With each new medical device I know I am changing someone’s life for the better and that is very rewarding.
Marie Ottum earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Oregon State University. She also holds a M.S. in Engineering and Technology Management from Portland State University. Marie began her career with another employer in the technology space, and held several roles eventually leading to a Sr. Mechanical Systems Engineer. Marie joined TE Connectivity's medical business in 2013 and now focuses on advanced development efforts in thermal management of medical device electronics, ergonomic ultrasound cable construction and electrical termination and fiber optic cabling and connectors.
How have you benefited from a mentor’s guidance and how does this influence your work today?
As I look back over my schooling and career, there are a few key people who stand out for the positive impact they had on me. People who in hindsight I see as mentors, but who at the time I simply considered trusted, reliable guides and friends. The first was my 6th grade algebra teacher, Mr. Warloe. He quickly recognized that he had a small pocket of extremely strong students in his class, myself included, and took us under his wing. In no time he had us solving proofs and complex algebraic problems. One day, Mr. Warloe pulled me aside and invited me to join the math team. In his kind, encouraging way he pushed me to test for a place on the competition team, which I earned, the only girl. I spent afternoons with the team practicing, building friendships and self-confidence. Long after my days in Mr. Warloe’s class, math was always the subject I knew I was good at without a doubt, making it natural for me to select a major in college that applied mathematics: Mechanical Engineering.
As I entered the engineering work force, the support and confidence I had built in school began to falter. As one of the few women in engineering I felt distinctly separate from nearly all of my colleagues. My quiet, collaborative approaches did not fall in line with the more competitive personalities around me. This often made me doubt the abilities that through school I had come to take as fact. Fortunately, I developed relationships with people who recognized my skill immediately and wanted to see me succeed. In times of doubt, these mentors provided me with encouragement and guidance. The most lasting of these was Brian, a mentor from an internship at Tektronix. He is still a friend to this day. Brian recommended me for my first job out of college and later recruited me to report for him. His confidence in me over many years paired with career guidance helped me grow as an engineer. Years later, at Xerox, I had another colleague-turned-manager, Bruce, who mentored me in different ways. Rather than providing me the moral support and guidance I had needed as a young engineer, he pushed me to look at my career more strategically. He coached me to break the routine of doing what came easily and develop new skills to advance my career. He nominated me for lean six sigma blackbelt training as well as leadership programs and coached me through completion of both programs.
Mr. Warloe, my father, Brian, Bruce and others throughout the years helped me build my skills, have influenced my career path and most importantly have made me see in myself the potential that they saw. I have never had trouble seeing the potential in others, only in myself. And I know many technical women who are very much like me in that regard. I encourage, build and provide guidance to engineers around me struggling with self-confidence and direction. From my experience, this is the best way to support young engineers, particularly women. Mentorship doesn’t have to be a formal, regimented action. Simply pay attention and offer your trust and support and you can make a difference. Reach out to young women. Help them to see and advertise the talents they have. Provide guidance and encouragement to develop those talents and remove the doubt that women engineers, myself included, often harbor. Rather than pushing me, my mentors helped me learn how to push and believe in myself and I hope to do the same for others.
Rather than pushing me, my mentors helped me learn how to push and believe in myself and I hope to do the same for others.
What is the best part of your job today?
Today I work closely with customers from all over the globe on a wide variety of medical device applications. The exposure to so many interesting people and challenges is very enjoyable.
I came to work for TE Medical because I wanted to apply my engineering skill to products that improve people’s lives. With each medical device I bring to market I know I am changing someone’s life for the better and that is very rewarding.