and make some money, try to figure out my life. So almost 34 years later, I’m still at Ashley furniture. But after I worked there a couple years I actually worked on a manufacturing floor running the machine and I liked it there. I like the atmosphere. I like the company. So I decided I want to go back to school. Not we need people out on the floor and manufacturing. But I decided I wanted more. And at that time, Ashley furniture just started tuition reimbursement program. So I looked into that and I work day shift and started taking night classes know what
Did you, What did you start? What was your degree? Or were you just taking classes in general or what?
Betty Baker 3:11
No, but I have a mechanical design degree.
So, you know, as you so you started in Mechanical Design at night. So, so what made you decide and mechanical side you thought it was good for your career, or you thought I think I could do?
Betty Baker 3:21
Just because it was the CAD in the drafting type. So that’s kind of just by led me that direction. So I started there, and I thought, we’ll see where it goes. And then I took night classes until I ran out of night classes back then they didn’t offer a lot at night, like they do nowadays. Right. And then I needed to work 30 hours to maintain full time position to get the tuition reimbursement. So then when I ran out of night classes, I switched and went to school full time during the day and worked full time night. Wow. Plus drove two hours a day back and forth to school.
Betty Baker 3:56
So it was a rough couple years. Yeah.
Two years to you. Wow,
Yeah, it was a rough couple years. But it was worth it!
Oh, yeah. And so after you got your degree in mechanical, right,
Betty Baker 4:08
even though I’m working in a furniture factory, My degree is actually mechanical.
Okay. And then you went back and they immediately switched you to a?
To an engineering job. Excellent. That’s great. So now you had your engineering degree, you’re doing engineering at Ashley. So how did you get involved in the STEM with helping, you know, students?
Betty Baker 4:30
I guess for a long time, I really didn’t. I tried to promote stem whenever I could in the local schools, or when my kids were in school as much as I could. But it’s just been the last few years now. And actually, I’m certified in solid works. And a couple years ago, our local technical school called me and said, we’re in a bind, we need a solid teacher.
And I said no. And they call me 2-3-4 more times. And I said, No. And then they’re like, we need somebody because the students aren’t going to graduate.
We don’t have an instructor and it was during the day, it’s like, I work during the day. So I can’t, you know, but actually went to my boss and I said, here’s the deal.
They asked me to teach, I’m not a teacher. But I want to do this and, you know, I want to help them. We have students. In Tulum, it was a tool and die program, they need a solid works class, what can I do? So I ended up taking vacation from my job to go there and teach, teach Solidworks.
So is it like two hours you were there teaching them come back and work the rest of the day?
Betty Baker 5:43
I actually took a half a day vacation and went the afternoons and taught so it’s supposed to be for one year that’s all I was gonna be this eight week course, 16 week course I guess it was, and to help them out. So it was two weeks before the class started. I said yes. And they’re like, okay, we need your curriculum.
And I’m like, okay, so I actually googled how to read a curriculum and he wrote a curriculum and I taught Solidworks. So then the next year because they were actually going to switch it to a spring class where they had an instructor not a summer class. So then the next year they called me and said “Same time again?” And I said, No, this was a one time deal. We’re not doing this again. But I did the second year to help them out again.
So that’s kind of what I think got me more into the stem is I loved it as much as I said, I’m not a teacher and there’s no way it could be a teacher, I loved it.
seeing somebody had that aha moment your class Yeah absolutely.
Betty Baker 6:44
yeah. So yeah, it was small classes you know, but I it was the best experience for me
that’s great. So you’re not teaching anymore but you you helped get somebody else on board to teach?
Betty Baker 6:54
Right so then they had found somebody they moved it actually to the spring semester in their program and they had an instructor
Betty Baker 7:02
so I just helped out for two summers
And then you did some user group stuff for your involved with then.
Betty Baker 7:07
yep I am user group leader of lacrosse Eau Claire Wynonna area which is lacrosse player in Wisconsin. But I’m 30 minutes from the Minnesota border. So we actually pull people in also from Minnesota. So I’ve been a user group leader since like, 2002, 2004.
Betty Baker 7:27
for that one.
Now, with the students and the teaching. Are you involved with that as much anymore?
Betty Baker 7:33
No, not at the technical school like I was. But through Ashley furniture where I work. We do a lot of STEM camps in the summer. We sponsor them at our local high school. So I helped with that. Last summer, we do the cardboard robot so the kids could actually cut that out, build them make their own little robot. That’s where Yeah, and we’ve also done like a little girls can do it. They add Ashley furniture. It wasn’t even a day. It was just a few hours. But even though I work for furniture company, we made bracelets with the girls. So what we did is we actually involved a female designer, she designed their little bracelet. We engineered it, we actually cut all the parts out, you know, we had a little wooden charm that we could cut out there. Then we set up an assembly line for them. So they learned about design engineering assembly,
that’s a great idea. I love that.
Betty Baker 8:27
And we had a female packaging engineer there. So they even had to help with the packaging. So just in a couple hours, we went through design all the way to packaging through assembly. We had to do a quality check to make sure they’re doing it. Right.
That’s, that’s a great idea. You should package up. I love that idea.
Betty Baker 8:43
Yeah, it was fun. It was great. We just had a, you know, a few little Middle School. They were in your mouth. I think they were fifth sixth graders.
Oh really I was about to ask what it Yeah,
Betty Baker 8:50
it was summer. So then everybody got their little bracelets and got to take them home. And
But what a great way to teach them, you know, design to manufacturing, absolutely, not just the making of the jewelry, yeah.
Betty Baker 9:00
And yeah, to get them to think about everything that they touch is designed and engineered. And even the packaging on every single item that they buy. Someone has to come up with that packaging, you know, it can be a packaging engineer and figure out how it needs to get from point A to point B without breaking.
