Female Engineers Wanted!

Interviews of the female STEM students and graduates of HTW Dresden

Here, female students and graduates of HTW Dresden report on their exciting experiences in STEM studies (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Anna, student of Electrical engineering

I study electrical engineering and information technology at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering at HTW Dresden. The focus of my studies is on automation technology. In high school, I was mainly interested in mathematics and natural sciences, but also in languages. While many friends from my high school graduation year decided to study teaching, this was never an option for me. I had been interested in the field of robotics for a long time, so I specifically looked for a course of study in which I could deal with it. Today, I am writing my diploma thesis and am working on operational data analysis of technical systems and machine learning. I have never regretted my choice of study.

We deal with many exciting topics in our studies. However, I was particularly fascinated by the area of control engineering and data analysis in general. I also like the way I study. You first learn the necessary basics and then you can creatively develop and implement your own ideas and solutions. The good job market opportunities have motivated me to stay on the ball. After graduation, I can well imagine working in a research and development center.

A lot is learned through internships. This also means a lot of work, but you also take a lot with you from the practical parts of your studies. Through the practical experiments, you learn to apply the theoretical knowledge. This in turn motivates me to further improve my theoretical knowledge.

In addition, learning takes place in predominantly small groups. This makes it particularly easy to make friends with fellow students. Contact with professors is also uncomplicated, so that open questions can be clarified quickly.

...is now everyday life for me. But before I started studying, I actually thought about it a bit. Shortly before the start of my first semester, however, there was a great get-to-know-you event. At this event, I was able to meet some of my fellow students and professors and make initial contacts. This had the great advantage that you already knew people with whom you could exchange ideas before the first lecture.

All in all, you shouldn't be put off just because it's a male-dominated field. What is important is your interest in the subject and not whether you are a man or a woman.

If you are interested in the subject, you should just listen to your gut! Through the open day and the advisory services of the university, you can get an insight into what to expect during your studies. You shouldn't be put off by the fact that electrical engineering isn't studied by that many women or has a reputation as a difficult subject to study. In the end, every degree program, no matter what the subject, comes with challenges and many new tasks. If you are interested in the subjects and motivated to learn, any degree is manageable.

I am passionate about playing volleyball and love to be creative. I like to draw and bake in my free time and also the one or other concert visit belong to my free time. It is important for me to find a good balance to my studies in my free time.

Maria, student of geoinformation

I study geoinformation, with a focus on surveying. In 2015, I took my high school diploma with a focus on social studies. I had a very good grade in math and my math teacher recommended I hit a technical/scientific direction. In the meantime before the baccalaureate I had also worked in health care and had actually thought that I would continue to study or work in the social field. Then I visited an event of the Faculty of Geoinformation at the HTW Dresden on the long night of science and found it quite exciting. Afterwards, I decided to study geoinformation at the HTW Dresden.

We have many very interesting projects in our studies. Among other things, we have digitized old maps of Saxony and modeled buildings. At the moment, I find 3D printing technology very exciting. I also work in this area as a student assistant at the university in the computer science/mathematics department. Above all, I like it in the character of my studies that you can always see the result very well at the end. That is satisfying.

I think it's nice that you can achieve a lot through diligence and work. You learn a lot through exercises and exams and you also get good grades if you put work into them. The studies are practice-oriented, which is important to me. I got the impression from studying at a university that you always have to understand everything immediately. Here at the university, professors are always available as contact persons. It doesn't have to be that way, but it can also be an advantage, especially at the beginning of your studies for "career changers" like me. I also received tutoring from a math professor at the beginning. I also like that it's very family-like here at the university because it's not such a huge organization.

In our faculty, most of the professorships are held by men. Nevertheless, there are many female laboratory engineers and students and it gives the impression that there is a 50-50 distribution between men and women. I find that gender tends not to make a difference in my studies and at the university: everyone is treated equally.

I would definitely study a STEM subject if you are interested in it. You really don't need to be afraid. In your studies, you should always remember that it's no use at all to compare yourself with others. Sometimes in project work, others may benefit from the performance of others and may not have performed so well themselves. Even if you didn't pass every course with a great grade, you should trust in yourself and just try to do better in the next course. So you should not make yourself small.

In my free time I do something completely different as a balance to my studies. I paint and do needlework. Otherwise, I chill out with my friends and fellow students on the Elbe or just watch TV. At the university I also volunteer in the study commission of my faculty. That way I can influence how our courses are designed and make sure that the students' workload doesn't get too heavy.

Sophia, Chemical engineering graduate

I studied chemical engineering at the HTW Dresden. Before that, I took a different direction: After graduating from secondary school, I wanted to start an apprenticeship as a carpenter. Unfortunately, I had to learn that there was still no acceptance for women in this field, so I had to opt for a different apprenticeship, which I completed in the commercial sector. However, I found that office work did not fulfill me in the long run. I then decided to catch up on my high school diploma.

I had always been interested in chemistry in school, but the deciding factor for me to study chemistry was an enthusiastic substitute teacher in chemistry class. He taught the content with so much verve, which made me apply to study chemical engineering. I definitely did not regret this choice and I felt very comfortable with my choice of study.

The chemical engineering program is very broad, which gave me the opportunity to gain insights into various sub-disciplines of chemistry as well as technical processes. At the beginning, my interests lay in completely different areas. Only in the course of my studies did I find my true interests, which lie in polymer, material and environmental chemistry.

Along the way, I worked as a research assistant in the interdisciplinary junior research group "bioESens". There I applied what I had learned in my studies and had a lot of fun doing so.

