Women in engineering: Finding their way on an all-female lab team
Updated May 5, 2023
By Blue Print Editorial Team
By Blue Print Editorial Team
In the world of engineering, where the majority of workers are male, Alexandra Gheorghe is something of a double exception. Not only is she a woman with an engineering degree, but she’s also part of an all-female lab team for Fastenal. Gheorghe is pictured above on the left.
This is undoubtedly forward progress for the engineering field, but to find out how this came to be, we need to go back to Gheorghe’s younger days.
“I come from a family of engineers; so, to me, it was a natural path to take,” said Gheorghe. “I then took this inclination and mixed it with my desire to understand how the world works and what I could do to improve it, and I got a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering.”
That may be where her story started, but even armed with a degree in the field, she didn’t consider herself to be an engineer until she was employed. Now, she has the chance to work with another woman at Fastenal’s UK lab. Much of the team’s work involves dimensional and mechanical testing. In short, they are responsible for testing parts for quality and ensuring they meet the tight specifications.
“I became a ‘real’ engineer once I started my role with Fastenal,” said Gheorghe. “Up until then, I was just a person with a title and theoretical knowledge of engineering. I had some practical experience from my university years, but they can never really prepare you for the requirements of a job.”
As part of the team, she works on items that are sent out not only in the UK but across all of Europe as well. And she enjoys that every day offers a chance to learn something new.
“Yes, my favorite part of the job is also the toughest,” said Gheorghe. “Discovering and understanding the real-world applications of all the knowledge I’ve accumulated has been one of the most satisfying parts of my experience.”
Vanessa Phugeni | Laboratory Technician
(Pictured above on the right)
Vanessa Phugeni has two engineers in her family. Both are male. So Vanessa did not expect to work on an all-female team when she became a lab technician.
Together, Vanessa and Alexandra Gheorghe conduct mechanical testing for sites in the UK and all across Europe. Based out of Leeds, the team checks and records various measurements of fasteners produced or sourced by Fastenal. When she first started, much of the work involved a coordinate measuring machine, or CMM. For Vanessa, programming this device was a source of trepidation followed by pride.
“Initially, I found it daunting, understanding all those dimensions and what they mean in terms of creating a successful program,” said Vanessa. “However, as I slowly started to understand the information provided to me, I found an inner satisfaction when running a program and seeing the results.”
Working with tensile and hardness testing machines isn’t where Vanessa saw herself starting in the workforce. How has Fastenal worked out as a landing spot?
“Honestly, better than I thought; as this is my first job out of graduation, I didn’t know what to expect, but the company and its people are amazing,” said Vanessa. “What’s even greater is the support that I receive; it puts a person at ease.”