HERStory | Alexandra Salzmann
Meet Alexandra – Sales and Applications Engineer at Berg Chilling
Having been in the manufacturing industry for almost nine years, Alexandra is passionate about being involved in the process of a product fabrication – from design to production. In her role as a Sales and Applications Engineer, Alexandra visits clients’ facilities, which are usually manufacturing plants, to provide them with cooling solutions. In this role, she designs concepts for solutions and sells them before they are sent to Berg’s own manufacturing facility to be built. After the solution has been manufactured, Alexandra oversees its installation and commissioning.
What led me to the manufacturing sector:
Manufacturing wasn’t my first choice when I graduated. I kind of fell into it. I was a new grad trying to get my foot in the door and I ended up in the industry. I’m glad I did because I never realized what an interesting career being in manufacturing could be. The behind-the-scenes look at how everyday products are made is fascinating to me.
When I started in manufacturing, I was a Design Engineer. I designed the chiller skids we built in the manufacturing shop. For a lot of engineers, projects can be very long term, it may take years and years for your final design to be built. Whereas for me, I would design a product and then in a couple months, there it is right in front of me. Witnessing something you designed with your own eyes is such a cool experience. It’s also interesting to see how this is actually done beyond just a concept, and the challenges and needs of the manufacturing shop to actually build your design.
What continues to attract me to a career in manufacturing:
In my sales role, I’m very fortunate to be able to visit a variety of manufacturing facilities. I’ve even been lucky enough to go to manufacturing plants outside of Canada. When I visit, I love seeing all the new technology being used and seeing what goes on behind the scenes in so many different industries – from food to cosmetics to automotive.
I also love how I’m always learning as an engineer. Every time I go to a plant it’s different. It’s a different solution. It’s a different production, and it’s a lot of problem solving to come up with the cooling solution that fits our clients need.
Being exposed to all those different challenges and industries is so great for your career growth and provides many learning opportunities. It’s always interesting, and after I’m done selling a project and it gets built, it’s so amazing to know that I played a part in making that happen. I can’t truly describe how fulfilling it is to be part of an industry of how things are made and to be constantly challenged and growing.
Most significant project in my career:
There are so many projects that I’m proud of for different reasons, but I think the most interesting one I’m working on currently, is a cooling system for one of the highest permanent ground-based telescope in the world – at 5,600 meters.
It’s going on a mountain in Chile, and at that elevation and remote location, there’s a lot of design challenges and considerations that are different from building a regular system. This means that there’s a lot to account for in the design phase before it gets built and installed.
This project has made me a better engineer. It’s been an incredible challenge, and just being a part of such a complex and interesting project with new technology and having even a small contribution to our understanding of the universe, it’s really exciting to be a part of that. These are the kinds of projects that make me so proud of my job and excited to tell people what I do for a living.
Positive changes in the workplace:
At Berg, we’re seeing a lot more diversity in our management – a lot more women, and people from diverse backgrounds. I’m seeing a lot of positive change where a lot more people with different voices are contributing to the future of the company.
When I joined the sales team, I was the only female, and it was kind of scary being the only woman to join a team. I remember asking myself ‘is there a place for me?’ And fast forward to today, more women are joining the sales team.
Opportunities for women entering a manufacturing career:
The list of opportunities is endless. I don’t think a lot of people really consider a job in manufacturing and there’s so many roles that can provide a lot of different opportunities. Even for me, when I graduated with an engineering degree, it never crossed my mind that I could work in manufacturing sales.
There are so many fascinating and fulfilling careers in manufacturing and a lot of people just aren’t aware of it. Seeing how things are built and seeing that timeline in front of you has so many benefits.
Importance of role models:
If you can see me, you can be me has never been truer. When a woman in a male-dominated field sees another female that they can connect with, they will feel so much comfortable in their role.
Mentorship is crucially important so that people can see themselves in these roles and see someone like them succeeding in these roles. When you have someone like you in a similar position, it makes people much more comfortable and feel like they can truly do their best work.
Advice to your younger self:
Don’t be afraid to take on new challenges or new roles. Trust yourself and your abilities.
I was nervous to go into a sales career. At my first job, I remember a colleague was recommending it and I remember saying to them that there’s no way I could do that. Trust yourself. It’s okay to be scared. That’s where you’re going to learn and grow.
Also, don’t be afraid to speak up and advocate for yourself. It’s always okay to ask questions. You don’t need to know everything yet, especially when you’re just starting out in a new industry.
Fun fact about myself:
Outside of work, I’m a painter and it’s something I’ve been doing my entire life. When I was going to university, I actually had to choose between mechanical engineering or going to an Art & Design university for painting. I chose engineering, but I kept painting in my spare time which allows me to be creative outside of work.