Interview with Sarah Czaplewski - An Emerging Engineer

emerging engineer Jul 16, 2020

Sarah Czaplewski is a Senior Printed Circuit Board Qualification & Reliability Engineer and Master Inventor at IBM. She is responsible for qualification and quality management of IBM PCBs. Sarah joined IBM in 2014 as part of the Materials and Process Engineering Lab. In that role Sarah was responsible for materials selection, qualification, and failure analysis across a variety of components, substrates, and assemblies in IBM hardware products. Prior to joining IBM, Sarah worked for Kimberly-Clark as a Product Development Engineer after receiving her B.S. and M.S. in Biomedical Engineering with an emphasis in biomaterials from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Sarah is in the first year of the IPC Emerging Engineers Program and participating in the IPC 7-24 committee and A-team working to update IPC-9121 Troubleshooting for Printed Board Fabrication Processes.

Charlene connected with Sarah who describes “Engineering” as “a profession that combines cross-functional problem solving and foundational sciences, such as physics, chemistry, and biology, to design, invent, and build new things that address a critical need and/or improve lives.” It was so wonderful to learn about Sarah’s involvement and passion towards the industry. She enjoys the ever-changing nature of the industry bringing new technical challenges, investigating root cause failures, and addressing the quality of products. 

Charlene: “You are one of IPC’s Emerging Engineers. Why did you decide to get involved and what are the benefits?”

Sarah: “I applied for the Emerging Engineers Program to build my network and awareness of the industry outside of IBM. It is important to be informed about industry trends and emerging technologies. The IPC Emerging Engineers Program enables this through providing an IPC APEX all-access pass for three years. To me, this is the best benefit of the program because I get the opportunity to attend technical sessions and courses that interest me in addition to being able to visit the exhibit floor.  Another key benefit of the Emerging Engineers Program is that it pairs the Emerging Engineer with a mentor experienced in IPC. My mentor has been helpful in guiding me through becoming involved in IPC committees.” 

Charlene: “What suggestions do you have for students to consider when exploring different career paths?”

Sarah: “I suggest that students consider their strengths and passions and then compare that to trending industry areas. It is important to find a career that fits your interests and offers plenty of opportunities. I think it is also important for students to shadow or at least interview people in the careers that they are interested in as early as possible to get a better understanding of what they actually be doing on a daily basis to ensure the career is a match for them.”

Charlene: “What advice do you have for young professionals, especially students in finding a job?”

Sarah: “For students: Don’t be afraid to pursue internships and co-ops early in your collegiate career. I obtained an internship after my freshman year at Procter & Gamble. Getting engineering experience early on helped me stand out in future job searches. Also, be active in your universities’ career fairs and job postings. For young professionals: Ask a lot of questions and build your network. It will help you come up to speed quickly and it will come in handy when you are ready to move on to the next role. Although it can be intimidating, most people are willing to help so don’t be afraid to ask. Also, you may find jobs in areas adjacent to your degree that you are still interested in. For example, my degrees are in Biomedical Engineering but now I work in server electronics. With my emphasis in biomaterials, I was able to translate my materials engineering skills into other industries.”

Charlene: “Why did you decide to become an Engineer?”

Sarah: “I wanted to become an engineer because I enjoy problem-solving and designing new things. I also had an affinity for biology and chemistry, so biomedical materials engineering was a natural fit.” 

Charlene: “What was the highlight of your career thus far?”

Sarah: “It is difficult to choose just one highlight, but a couple of the things I am most proud of so far in my career are being promoted to Senior Engineer, being named a Master Inventor by IBM (an honor given to employees who have sustained contributions to IBM’s intellectual property portfolio), being awarded Best Poster Presentation at iMAPS 2018, and being selected for the IPC Emerging Engineers Program.” 

Charlene: “What are your goals in terms of engineering today?”

Sarah: “My main goal is to continue to build my expertise in PCB and PCBA manufacturing processes, failure analysis, and corrective actions so that I can more effectively conduct qualifications and address quality issues to better support IBM clients.”

Charlene: “What do you look forward to in the future?”

Sarah: “I look forward to continuing to build my skills and expertise. A great deal of the knowledge in the electronics industry is not something that is taught in school. You acquire knowledge over time and by working through issues that arise. Participating in IPC committees and the Emerging Engineers Program will help me with this as well.”

Charlene: “What can a student do to prepare for that interview?”

Sarah: “Interviewees should be sure to do their research on the company they are interviewing with. They should be familiar with the company’s products and any recent news about the company. The interviewee should have intelligent questions to ask that are company-specific. Doing research ahead of time will help with that. Also, it is critical to practice answers to potential interview questions in order to be as prepared as possible, which will help the interviewee be more relaxed during the interview.” 

Charlene: “Where do you think are the emerging technologies over the next 5 years?”

Sarah: “5G will continue to emerge and grow. 5G requires faster data rates and higher frequencies which creates many challenges. From a PCB manufacturing perspective, improvements to reduce signal loss are needed to meet the 5G requirements, such as use of new lower loss laminate materials and smoother copper foils. Another emerging technology is quantum computing which brings many new materials and design challenges associated with the required cryogenic temperatures.” 

Charlene: “What do you currently do to change the world of engineering today?”

Sarah: “I try to continuously improve in all aspects of my job and to make PCB qualifications more efficient. Additionally, I mentor new hires within IBM to hopefully empower them to drive new innovations. In addition to mentoring new hires, I was able to participate in a high school STEM outreach event through the IPC Emerging Engineers Program to encourage students to explore careers in science and engineering. Recently, I have also become involved in IPC standard revisions, specifically for IPC-9121 Troubleshooting PCB Fabrication Processes, which will help the industry produce higher quality products.”

Charlene: “Thank you for your time, Sarah.”

Sarah: “Thank you, Charlene.”


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