News Breaking down stereotypes in a man’s world

Breaking down stereotypes in a man’s world

Kirsty Van Rensburg, one of RNA’s most experienced design engineers, shares her experience about the joys of engineering.

Kirsty Van RensburgFor Kirsty Van Rensburg, the biggest worry about a career in mechanical engineering was not the lack of female company – but that she might get bored. Fortunately she couldn’t have chosen a more challenging and fast paced career. With over 20 years experience in design engineering and project management, she is now design office manager for RNA Automation, designing and building automation machines for manufacturers all over the world.

“Every day is a different challenge,” she says. “I like starting with a blank piece of paper and having to design a machine that can automate getting a product into a specific location, often at a specific rate per minute and using automation technology such as pick and place pneumatics, robots, bowl and linear feeders and could include inspection with cameras.

“When people think of design they think of someone designing a door handle, a car exhaust or a kettle. They can spend a lot of time designing that one thing and I was worried I would find that process repetitive and tiresome. What drew me to this type of work was ok, maybe our machines aren’t as pretty as a curvy kettle, but for me the challenge is constantly moving, every job is different.”

At RNA Automation, Kirsty is now designing an automated feeding and orienting machine for fender brackets.

“I have always been interested in how things work,” she says. “My father was an engineer; maths and physics were my strong suit at school – so it was a natural progression for me. When I go to a funfair I am not thinking how terrifying the rides look, but how they work, whereas a sales person would be looking at the same ride and thinking how much money is that making in an hour!”

It was a one-day event for Women in Science and Engineering while still at school, that cemented the direction Kirsty would take. Although being a woman in a predominantly male environment brought its challenges early in her career. “I remember being in a meeting with a client and they directed all the questions to the sale engineer who was a man, but when they realised I was the person answering the technical questions, their attention was refocused. All I can say to other women thinking about a career in engineering is to have a go, it is a very challenging and rewarding career.

“You need to be willing to listen to others – especially when you are first entering the industry and learn from other people’s experiences. You have to have imagination to come up with different ways of doing things and you’ve got to be driven. This industry is constantly moving and projects are very fast paced when it comes to designing a machine or mechanism. You have to have that drive to get things done.”

Bridget Mason

Bridget Mason
Head of marketing at New Technology CADCAM
Original article: Women In Engineering: Kirsty Van Rensburg
NT CADCAM is running a series of features on women who are putting paid to the stereotype that engineering is a man’s world.

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