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Encouraging women in engineering

March 6, 2022
Control Design catches up with B&R Industrial Automation's Kristen Ballistrea to discuss women in engineering

B&R Industrial Automation has the clear goal of driving diversity and inclusion across all dimensions: gender, LGBTQ+, abilities, ethnicity and generations. Together, it is embarking on a journey where each and every one, individually and collectively, welcomes and celebrates individual differences. B&R builds relationships based on trust and mutual respect and employees treat each other as equals. This is the spirit that makes B&R a strong team and keeps the company on the road to success.

Kristen Ballistrea is part of the end-user sales team at B&R Industrial Automation. She’s been at B&R Industrial Automation for a little over a year, but she’s been in the automation industry for over 10 years. Prior to her time at B&R, she spent around nine years at Rockwell Automation in a variety of engineering, product management and sales roles. Ballistrea has a degree in mechanical engineering from The Ohio State University.

Q: What interested you in the automation industry?

Kristen Ballistrea

end-user sales team,
B&R Industrial Automation

A: Growing up, I always liked building things and figuring out how things worked. That pushed me into a mechanical-engineering degree. Through a couple co-ops, I had the opportunity to work on the new product design process, and it exposed me to the manufacturing side of product development. I found that I loved learning how things were made, and I wanted to be a part of the industry that made that happen. This led me to the automation industry directly after college graduation.

Q: When did you know you wanted to make a career in this industry?

A: I really knew I wanted to make a career out of the automation industry after my first role out of college. My first role was a rotational program that gave me a look at different types of jobs in the industry. It allowed me to work in service and support, new product development and even some product management, sales and marketing. Between that and the breadth of industries I was working with, I saw that a career in automation would allow me to continuously grow. There’s always something new to learn, and I knew I would never be bored!.

Q: Describe your biggest challenge and how you overcame it?

A: Looking back through my 10 years in the industry, I think the biggest challenge that has come up is balancing my home and work life. I have two young boys, ages 4 and 1, and I want to make sure that the career decisions I make don’t take too much time away from my family. Switching to the position that I’m in now increased my travel and forced me to put some thought behind how I plan my workdays. I’m overcoming this obstacle through being strategic in my meetings, travel and project planning, as well as including my oldest son in my workdays. I show him where I’m going on the map, look at pictures of the city, and I tell him a little about the manufacturing facility I’m going to see. Then of course, we make the most of our time together on the weekends.

Q: Since you entered the engineering field do you see more women wanting to be in this industry?

A: Yes. I’ve been in the engineering field for about 10 years, and I’ve enjoyed seeing more women coming into the automation industry. I think part of that increase is from the new technology available for manufacturing and automation. There’s just such a need for good engineers now. I think the other part of that increase is from the work of industry organizations for women and employee-led organizations for women. These resources are invaluable and really help to recruit and keep talented women.

Q: In your opinion, what more can be done to promote greater participation of young women in the engineering field today?

A: I think there are many different things that can be done to promote women in the engineering field today. For young girls, getting them involved in things like FIRST Robotics and other STEM-related programs and activities is crucial. For older girls and young women, I think mentorship programs and education/career planning is critical. For me, when I thought of engineering when I was younger, I only saw research and development, but the reality is, there are so many different types of roles out there. Exposure to that is so important and seeing and talking to other women in those types of roles can really make a difference.

Q: What made you choose B&R Industrial Automation as an employer?

A: I chose B&R Industrial Automation for a couple reasons. First, I saw that they had innovative technology that is exciting to talk about with manufacturers. Second, I talked to people who worked there, and I heard about the great culture at B&R. Since taking my position at B&R, I have found that management and peers encourage you to try new things, share your ideas and make those ideas a reality, and really make an impact on the overall business and company. I love working at a place where I feel valued and feel like I can help shape the overall direction of the company, all while having fun with a team of people that I care about.

For more information, visit www.br-automation.com.

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