So what is your overall message for children in STEM or girls in STEM?
Betty Baker 9:25
I guess I’d have to say it’s to say yes, because you need to get out of your comfort zone, which is what I’m doing right now. And you need to get out there and try new things. You know, teaching was so scary for me. And I said yes. And it was one of the best opportunities and the same with becoming a female engineer. That was frightening back in the early 90s when I was going back to school, but I did it and it was worthwhile. And just even with the travel at work for many years, I didn’t travel I was raising the kids. You know, I did the mom thing now that my kids are older, you know, every year they’d say, do you want to go overseas? China, Vietnam? And it’s like, No, no, not at all. But now that my kids are grown like, Yeah, why not? And again, that turned out to be one of my best experiences, you know, doing things like that. So you do need to say yes, and I’ve said yes to a lot of things that I’ve been very uncomfortable with, but it’s also turned out really well for me.
So, you know, you’ve obviously said yes to a lot of these things. But there’s, there’s, there’s gotta be some inspiration by that it like, if you want to help these girls that were in your situation out of high school didn’t know what to do? Is that it? What, what’s what inspires you to?
Betty Baker 10:41
Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. It’s I didn’t have any mentors. There were no other females. When I started out, you know, I kind of had to do this alone. You know, I had a struggle, it’s a struggle every day back in the 90s, being a female engineer, you know, it took me years to gain respect that field, you know, finally, today, I feel respected in this field. But it took me a very long time to get there. And so anything I can do to help educate the kids or the boys and girls to get the message out there about the STEM related fields, you know, what’s out there? When we talked to the students in North Carolina, we had a photographer with us from Ashley furniture, and we kept teasing her, you need to be up here talking about your career. And she’s like, No, I’m in the back doing photography. And, you know, after it was over, a student went up to her and asked her about her photography field. So it’s like, the kids are curious, they just need to know,
You know, I totally agree with that. I’ve said this before. I think manufacturing is like behind a wall. And these plants and people don’t realize what goes on. They just think iPhone comes from out of the air grows on trees, there’s a lot of work and manufacturing and in so many different types of jobs, right, great jobs. Yeah.
Betty Baker 11:59
And in our small town, Ashley furniture is in a town of 3000 people. And it’s been there for 40 years. And everyone in the community still has that stigma that if you work at Ashley furniture, you’re either in the office, which is just a blanket office statement. Or you’re in the factory, which again, is a blanket statement. But actually, we have every career you can possibly think of, from, you know, your administration, and you’ve got accounting and scheduling, you know, engineering, design, supervision. I mean, we have everything there. But just in our own community, people don’t even know what’s behind those walls exactly, is that one, and that’s another thing. And our company is changing the world changing, getting into robotics. And so again, our founder, but through his education foundation, he donated a lot of money. And we just started a first robotics program in our area. So that’s another thing that I’ve been helping with trying to mentor with the solid works at the first robot next level.
I love first, robotics is great.
Betty Baker 13:02
It is scary. And we first started it this fall. So we’re so far behind, I think, but it’s been good. It’s amazing. Like I said, the kids want to learn, they just need the help.
And robotics is is interesting. So cooler part of manufacturing for kids, you know, robots are cool, right?
Betty Baker 13:22
Yeah, he just started also have X program at the middle school. Oh, no. Yeah, that’s, that’s really cool. They had a competition a few weeks ago. And, you know, our, our one little school there who’s just a little spa, private Catholic school, but both of their teams made an anti state. So those middle school students never had a robot at their school or anything. And in six weeks, they got their robot. They built it. They programmed it, they’re going on to state and they made it onto the US Open.
Betty Baker 13:51
Yeah, so it’s like, we’ve got some smart kids out there. They just need the help.
They just need to know, you know, people like you who is show them that you know, what kind of jobs and what kind of path and what kind of interesting things are out there, right?
Betty Baker 14:04
And say Yes, exactly. That’s great. What What is your advice for girls who think they might be interested in the STEM classes or engineering?
Betty Baker 14:17
And again, my say yes, if it’s something you’re interested in and passionate about, give it a try. I mean, it’s a struggle out there and you need to work harder. In my opinion, I think I’ve worked very hard or harder than a lot of men in my field to gain that respect. But if it’s something that you enjoy, and you’re passionate about, don’t say no, because it’s a male dominated field. You can do this you’re smart. There’s nothing holding you back. So say yes.
Excellent. Betty. That was that was a pleasure. So tip of the day Just say yes.
Look what happened.
Betty Baker 14:53
I know in your uncomfortable, but you make it through it.
Well, you did great today.
Betty Baker 14:57
Thank you very much. It was great. Thank you for listening today. And remember to always say yes, as Betty would say. Just a quick note that this podcast is sponsored by the Solidworks user group community. If you have not already please find a local SWUGN and meeting in your area. It’s free to join and there’s always food. It’s a great way to meet other Solidworks users go to slugging.org. That’s swugn.org. In order to find a user group in your area, no matter where you are in the world again, that’s swugn.org we’ll be back again soon with more born to design podcast stories which you can find at Solidworks.com/podcast or wherever podcasts are readily available. Until then, keep on designing.
It was great.
Thank you for listening today. And remember to always say yes, as Betty would say. Just a quick note that this podcast is sponsored by the Solidworks user group community. If you have not already please find a local SWUGN and meeting in your area. It’s free to join and there’s always food. It’s a great way to meet other Solidworks users go to swugn.org. That’s swugn.org. In order to find a user group in your area, no matter where you are in the world again, that’s swugn.org we’ll be back again soon with more born to design podcast stories which you can find at Solidworks.com/podcast or wherever podcasts are readily available. Until then, keep on designing.