Rocket Woman – Emma Nevelos, Senior Reliability Engineer at Stryker Orthopaedics

1 February 2013 | Leave a comment

Emma NStudies of how men and women behave in the workplace suggest men are more likely to ask for what they want than women. Our Rocket Women posts shine a light on women who have asked for something in their professional life that has had a significant impact on their career. We hope they fuel your resolve to ask for what you need to get on.

Emma Nevelos is currently a Senior Reliability Engineer at Stryker Orthopaedics.  Her job is to assess patient outcomes associated with the medical devices that we have on the market or plan to have on the market.  Her previous posts include Principal Performance Engineer at Rolls-Royce Defence Aerospace and Powertrain Systems Engineer at Cosworth Technology. She’s an Engineering Council Chartered Engineer and member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, holds an M.Sc. in Combustion and Energy and a B.Eng. Mechanical Engineering. Asked if she could give a short insight into her view on life she shared “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning.”

― Albert Einstein, Relativity. The Special and the General Theory

Emma, please tell us about your memorable, game-changing ‘ask’:
Initially it came from being asked by my husband to live in the US as a sleep deprived mother of a two year old and six week old baby! Once we were settled in the US, the “ask” was applying for a part time professional engineering position in one of the world’s leading medical technology companies. Professionally, I had left a part time job in Defence Aerospace engineering that I loved with Rolls-Royce, with no prospect that I may find meaningful work in a foreign country as a “resident alien”.  Personally, it was hugely challenging to have the security and comfort of that wonderful network of family and friends taken away, plus the network of inspiring and talented colleagues with whom I had worked with for a number of years.

The act of applying, and being accepted for the position at Stryker really increased my self esteem.  With the arrangement I have, I can give my best as a mother, wife, friend and employee.

If you hadn’t asked what would/wouldn’t have happened?
If I hadn’t been brave enough to believe that my skills in aerospace and automotive engineering were both valuable and transferable to Stryker Orthopaedics, I would have been a stay at home mum until another opportunity arose.  I love spending time with my children and admire parents who stay home with their children, but once we were settled here, I was excited for a new professional challenge.  We all have our gifts; mine are a love of my family and a joy in science.  Without this opportunity I would have been unable to fulfill my need for self actualisation.

If I hadn’t have been bold enough to request a part time position, I would have felt unsatisfied with being able to meet my family’s needs.  I admire parents who work full time too, but it just doesn’t fit our family’s situation at the moment.

What made it difficult? Why is it a note-worthy ‘ask’?
Part time professional working is not commonplace here in the US; also I had no direct industry experience and no legal entitlement to work.  Fortunately, Stryker sponsored my “expert” status Visa to enable me to work here.

I should mention one of the less helpful career “experts” – female, I might add – who was sent to assist me to settle in to the US and potentially find work, described me as a “trailing wife”.  Attitudes like this are not terribly helpful.  Our value as a professional entities does not diminish on leaving the delivery room or on marrying a spouse with high career aspirations.

What did you do to give yourself the best chance of getting a yes?
My university had research departments in combustion and bio-engineering.  Consequently, there were frequent discussions comparing risk management methods by engineer friends in the medical technology field with methods used in the aerospace and automotive engineering fields.  That network truly proved invaluable.  I perceived there was a lot to contribute from lessons learned in aerospace and automotive fields to the medical technology field.  I think my enthusiasm for the subject matter, a belief that I could make a difference and my strong engineering history helped a good deal.

What would you have done if the answer to your ‘ask’ was no?
I would have looked at other opportunities arising in the job market or turned to scientific research …  although research here in the US is a completely different animal than in the UK.  I can’t imagine a life without either my family or science.

We’re inspired Emma, what’s next?
I plan to train members of my team in evidence based medicine and exploratory data analysis techniques to free up some time to widen my experiences.  I hope this year to co-author one or more published pieces of clinical literature and to apply my knowledge to research opportunities with the aim of improving patient outcomes.

I have been very fortunate to have had a supportive and understanding manager, without whom, the development of these techniques would have been much more difficult.

I have also been threatening to read for a PhD for almost 20 years now; with the children entering full time school in the next 18 months (in the US, full time school starts two years later than in the UK!) I may have run out of excuses…..

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