Amy Sissala is a Senior Print Optimization Engineer at Stratasys who is always eager to learn how new machines, processes, and materials work. Amy studied Architectural Engineering at the Illinois Institue of Technology and later received her Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institue at Hartford. In this interview, Amy talks about what inspired her to become an engineer, the challenges of being an engineer, her role at Stratasys, what it’s like to be a women engineer, and what’s next for her career.
What sparked your interest in engineering? Can you describe the moment you realized this was a field you’d like to pursue?
My grandfather sparked my interest in engineering as he was an engineer himself. He was always someone I looked up to and admired for his ability to solve any math problem in his head and explain how things worked. I think the one thing that led me to engineering is a curiosity of how things worked. I always did well in math and science so engineering was always something that was on my mind. No matter how I ended up in engineering, I am glad I found a career I enjoy.
What is the hardest part of being an engineer?
The hardest part about engineering was getting the degree! In high school, my college counselor tried to discourage me from considering engineering colleges but that did not dissuade me. College was tough but ultimately rewarding in the opportunities that came after.
The most challenging part now is finding a position that incorporates my love of learning. My current job at Stratasys offers a new material, machine or process every few months which is a great fit.
Describe your job as a R&D Senior Print Optimization Engineer at Stratasys. What does a Senior Print Optimization Engineer do? What does an average day look like for you?
My job title at Stratasys is Senior Print Optimization Engineer. My job is to understand the inner workings of our printers and materials and use that knowledge to ‘tune’ the machines to print quality parts. I work on new materials or new machines. The best description of my responsibilities is, “choreographing the extrusion and motion subsystems to achieve parts optimized for various objectives (visual, strength, etc.).” I use a little bit of every type of engineering discipline to understand behaviors and overcome challenges. It is not a typical job you would find outside of additive manufacturing but that’s what makes it interesting. Sometimes we can follow procedures on how to tune machines and sometimes we find things we’ve never seen before.
What is it like to be a woman in engineering? Do you feel that your gender gives you a different perspective and experience from your male counterparts? Any advantages?
Mostly I don’t notice being a woman in engineering. I have been fortunate to have been around incredibly accepting groups of people. I think everyone brings a different perspective or experience and so we should listen to everyone.
Finally, what do you wake up looking forward to? What’s next for your career?
After spending my time at Stratasys solely on the H2000 project, I am excited to get to learn more about our other printers and materials. I am also fascinated by the ways our customers utilize our products to solve problems. I can’t wait to see how 3D printing impacts more traditional manufacturing environments, especially space travel!