SIMULIA is proud to feature a variety of women from different backgrounds who all work in technology, both as employees and clients. Our Women in Technology series highlights some of these outstanding contributors, their fresh perspectives, and unique stories. Today we are excited to introduce Lori Bonynge, User Advocacy Director at SIMULIA.
What is your title and what are you responsible for/work on at SIMULIA?
I’m the Director of User Advocacy and Creative Communication for SIMULIA. What that means is that I get to connect with SIMULIA users to help support them, inspire them and collect their stories to share with the world.
What makes you excited to get up and come to work every day?
Oh, the people, for sure. First and foremost, I work with a fantastic team with a creative and collaborative culture, all dedicated and supportive. Who wouldn’t enjoy working in an environment like that? I’m grateful to all of them!
The icing on the cake is also connecting with our community of users and SIMULIA champions working on a wide variety of interesting topics. So I might be learning about simulation for antenna design one day from SIMULIA Champion Katerina Galitskaya, hearing about the design of comfortable and durable headphones the next day from SIMULIA Champion Alice Lin, and then learning about the engineering that goes into keeping brakes quiet from SIMULIA Champion Halewijn Stikvoort.
We even have a SIMULIA Champion, Professor Pablo Zavattieri, who has simulated the mantis shrimp’s club-like front limbs punching through its prey’s tough outer shell. Why would he do that, you may ask? Those simulations provide valuable insights into some surprising new ways of thinking about design and composites. So nearly anything can be simulated! Delving into simulation success stories with both human and technical aspects boosts my pride and joy in being a part of this fantastic industry.
When did you decide that you wanted to become an engineer and why?
I was exposed to engineering at a young age. My father is an engineer, and I recall knowing that his work somehow involved both math and science, which were my two strongest subjects. I also learned early on that engineering involves problem solving, so I’d always have interesting challenges to tackle as an engineer. In addition, I wanted to do something that would help other people, the world, and society.
I was initially interested in biomedical engineering, pulling my mom into this story. My mom is a physical therapist, and learning from her I became interested in engineering things like prosthetics and various medical devices that have a real impact on people’s lives. In the end, I joined SIMULIA, where we provide solutions that help not only biomedical engineers but also innovators from a wide variety of other industries.
There’s so much potential for what simulation can do. Industry has provided many benefits to society, but sometimes it’s been at a high cost, particularly to our environment. I’m glad to work for a company with the power, motivation, and technology to help continually improve things.
What are some of the biggest challenges or successes you have had as an engineer and particularly as a woman in engineering/technology?
I’m proud to be a woman in engineering. It is true that occasionally there are not many other women in the room. When that does happen, it simply boosts my motivation to support other women in technology and diversity initiatives.
One key to the success I’ve had in my career is that I’ve combined my engineering skills with communication, creativity and enthusiasm at every stage of my journey. Leading a user advocacy and creative communication team is not a role I pictured myself in when I studied engineering. I mentioned that I started out with a strong interest in biomedical engineering, so I pictured myself developing orthopedic or other medical devices. After using Abaqus for a bone research project as an undergraduate (if you’re curious, check out My Favorite Simulation is Very Hip! in the SIMULIA Community), I was thrilled to get a job as part of the Abaqus customer support team after I graduated. I shifted from customer support to the SIMULIA Education Products team because I wanted to focus on writing training material. I also worked on creating videos to help others in the SIMUIA Community. Now, as the SIMULIA User Advocacy Director, I still problem-solve, and I enjoy visiting, learning and sharing in SIMULIA Community. The breadth of my interests has made engineering a great launching point for the diverse opportunities I have had at Dassault Systèmes.
I am also proud of my transition from a technical role to a management role. I enjoy being able to spend my days supporting my team and exploring new creative ideas to support SIMULIA users. So, again, while my career path has been very different from what I was picturing when I went to school for engineering, it certainly has been a delightful and surprising progression in my career.
