Olivia Lim, a Manufacturing Engineer at Kimball Electronics was born in Hong Kong, China and graduated with degrees in mechanical and energy systems engineering from the University of Wyoming in 2016. She started working immediately following graduation in June 2016 after being approached by a wind energy start-up housed in the university’s STEM incubator.
At her current employer, Kimball Electronics, her primary responsibilities includes ownership of automated optical inspection (AOI) and solder paste inspection (SPI) equipment which includes evaluation, validation, and qualification activities to ensure delivery of quality products and optimal machine efficiency.
Olivia works with engineers, quality, and production personnel to verify all ISO, IPC, internal, and customer specifications are met throughout product flow. In addition, she works directly with customers and quality teams to define PFMEA and control plans and contribute to corrective action progression by overseeing failure analyses for RMAs. She reviews and implements engineering changes and utilize SPC tools to monitor and improve processes. Kimball engineering management selected her to lead the Kimball Electronics Global engineering AOI and SPI sub-council.
Charlene interviewed Olivia about her inspiring career journey in the electronics manufacturing industry. This interview is packed with career advice and tips for young engineers to grow and excel within the industry. Everyone’s professional journey is different and unique, and it was special to learn about Olivia’s career aspirations. Olivia participated as a panelist at the IPC APEX STEM Outreach Event this year in San Diego, CA during the Career Panel Luncheon.
Charlene: “Why do you love about your profession and the industry in general?”
Olivia: “The unique thing about the electronics industry is that its products are used by human beings all over the world of all walks of life. There are people who have never and will never own a car, but they have a smartphone. The reach of electronics has grown very rapidly in the last 20 years and the next 20 will have even more rapid growth as technology and devices become more than just utilities and tools. I love that I contribute to an industry that’s trying to progress the world forward.”
Charlene: “Why did you decide to become a Manufacturing Engineer?”
Olivia: “ I didn’t really decide to become an engineer until senior year of high school. Truth be told, I was a very bad student and I think a lot people who knew me when I was young were disappointed in the direction I was heading. I took an engineering physics class in high school and my teacher was a quirky typical physics teacher except that everything he taught, he showed us how it applied to life. His class solidified my desire to learn how the world works and what I could do to make it better.”
Charlene: “What was the highlight of your career thus far?”
Olivia: “My first job out of college was designing and building a 100 kW wind turbine from conceptual handwritten drawings to a fully functioning prototype. We were able to build the device in the dead of winter in Laramie, Wyoming and we were rewarded with a second round of funding from the National Science Foundation. I’m very proud to have been a part of that team and incredibly grateful for the experiences and knowledge I gained during that time.”
Charlene: “What are your goals in terms of engineering today?”
Olivia: “My goals for engineering in the near future are to utilize my knowledge from college and take advantage of every opportunity for practical engineering to build my portfolio of skills. I want to be “in the trenches” solving everyday problems as well as be a part of research and development teams for longer term projects. I also think that being creative directly informs my problem solving and critical thinking so I look for creative outlets whenever I can.”
Charlene: “What do you look forward to in the future?”
Olivia: “My hopes for the future is that we have a cultural shift in America where we start praising brain over brawn and it seems like we’re heading that direction already. “Nerd” and “geek” culture are significantly more mainstream now than they were even 5 years ago, and that trend will continue into the coming years. I look forward to the days where we as a society embrace technology and innovation rather than fearing it and that we progress the human species together.”
Charlene: “How would you describe the term “Engineering”?”
Olivia: “Engineering is using scientific theory and methods and applying them to solve the worlds’ problems. Engineers theorize, hypothesize, design, create, test, improve, and repeat.”
Charlene: “You are one of IPC’s Emerging Engineers. Why did you decide to get involved and what are the benefits?”
Olivia: “A driving factor in my decision to apply to become an Emerging Engineer was that I wanted to understand IPC better. My certifications in J-STD-001 and IPC-A-610 were really my first formal knowledge of soldering and PCBAs and I was curious how the standards came to be and who put them together. Also being able to network with not only early career engineers but also more seasoned engineers is invaluable.”
Charlene: “What aspects do you love about your job?”
Olivia: “I love that my job is different every day and there’s always something new to learn from a wide scope of engineering, operations, and business topics. I sincerely appreciate my team and colleagues that make coming to work so easy.”
Charlene: “What makes the industry exciting?”
Olivia: “This industry will always have innovations and inventions coming out of it that affect the world. VR, AR, AI, etc. are inherently a part of this industry which is where most innovations are coming from today. I’m excited to see where those projects will go and appreciate that I can be a small part of them.”
Charlene: “What suggestions do you have for students to consider when exploring different career paths?”
Olivia: “I would tell students that they should find something that they can’t stop thinking about and pursue that. If cooking brings you joy, cook or go to culinary school. Don’t pick an occupation just because you think you should. Be passionate, be you and search or create opportunities where you can shine your brightest.”
Charlene: “What advice do you have for young professionals, especially students in finding a job?”
Olivia: “When searching for jobs, you can’t be passive. You have to be proactive and go out on limbs when talking to people. As a student, people are going to tell you that they don’t want to take a risk because of your lack of experience, don’t go work for those people. You want your future manager to be able to see the potential in you and help you harness it, but that also means that you have to be willing to double down on yourself and what you’re capable of.”
Charlene: “What can a student do to prepare for that interview?”
Olivia: “ Number one piece of advice, always have at least one or two questions to ask back to your interviewer and not just cookie ones. If they’d said something that you didn’t fully understand, ask them to go into more detail. If having flexible work hours is really important to you, ask about their trust culture. Also remember that you’re in the driver’s seat and that you don’t want to work somewhere that you’re going to hate after 3 months so don’t try to force yourself into their mold.”
Charlene: “Where do you think are the emerging technologies over the next 5 years?”
Olivia: “ Assistive technologies are going to be a huge market. I believe that in America, we are only as strong as our weakest and that we should do what we can to lift each other up. People in lower socioeconomic classes have the most to gain from innovation and if we can put that technology in their hands, their lives can be better. Monitoring health is also a sector I think will see a significant growth in the next 5 years.”
Charlene: “What do you currently do to change the world of engineering today?”
Olivia: “ I don’t compromise myself to fit into the engineering world as it is today. I am a mixed-race woman in a predominantly white male profession, and I embrace that I’m a disruption. Disruption in markets lead to innovation and growth and my hope is that I will inspire others like me to come into the fold. Engineers at the core are problem solvers and creative solutions come from teams who have a divers’ ways of thinking and from teams who feel safe enough to disagree.”
The IPC Education Foundation will host industry professionals in an informal setting to provide our network of students, educators, and other professionals information on career and technical topics related to the electronics industry.
This event will be an informal, high-engagement Q&A hosted by the team at IPCEF and IPC Emerging Engineers.
Follow-up content will be shared with registrants, and if approved, a recording will be posted to the IPCEF YouTube Channel.