Empowered Women Shape the Future at CNC Software
Guest Author Laura Hood
The female force is strong at CNC Software, Inc., and it starts at the top. For the past 5 years, the company has been led by president and CEO, Meghan West. Meghan grew up in the CAD/CAM software business. Her father and uncles launched Mastercam in 1983, the same year she was born. For Meghan, being a woman in technology and manufacturing was never in question. Meghan’s natural leadership ability and passion for the world of manufacturing make her a natural fit to lead the company developing the world’s most widely used CAM software.
Meghan empowers every employee, woman or man, to innovate, take risks, and solve the world’s manufacturing challenges. She is passionate about the company culture, work/life balance, listening to our customers, and revolutionizing the manufacturing industry through innovation. She holds high standards, sets aggressive goals, and has an innate ability to rally her executive team, and the entire company, around new ideas.
In today’s world, there are far less women than men in the industries of manufacturing and technology. This is evident at many manufacturing facilities and industry tradeshows worldwide. Historically and presently, both industries are male dominated. The gender gap is a real concern for these industries that are fueling the economy, and at CNC Software, the company is focused on closing the gap.
Two women sit on the executive team at CNC Software: Meghan West as Chief Executive Officer, and Laura Hood as Chief Administrative Officer. Laura oversees all levels of corporate administration, including project management and human resources. She is focused on “people and process,” and she keeps her finger on the pulse of culture, engagement, and workforce trends. For CNC Software, having women contribute at the executive level is not about meeting a quota, it’s about utilizing the best resources, embracing diverse perspectives, and best representing the company.
Other ways that CNC Software promotes a welcoming and diverse corporate culture is through involvement in organizations like Women in Manufacturing and Girls for Technology. These organizations are making huge strides in their industries by connecting women to opportunities that were perceived to be beyond their reach. CNC Software understands the importance of early introduction for girls when it comes to technology and manufacturing, and the company frequently invites Girl Scouts and girl’s robotics teams to the office to showcase different career options in software development and manufacturing.
The women of CNC Software are a powerful force. You’ll find them in every department including software engineering, technical support, and applications engineering. In their careers at CNC Software, they have made contributions that have launched the company forward, and they each bring unique skills and strengths to their teams. For International Women’s Day, CNC Software has chosen to highlight some of these brilliant women.
Meet Blanka van Raalte. Blanka is the Localization Product Owner. Localization is the process of taking a product or service and adapting it to a local market. Blanka leads her team by assessing our business needs, determining what needs to happen, and working with her team to achieve success. The goal is to take the Mastercam software program and make sure it is, or can be, translated to several different languages. Blanka is passionate about her role because she understands that Mastercam solves manufacturing challenges, and she knows it is up to her and her team to make sure the software can be used all over the world. She says, “We have a great tool, and we don’t want it to be a secret for English speaking people only!”
Blanka has always had a love for languages. She is a native of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and fondly remembers being drawn to different languages at a young age, influenced by books and movies. While realizing her passion for language, her parents tried to guide her toward a career in teaching. She remembers being told that teaching was her only career path if she wanted to continue studying languages. Teaching was not her primary interest, so she remained focused on languages and eventually moved to the U.S. to continue her studies.
In the U.S., her school advisor mirrored her parents’ concerns about the lack of career opportunities and encouraged her to study computer information systems and programming. She did this, while continuing to mix in language studies. After school, Blanka began working as a computer programmer, and it wasn’t until an elevator ride conversation in a tall office building in Boston, that she learned about the world of Localization. Looking back, she feels lucky to have been given the advice to study computer programming because it has enhanced her ability to localize software products. She is also pleased that she continued to follow her passion, despite feedback that the career paths would be limited.
When asked what advice she would give to the future generation of women, she said, “Listen to your heart. Follow your dreams. Do not let others tell you what you can and cannot do. Do not let any stereotypes drive the direction you take. Be curious. Be bold. Make your own path. We, as women, bring a different perspective. Long gone are the days where it was predetermined what is a woman’s job or a man’s job.”
Blanka has been with CNC Software for more than a year. She loves the culture because she gets the feeling of family and belonging. She says her team works together toward common goals and they are not competitive with each other. There is pride in every team member when they meet their goals, and they all understand the impact that they have on the company’s success.
Meet Ruth Delisle. Ruth is a Senior Technical Support Technician at CNC Software. The technical support team is an essential part of the Mastercam experience. Our Resellers and customers can call, email, or submit a ticket to our technical support team, and then the requests are turned into actionable items by either solving the problems at hand, or communicating with our development teams to create long-term solutions.
Ruth decided to study computer science because of her love for problem solving. She says that developing software is like solving a jigsaw puzzle. She loves putting pieces together to solve complex problems. Ruth has intricate knowledge about software development, which allows her to be an expert on the technical support team. She also builds set-up sheets for Mastercam users, which she says is her favorite task. Ruth says, “If CNC Software was not available to support the Mastercam users, the users would lose interest in the product. We keep the users connected. We are a big part of the circle.”
