women who reign

Women Who Reign: Hannah Tam

Being that our site just over a month old we’re always looking for feedback, and Hannah reached out to me with a very thoughtful note. She talked about her own experience as one of the few women in a male dominated workforce. Having worked on tool design, she asked that we not forget about the women pursuing the other side of engineering outside of Computer Science. Hannah is blazing a trail and we’re thrilled she is sharing her story with us!
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Tell us a little about yourself along with a fun fact.
I’m proud to say I’m a 3rd-year ‘Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech and Helluva Engineer’, studying Mechanical Engineering. Currently, I’m working at BMW in Greenville, South Carolina and am on my second co-op rotation as a Tool Design Engineer. I was born and raised in San Francisco. Although I’m a San Francisco native, I have grown up with a various blend of bold and rich cultures, foreign languages, and airplane rides far and wide. I have a predilection for traveling and exploring food – all the way from the underground cities of Cappadocia in Turkey to the top of Europe at Jungfraujoch in Switzerland! When I’m not working, I’m oil painting, kickboxing, brushing up on French, or patiently waiting in line with friends at that new eatery around the corner (typical foodie if you can’t tell).

Fun fact? I own a patent for a fashion accessory mechanism!

What # would define your life journey?
#BringIt would define my life journey. I’m ready for challenges and obstacles that come my way. I’ve come to the realization that my journey can be peppered with heartache, anxiety, stress, and pain but with a can-do ff0625b3bdc7b1384f4a1e816081cc0dabc6ee9fb7e215f89b753fe9f8415bd6 (1)(1)attitude to tackle challenges, it’s possible to rise above my fears and struggles. There have been many, many times where I have felt like I have been placed first in line, or even hand-picked by God himself for seemingly insurmountable challenges but I have always given my all no matter how hard or painful it was. Growing up as a competitive swimmer, it gave me the determination to face situations hard and cold. I know that if I let go of my fear and face situations with an open mind, I’ll be able to see opportunities opening up more easily. I therefore gladly invite life to #bringit and its long list of lessons along the way! I’ll be ready!

Favorite website / app:
I’ve recently started using the app Human which tracks how many minutes of the day I’m moving. Working at BMW for at least 40 hours a week, I’m usually at my desk drawing up tool design concepts on CATIA (the CAD software we use at BMW) unless I need to run down to our machine shop to get something built. Because of the nature of my job, it’s easy to be sedentary and lose track of my activity; Human lets me know how many minutes I’ve spent walking/running, and if I’ve reached my goal of an hour of movement each day. I like this app more than the traditional pedometer as it gives me a quantitative perspective of how much time I’ve dedicated to working and being stationary – this reminds me that it’s okay to get up once in awhile and take a breather. I’m also a longtime fan of the Google Chrome extension Momentum because of it’s breathtaking backgrounds, handy to-do list, focus fill-in-the-blank, and daily inspirational quotes! I just love how it greets me first thing when I open my browser.

Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted:
Malala Yousafzai deeply inspires me. Her struggle and commitment to the power of education and women’s rights transcends beyond just “remarkable” and “endearing.” Malala’s refusal to be silenced by the Taliban for the causes she champions proves that a single person truly does have the power to captivate and change the world. And on top of that she’s only a teen – what courage! Her persistence and pure bravery inspires me to stand up for what I think is right even in the midst of intimidating opposition. Malala has famously stated, “We realize the importance of our voice when we are silenced.” Malala’s quote and actions have imparted to me the willingness to act on the voice I have and opportunities that are available to me in light of the other voices of girls around the world that have no way of being heard.

Song that makes you want to dance:
My classic choice is Love Never Felt So Good by Michael Jackson, especially the Justin Timberlake remix – absolutely nothing can stop me from groovin’ when this song comes on.

Technical challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
Creating the prototype for my invention did not come easy. It was technically challenging as I had to basically start from the ground up and use, to the best of my ability, what I learned in my high school fabrication classes to make an aesthetically pleasing and fully functioning mechanism. I had to navigate a process that was new to me on my own and had to go 473707_10151001839929891_485620130_o(1)through several rounds of changes and improvements before finalizing the right material and optimal shape. I conducted lots of research on the most efficient components to use and how each would work best alongside each other. Thinking about how the human would interact with my product was also a challenge – it was important to me to keep my product sleek and simple, so these design constraints were high priorities when forming the ideas for my design. Moreover, I learned that sometimes in the process of simplifying my prototype I actually ended up over complicating it. Not being afraid to ask for help also eased my challenge – I actively sought out help from experts in the field at times when I needed guidance. Bravely, I also challenged some advice to prove my point. It wasn’t easy, but it was quite fulfilling when I was granted the patent!

Ideal job:
My ideal job is one of a Product Design Engineer in a forward-moving, innovation-driven company that is not afraid to revolutionize and pioneer the way people live with its unprecedented ideas. In learning more about myself and my passions, I am leaning more to a job that utilizes the creative decision and design side of Mechanical Engineering. The ideal job for me would exist in a team-based environment of highly skilled people that are collaborative and have the desire to challenge and motivate each other to bring each member’s best and craziest ideas to the table. I’d love to have a job that can push what technology will allow.

What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
Keep an open mind and stay curious. Try new ways of doing things. Lots of possibilities and opportunities open up when you take risks and let go of fear. At BMW, being thrown into a department of 18 people – all being men – I admit was rather intimidating at first. However, I like to keep asking myself, “What next?” so I can continue to challenge myself, conquer new projects, and grow in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise expected. After working with my co-workers for one rotation, I have let all hesitation go about whether I’m being taken seriously in such a male-dominated workplace. I have grown more confident as a female engineer and believe I have established myself as a contributor to my group’s progress despite society’s stereotypes set up against me. With this, I’d like to advise Reigners to keep exploring and taking risks, because you never know what wonderful opportunities await.
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