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Andrea Berryman (left) and Melissa Nogaj.

Two Women Engineers Compare Their Paths

June 22, 2024
For International Women in Engineering Day, one industry veteran and one relative newcomer discuss their career journeys at Owens Corning.

By AMANDA WINCKOWSKI, Channel Marketing Manager, Owens Corning

Celebrating the outstanding achievements of women engineers throughout the world, International Women in Engineering Day (#INWED24) on June 23, focuses attention on engineering career opportunities available to females. Insights from two engineers at Owens Corning, one an industry veteran and the other still relatively new to the field, offer interesting perspectives on how their careers continue to grow.

Andrea Berryman earned a chemical engineering degree from Purdue University in 1990. Prior to her current role as strategic marketing leader at Owens Corning, she gained more than 30 years’ experience in a range of technical positions in the material science and industrial sectors.

Melissa Nogaj joined Owens Corning in 2021 after earning a mechanical engineering degree from The Ohio State University. Today, she is a technical services engineer and energy specialist for Owens Corning’s FOAMGLAS® business.

Here are excerpts from our recent conversation...

How would you describe your current role?

Nogaj: Working with the sales team and customers, I help support customers’ product selection and sizing decisions to help achieve their energy objectives. We use a proprietary Global Energy Analysis Reporting Software (GEARS) to conduct energy analysis calculations that help clients make decisions related to energy use based on operating temperatures, pipe size, climate and other variables.

Berryman: I head up a fantastic team of product and marketing managers that create and maintain new insulation products for industrial and commercial building spaces.

What inspired you to pursue a career in engineering?

Nogaj: My high school physics and calculus teacher was very influential. He knew that while I loved those subjects, I also had a passion for art. He helped me see how engineering was a good mixture of physics, math and having a creative mind. I grew up enjoying the outdoors and was accepted into Ohio State’s Environment and Natural Resources Scholar Program. That program ignited my passion for work in the energy and sustainability field.

Berryman: Like any 80's kid, if you were good at math and science, you were pointed toward careers in engineering. I knew that I liked being hands-on and didn’t want to be stuck behind a desk all the time. Engineering keeps you moving. Engineers are also problem-solvers, able to look at a product or a system, and figure out how it operates best. As a marketer, I can apply that skill now to products or business systems.

Andrea, you’ve been an engineer for three decades. What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in your career?

Berryman: Speed and computing power! When I was a new engineer, Windows was just getting started and some systems were still using DOS. We’d have to wait 24 hours for a computer program to return a response on an equation. Today, we can get annoyed if we have to wait more than a few seconds for a computation. And looking at prototyping, now we can print 3D prototypes without sketches, send the quotes out to vendors and get the structure built.

Melissa, how is your work helping address today’s energy challenges and those we expect in the future?

Nogaj: Better insulation systems help reduce energy usage by making systems more efficient. The calculations I perform provide data that helps customers reduce energy. My job also allows me to educate customers about steps they can take to reduce future energy usage. In college, only a small section of one class talked specifically about insulation. My involvement in affinity groups at Owens Corning has helped me to share knowledge about insulation with college students.

Have mentors influenced your career?

Berryman: No, but I am trying to informally act as a mentor for others. As an industry, we can hire more women. And we need to get more women in management who can hire more women.

Nogaj: Besides my high school physics and calculus teacher, I’ve learned on the job from three female role models. These women have helped me build confidence in myself and the work I produce by acting as a sounding board when I have questions or need input. I just finished serving as a mentor for a high-school senior. I got to show her parts of Owens Corning’s fire-testing, acoustics, insulation, roofing and composites labs and I enjoyed helping her see how her passion for chemistry could be utilized as a chemical engineer.

What is a project in your career that was especially exciting or rewarding?

Berryman: New product launches are always energizing. I’ve worked in a variety of industries and led teams that launched aircraft, commercial trucks, and passenger tires. We have some new products in the pipeline, but I can’t speak about them at this time.

Nogaj: I am constantly learning new things. In engineering, there’s no limit to how much you can learn. It’s important to be able to efficiently transport and use energy. This aspect of improving energy efficiency is why the insulation industry is so great – that’s the purpose of our products. I enjoy helping customers understand how insulation supports their systems and also lets them save money and conserve resources.

Andrea, how have you seen the roles of women in engineering evolve over the past three decades?

Berryman: The sheer number of women in the industry has soared. When I attended my first industry seminar at age 21, I was the only female in a lecture hall accommodating 400 people. I also worked at a factory where they had to convert a men’s bathroom to female because there were no other women in the plant. Today, the technical center staff is sizeable and more women are joining the team.

Melissa, as a relative newcomer, what, if any, misconceptions do you encounter about women in engineering careers?

Nogaj: There is sometimes a perception that women are not as technically minded as men, or more timid. For example, in college I would be in a group with four or five men, and it was assumed that I’d be the note taker.

What words of advice would you give to a Class of 2024 female engineer just beginning her career?

Berryman: Stay curious. There are many different ways to have an amazing career. Some female engineers stay in the same industry or role and can become fantastic specialists as they build on foundational understanding of a product. Other engineers prefer to be generalists and move from role to role as they develop a holistic understanding of systems. Then there are those of us who enjoy moving from function to function and learning not only the technical side, but the business side as well. It’s quite a ride, no matter the path you choose. Just keep learning.

Nogaj: Don’t be discouraged. It’s important to stay confident and know your value. If you’ve made it this far, you’ve proven your worth. And while it’s difficult to accept it in college, making a mistake can be a way of learning more. Owens Corning has a Women’s Inclusion Network with a purpose of outreach to middle-school and high-school students. We introduce girls to careers in STEM and I love spending a day at work showing middle-school girls a science project and answering their questions.


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