When asked why Ruth loves working at CNC Software, she offered many reasons. “I enjoy the people, the benefits, the environment, the location, and the culture. I work with a great team. I can ask any question and approach anyone in the company. Whether it’s a teammate or the president and CEO, I can work with everyone. I know this is very unusual, and it’s a big part of our culture. It’s also fun seeing the younger generations come in and climb the ranks! CNC Software recognizes potential and value quickly, and it’s been great to see the evolution and growth over the past 25 years.”
Ruth happens to be the only woman on her team. When asked what she would say to the future generation of women interested in technical careers, she said, “It’s not all science and math. There’s a lot of opportunity in the world of technology, and your social skills are just as important as your STEM skills. There is a whole support system that needs to be resourced in our industry, and if you are interested in problem solving and technology, you should go for it.”
Meet Amanda Leclerc. Amanda is an Associate Applications Engineer at CNC Software. She spends her days in the Mastercam Manufacturing Lab, testing software on machines. She works with the software development teams by testing each release of Mastercam and providing crucial feedback. Amanda loves working at CNC Software because, as she puts it, “it feels like my second home.”
She loves the challenges and the opportunities to be creative. Most of all, she loves watching parts come to life. She explains, “I love watching an idea be programmed into Mastercam. I love watching toolpaths turn into code that the machine reads, and lastly, watching a cutting tool shave away chips from a block of metal to create the finished part. That’s when the idea becomes reality, and you can actually hold it in your hand.”
An early introduction to machining led Amanda to pursue a career in manufacturing. When she was 6 years old, her father would take her to work with him on weekends. She would watch machines run and was amazed by the parts that he would show her. She continued to build her knowledge and skill in technical high school and joined CNC Software 4 years ago.
Amanda is the youngest applications engineer in the Manufacturing Lab, and the only woman. She says, “I feel comfortable coming to work and turning my machine on. I feel like I have just as much right to be here as all the men in the shop! Everyone is so helpful and they want to see the younger generation of machinists succeed, so they are always excited to pass down their knowledge and help any way they can. I still have a lot to learn in the world of machining, but CNC Software gives me a nurturing environment. They are so generous and willing to send me to training classes and allow me time to learn and grow. The continued learning that they allow me to do makes me feel so honored and thankful to be part of the company.”
Amanda devotes time to organizations such as Women in Manufacturing and is always the first to volunteer to speak to a group of student visitors. She wants to remind the next generation of women that they have every right to work in a manufacturing career. She often thinks of Rosie the Riveter and tells people, “We Can Do It!”
In her own words, Amanda shares, “We have the power within ourselves to become just as successful as any man in this industry, or even more successful! As women, we bring so many different attributes into the manufacturing world. Men and women can often see things differently, and that diversity of thought and perspective can allow a team to achieve the best possible results. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas. Everyone brings their own unique value, so speak up! Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something because girl, yes you can!”
Meet Shannon Synan. Shannon has been a Software Engineer III at CNC Software for 2 years. She is in the code every day, building the product. As a developer and engineer, she is at the heart of what CNC Software does best, making CAD/CAM software. When asked what factors contributed to her entering a career in software engineering, she said, “I’d say it was some combination of natural curiosity, dumb luck, and outstanding mentors. It wasn’t until taking Abstract Algebra with an amazing professor that I realized that I loved mathematics. Later on, graduating with a master’s in mathematics, I was open to a variety of jobs. I had taken a few programming courses but was mostly self-taught from the projects I had worked on as an intern and later as a research assistant.” Shannon followed her interests, and she never questioned the viability of this career for herself.
Her first job was in developing CAD software for a packaging company, so the transition to CAM software felt familiar for her when she joined CNC Software 2 years ago. She loves working on Mastercam. In her words, “What I value most is how much the company understands and cares about their customers. As a software engineer, I love that I help build a tool—and it’s very important to me that the tool helps our customers be productive. It is very expensive to develop software and no matter how good a software engineer is, it takes a fully funded team to create the best experience for the customers. CNC Software is clearly committed to the long-term health of the software, and I love being part of that team.”
Like the other technical women featured in this article, Shannon works with mostly men, as the number of women in software engineering is increasing, but still low. Shannon’s advice for the next generation of women engineers is: “I’d say, where there is a disparity, there is opportunity. Go for it. Honestly though, computing and manufacturing careers are such great fits for women that it’s hard to understand why the gender gap even exists. I grew up helping my father build stuff—including two boats and two houses and even a computer (from a kit, by far the least successful project). I suppose the more traditional scenario is the father teaching his sons how to fix cars and perhaps that tradition has in some way contributed to the gap. Introducing the next generation to all opportunities, not just traditional opportunities, will help close the gap.”
International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. CNC Software celebrates these achievements today, and every day, with enormous gratitude for the women that contribute to the Mastercam family.