Engineers Week: Reflection

Grapes on the catalano farm 
So it’s Engineering Week – and I have had an opportunity to reflect on how my family and my teachers guided me to this profession that I love.  You could say I grew up in my father’s garage – literally.  My mom would have the playpen in the back office where she handled the bills.  Perhaps it was because my father had three daughters and really wanted a boy – I was the last hope.  Sorry dad.  But luckily for me my father said, you can do anything – with education you can be anyone.  When I asked my dad who designed cars, he said engineers – so the seed was planted.  My father was always fixing things –always making them better – he could fix anything.  Now, on my own at age 10, without telling my parents,  I started taking apart things to see how they were built and how to make them better, Usually I broke things, usually I got in trouble, rarely I made them better.  Would engineering teach me about design?  Would engineering teach me how to make better products?

Perhaps it started with the  photo above that stays in my mind after all these years, rows and rows of grape vines as far as your eyes can see.  I used to love going to my grandfather’s farm as a young girl – my grandmother would make the best homemade ravioli’s using a sawed-off broom handle – there was no pasta machine, no frozen food, she would cook down cellar on an old stove – next to the wine barrels.  She had a new stove in a beautiful kitchen but she said the old one was designed better – easier to use.  After I kissed my grandmother, I would run to see my grandfather in the barn or out in the fields.   Before a Buffalo winter, the vines were trimmed by hand – it was a painstaking task.  And then one day I saw my first grape harvesting machine.  This machine would shake the grapes from the vine into a container, trim the vines and clear the rows – all in one pass.   I was thrilled to watch the machine work – ok we had black and white tv – all types of machines mesmerized me. 

And then there were my math and physics teachers that put a sense of reality into engineering; if you have a dream and you want it to come true; you have to work really at it.   This revelation came to a hard reality, when I took my first physics test in high school and got a 73.  I thought my new chosen engineering education route was over.  I hid the grade from my classmates only to find out that it was the highest grade in the class.  There was no grade inflation, no curve, no partial credit and no calculator. 

I can’t leave my mom out – she would always say "make the most of everyday " to me before I left for school, through college and even when I call her now – she is 82 and still works, goes out dancing, and enjoys life.  To me, making the most of everyday is to be able to use this wonderful knowledge of engineering to help young people design great products that will help others in ways I cannot imagine.

Perhaps best of all, as an engineer, you want to share your designs, your ideas, with a friend, a family member, a partner. Since college,  I have been fortunate to share being an engineer with another engineer, my husband David.  When you are able to talk about what you love with someone you love and get the support you need, you can’t help enjoying what you do.  Happy Engineers Week! Marie


Marie Planchard

Marie Planchard

Senior Director, Early Engagement, 3DEXPERIENCE Works at Dassault Systemes
Marie Planchard is an education and engineering advocate. As Senior Director of Education & Early Engagement, SOLIDWORKS, she is responsible for global development of content and social outreach for the 3DEXPERIENCE Works products across all levels of learning including educational institutions, Fab Labs, and entrepreneurship.
Marie Planchard