Women in STEM

Career Spotlight

Clare Frigo  |   project manager

Johnson Controls International plc, Power Solutions, Milwaukee

Frigo

Degree: Bachelor’s in chemical engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Clare’s path with Johnson Controls so far:

Customer engineer (August 2013 to November 2014)

Product engineer (November 2014 to June 2016)

Project manager (June 2016 to present)

“I work on a number of battery-level design projects. This usually entails analyzing the requirements, capabilities and performance of new and existing products. I have the opportunity to work with many functional groups outside of engineering to make sure we are aligned with the business and customer needs.

“I get excited by the opportunity to work on projects and products that will eventually have an impact on people’s daily life. Most people don’t realize the impact a car battery has until it doesn’t work anymore. It may not be the most glamorous business, but it is a pretty complex product that has interesting chemical properties affected by a multi-step manufacturing process.

“I’m inspired and motivated by the thought that my generation is going to be leading companies like Johnson Controls very soon. We’ll get to decide the direction of the company at some point, so my goal is to learn as much as I can now to make more informed decisions in the future.”

Clare’s diary

7 a.m.  I get to work every day at 7 a.m. Next, I take a look at my calendar and create a specific list of what I want to accomplish today.

8 a.m.  I head to a team meeting for a project that is improving the life of our battery. I walk out of the meeting with a few assignments that I’ll work on throughout the week.

8:30 a.m.  I work at my desk on a presentation for the vice president of engineering and product development, MaryAnn Wright.

10 a.m.  I attend the Women Resource Network Business Impact Committee meeting. This is an initiative that revolves around the importance of attracting, developing and retaining women at Johnson Controls.

11:30 a.m.  I get lunch with a group of people that I started with as interns. Once or twice a week, we get together to catch up.

1 p.m.  I start data analysis at my desk for a strategy deployment project I’m leading. I was selected to work on this project two weeks ago so I’m currently defining the scope of the project.

2 p.m.  I meet with the working team for an ongoing project that is measuring our product’s performance to make sure that we continue to meet our customers’ expectations.

3:30 p.m.  I get back to my desk and respond to emails. I start to work on action items that I’ve been assigned throughout the day.

5 p.m.  I head to the on-site Johnson Controls gym to work out before going home for the night.

Sam Billetdeaux  |   electrical engineer II

Milwaukee Tool, Brookfield

Billetdeaux

“I graduated from Mukwonago High School in 2011. In 2015, I received my bachelor’s in electrical engineering from Milwaukee School of Engineering. I selected my major based on my experiences on my high school FIRST Robotics Competition team.

“Over my four years in college, I held three internships at two different companies to learn more about different opportunities available to EEs. I also served in multiple leadership roles in MSOE’s Society of Women Engineers section, building up my skills and making many connections along the way.

“During my senior year, I was a member of one of the Milwaukee Tool-sponsored senior design teams, which allowed me to learn more about the company and was ultimately the deciding factor when choosing to accept a position on the Electrical Engineering Advanced Development team in the spring of 2015.

“On the EE Advanced Development team, I work cross-disciplinarily with stakeholders in power tool projects, including the motor engineers, mechanical engineers, project leaders and marketing. I love that half of my work week is usually spent in the lab doing hands-on work such as building prototypes or completing initial feasibility tests on new technology.

“I really enjoy the culture at Milwaukee Tool. Everyone is great to work with, and I feel like I am always working with the best of the best, all trying to create the best power tools in the industry.

“I would recommend to students interested in engineering to take any opportunities they have, whether it is STEM activities, internships or job shadows, to learn firsthand what options are out there as an engineer in any given field.

“All engineering fields continue to change as new technologies come to market. Learning does not stop when you get your degree; there are always new advancements on the horizon that keep everyone on their toes.”

Aly Zimmel  |   applications developer

Lanex LLC, Brookfield

Zimmel

“From a young age, I was interested in computers and I always enjoyed taking things apart and putting them back together: anything that required a lot of logic.

“I finally made the decision to enter Waukesha County Technical College’s IT program for a web and software development degree. I was immediately hooked.

“My biggest influence in school was my Java instructor Jim Lombardo, who has recently retired from teaching at WCTC. The first day in his class, I was the only woman in the room. He looked at all the other students and then at me and said, ‘I’m glad to see there is a lady in here. Sometimes we get so stuck in our ways, and women have a fascinating way of looking at a problem. It gives all of us the chance to look at our work from a different point of view.’”

“My first taste of a real programming job was through WCTC’s IS Project course, which allows students to work with businesses in the community to develop webpages or applications for their companies. We were able to go through the whole process for project design, management, development and deployment in a real-world setting to help us prepare for our future careers.

“Out of all of the places I interviewed, Lanex was my favorite. It’s a small company, friendly environment with open workspace. There is something extremely important to me about being comfortable in the place you work.

“Lanex owner Matt McCoy offered me the chance to work on a relatively new large-scale, long-term project as an integration Java developer. I spent the first year of my career at Lanex constantly learning better ways of doing something to conform to another company’s best practices and to allow myself to be changeable. I work to develop integration for eye care order processing software.

“I’ve developed almost 12 integrations in the two years I’ve been with Lanex and have constantly been kept busy. Originally when I started working on this project, I was just an intern; I had another developer in Lanex who worked above me. When he left the company, I was given project lead and was promoted to applications developer. I am now the sole developer on this project.

“Programming is like a puzzle except there is no picture on the pieces. Our job is to paint that picture on each piece individually based on information given to us and then put it all together. It’s a fascinating combination of logic and creativity combined together.

“Remember, you can do more than you think you can. It’s hard to believe in ourselves sometimes. As young people, we are told so often that we are less than, not good enough, don’t try hard enough, are lazy, don’t try to learn new things. Take ownership of your work. Whether good or bad, it shows you are actively trying to improve yourself.”

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