First and foremost, I liked the practical relevance of the program: that is, you can put your theoretical knowledge into practice in many internships. At HTW, it's very informal and you have close contact with the professors and other teaching staff. You get individual support and can better understand the content of your studies.

When I started the bachelor's program, about one third of the students were women. In the working group of technical chemistry we are even 5 women and 2 men. I didn't have any bad experiences with this topic during my studies, so I never felt disadvantaged because of my gender. However, the professors have always placed special emphasis on supporting female students.

You should definitely listen to your inner voice and not to others. Sometimes you encounter prejudices against STEM subjects: for example, my parents thought that chemistry might be too dangerous and rather recommended that I take up an office job.

STEM subjects are not necessarily taught with much enthusiasm at school. That's why I would recommend extracurricular STEM offerings (such as internships in companies, labs in universities, Girls' Day, trial studies, etc.). It gives you a better picture of what studying and working in the STEM field really entails. You should also realize that studying is not always easy: In the lab, the work can be very frustrating when several attempts are needed for experiments. In the end, however, the joy is commensurate with success when one masters a challenge. As everywhere, it takes a lot of hard work, but I always enjoyed my studies.

My hobbies include landscape photography and animals. I like to go hiking and I'm a lot with my dog in nature. Furthermore, I love series and movies.

Claudia, Graduate of media informatics

I am a graduate of the Media Informatics degree program. Even as a child, I found it exciting how media work and how they are made. In school, I was also interested in mathematics and physics. Then I also became interested in computers and their use for designing media. With computer science, you could create new worlds. My parents have always supported my career choice, they don't work in the STEM field themselves. Before I started my studies, I did an apprenticeship as a design assistant for media. Because I wanted to deepen my knowledge in this area, I decided to study for a diploma in media informatics.

I particularly liked the practical examples as study content. The study program was very broad, which allowed me to get to know many different areas. I learned programming, for example, but also took elective courses in drawing, photography and artificial intelligence. In my studies, I also learned about the field, museum education, where I also work today. In some courses we programmed educational software and created 3D models and animations for exhibition objects.

I work as a research assistant at the HTW Dresden. In my work I develop interactive media applications and animated films for media stations in museums (e.g. for the mathematical-physical salon in the Dresden Zwinger). The work involves designing educational media content in 2D and 3D formats, among others. What I find particularly exciting in this job are the different subject areas and objects that are conveyed in the animations and media stations. What appeals to me is that through the media stations and guided tours, the exhibits come to life. This creates added value for many visitors to the exhibition. In addition, I supervise final and semester projects of students of media informatics.

I was also always interested in the profession of a teacher. As a teenager, I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher. Now I can combine all my interests well in my job at HTW and in education and outreach: My love for technology, media, pedagogy and working with all ages.

I particularly liked the practical orientation of the course and the study plan. There is a lot of work in groups and the technical equipment was always at a high level. The always approachable and committed professors were also very important. I also had my child during my studies and was able to combine family life with my studies without any problems. In addition, the HTW Dresden was centrally located.

In my study program, the proportion of men and women was fairly balanced, with more students. However, everything always worked well and harmoniously. We also had female professors and many female lab engineers, so I never had the feeling that it was an all-male domain.

If the interest in STEM studies is there, I wouldn't let myself be influenced by clichés like "computer science is not for women".  Furthermore, one should not think in pigeonholes, such as "computer science is only pure programming". The possibilities are so varied, which is why I advise following your own interests.

My hobbies include dancing, sewing and photographing nature and people.

Rebekka, Graduate of industrial engineering

I completed both my bachelor's and master's degrees in industrial engineering at HTW. Even in school, I enjoyed math and physics and could imagine working in a technical profession. That's why I started studying mechanical engineering at the university. After three semesters, however, I decided to change my course of study and look for something I enjoyed more. As an engineer, I wanted to think in a more interdisciplinary way in different disciplines and apply my learned knowledge in a practical way. I then found all of this in the WING program at HTW.

The combination of the different disciplines excited me. You have both technical and business subjects, but they always intertwine at different points. You have to think outside the box and can take in new perspectives. I also found it enriching to have some subjects in common, e.g. with students from the International Business or Production Engineering program, because I got to know other ways of thinking.

At the HTW, I found the good support for students to be particularly outstanding. I always had the feeling that the professors really cared that you understood the material and that questions were welcome. I never had the feeling that I was just one of many students at the university. The knowledge is taught in a very practical way, the application of what is learned is important and not pure memorization.

I also found it very helpful that, especially at the beginning of my studies at the HTW, a lot of emphasis was placed on teaching soft skills and methodological basics, which became much easier as I progressed and which, of course, can sometimes be more important in my career than the pure technical knowledge that I bring with me.

...was not difficult for me in either my mechanical engineering or industrial engineering studies. In mechanical engineering studies, we were only five women in a seminar group with 20 men. But even today, almost ten years later, those other four are actually my best friends. After that, in my industrial engineering studies, the proportion of women seemed very high in comparison. Working with the many male fellow students was often uncomplicated.

Today, after graduating, I work at ENSO NETZ in broadband controlling, which is an all-women department. Here, my technical background from my studies often helps me to coordinate with the many engineers and to be able to integrate their perspective into the economic considerations.

You should definitely not be put off by the fact that there are often more men working in STEM professions. I would do what I enjoy most and also take a look at what professions can be behind such a course of study. After all, that's where you work for most of your life. I think that today there is an incredibly large and good selection of interdisciplinary courses that combine technology and other disciplines.

I love to play many different board games with my friends, even if that always sounds a bit nerdy. I also like to ride my racing bike in Dresden and the surrounding area or work in our small garden. But at the beginning of next year I will have a child, which will surely turn my free time activities upside down for a while.