And I have continued to take every unexpected opportunity. When a door opens, I’m happy to step through it and have progressed my career that way. And I’ve always found that it’s given me joy and really has taken me in unexpected but worthwhile directions.
One final note is that in addition to the support I’ve received from co-workers in my career journey, just as essential has been the support and encouragement I’ve received from my family. For example, sharing household responsibilities based on strengths and preferences rather than cultural norms has improved my ability to balance work and life.
What drives and inspires you? Maybe you can tell us about your favorite ah-ha moment?
I am always inspired by SIMULIA users and what amazing things they’re doing to drive innovations. I love hearing the technical stories, challenges, and successes they present at SIMULIA events (you can find the replays in the SIMULIA Community (go.3ds.com/SimC, it’s free and easy to join).
Simulation is so powerful in its ability to let you get through that trial-and-error portion of the innovation process so rapidly. You can try something, see the results, try it again, and see the results and even automate that process to find an optimal solution. By testing virtually, you can view unseeable information about how your design functions, and then check out what others have done to solve similar challenges, and finally combine those to accelerate the innovation process in directions that can be unexpected and potentially transformative. So I love seeing different people and ideas come together. Both the SIMULIA Community and the 3DEXPERIENCE platform enable those connections in ways that were simply not possible at the start of my career.
If you were not an engineer or working in tech, what would you be doing?
I probably would have been an educator, if I were not an engineer. I went to a liberal arts school that offered both engineering and education degrees. I started in engineering because I knew if I decided engineering wasn’t for me, I could switch to education without adding years to my college career.
That was my plan B. I would still like to do more with helping young people get started on their careers, whether by participating in STEM activities or by doing interviews like this that have the potential to get more people (and young women in particular) to think about engineering as a career.
What is the most interesting thing about you that is not on your resume?
One interesting thing about me that’s not on my resume is the fact that I have a learning difference. I’m dyslexic, and I repeated grades in elementary school. I did have to switch schools to get some special help, but that special help worked really well, and in the end, I graduated at the top of my high school class. So I learned to overcome my dyslexia and accommodate the unique ways that my brain works. I did have an instructor once tell me that if I didn’t improve my spelling and editing skills, I would have trouble succeeding in my engineering career. I know that was said with the best possible intentions; they wanted to see me be successful and not have poor spelling hold me back. In the end, what did I do? Well, I got a team! I’ve always had help from others willing to proofread my work for me, both when I was writing training materials and now when I work on presentations and community posts.
But again, I’ve always relied on my colleagues, who have always been there to help me through that. And it’s never held me back.
How do you spend your time outside of work and what are your favorite hobbies?
Outside of work, I am the mother of two, and I have been very fortunate that my children have invited me to participate in some of their activities; I have taken dance classes with one of my children, and I have learned how to rock climb with the other. So right now, most of my fun activities are centered on ones I can do with my children. At the same time, while I continue to rock climb, I also very much enjoy jogging. You can put on running shoes and run just about anywhere. When I jog during a lunch break, it clears my head, and ideas pop up that I may have otherwise missed.
Please tell us how you feel about the importance of STEM/STEAM education and outreach, especially with young girls.
I believe that in the US, the k-12 education system has room for improvement when it comes to introducing students to different career paths. A lot of time is spent covering general core subjects such as math, science, English and history, which is essential for sure; however, students need more information about how those subjects apply to productive and fulfilling careers.
In terms of doing STEM outreach and STEM programs, it’s great to have the opportunity to reach students who might be interested in engineering but are a little intimidated by it and to help them have a positive introduction to the potential of an engineering career.
We’ve done some STEM outreach at SIMULIA, particularly for young girls. And it’s interesting to hear how many of them come into our engineering session not even knowing what engineering is. So I do enjoy helping students, and young women in particular, gain some understanding of what engineering is. My favorite stories to share with students are about biomedical engineering applications; describing the Living Heart Project or a simulation of the human knee and how those can help medical professionals better serve their patients are stories I never get tired of sharing.
Discover all our SIMULIA Champion interviews in our YouTube playlist.
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