Stratasys Blog

A STEP Forward: Career Development for Women

Stratasys was a proud sponsor of The Manufacturing Institute’s STEP Forward program held September 26 at the General Mills Global headquarters. The goal of this program is to recognize and develop current and future women leaders in science, technology, engineering and production. The one-day program helps build networks, promote personal development and empower women in manufacturing to advance within their careers.

Stratasys Vice President of Human Resources Nichole Dahl joined an afternoon industry panel with other Twin Cities business leaders to help attendees understand how to navigate through major inflection points in their careers. Here she shares some of that wisdom and experience with us!

Nichole, you joined Stratasys two years ago but previously spent nearly 16 years at Honeywell. What formative career experiences did you gain there?

I had the opportunity to work in various HR capacities across all of Honeywell’s major businesses –Aerospace, Transportation Systems, Home and Building Control Solutions, Performance Materials and Technology. I provided HR Business Partner support for client groups including plant floor operations, R&D engineering, sales and marketing, and executive leadership teams at the Business Unit level.  I also worked as an Organizational Development Process Leader focused on change management and leadership coaching. 

One of the most interesting roles I held was HR Director for a $700 million business unit in Asia Pacific.  I was based in Sydney, Australia, and had responsibility for a territory that included South Korea, Hong Kong/Macau, China, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, India, Middle East, and South Africa.

What did you learn from that stint working abroad?  

Not only did I get to learn how to partner with people from many different cultures, I also had to manage a team in several different time zones and understand basic labor laws in each of the countries I supported. I was also able to understand the similarities and differences in the dynamics of the various leadership teams across the regions as well. It was a really valuable experience.

What brought you here to Stratasys?

The more I researched the company, the more intrigued I became by the markets Stratasys serves and the industries it plays in. Being a leader in the additive manufacturing and 3D printing solutions space is pretty cool and I’m definitely proud to say I’m part of it.

I also really value working for a business president (Rich Garrity) with a strong focus on people, culture and engagement. It was clear to me early on in my interview process that this would be a key area of focus for me and the HR team as we continue our journey toward becoming a truly top workplace.

What are some of your key priorities here?  

The first priority is to improve the overall HR function – standardizing our processes, policies, and systems, while ensuring we are compliant with all laws and regulations.  The second priority is to focus on building our Winning Culture. We have five teams working on a variety of Winning Culture activities. 

  1. Talent Acquisition – Ensuring we recruit, attract and select the right people to join the organization.
  2. Compensation, Benefits and Wellbeing – Providing competitive total rewards offerings and making sure our employees are improving their overall wellness in the areas of health, financial, social, career and community.
  3. Career Development – Establishing career paths and development opportunities for all employees.
  4. Leadership Development – Developing our people managers to be truly Connected Leaders.
  5. Communication and Collaboration – Providing additional channels for communication and fostering collaboration to break down internal silos.

Why is an event like STEP Forward important?  

Research shows that diverse companies outperform those that are not as diverse. Stratasys’ involvement in and sponsorship of STEP Forward is just one avenue for us to continue to develop and grow our female talent. We had the privilege of sending 10 participants to learn how to set SMART goals, and how to recruit their own personal board of directors to act as a career sounding board. They also learned negotiation skills and how to apply them in different workplace settings and discussed how emotional intelligence could be leveraged in both their professional and personal lives. Finally, participants heard from female leaders in the industry and how they’ve been able to navigate and advance their careers.  Aside from the learning experience, it is also a great way for women in the manufacturing industry to build their networks with talent from other organizations.

Any takeaways from the panel you were on?   

I had the honor of sitting next to three other talented female leaders from H.B. Fuller, Ingersoll Rand and General Mills. We each had different stories about how we got started in our careers and the paths we’ve taken to get where we are today.  The one thing we all had in common was that each of us took control of our own career paths and really drove our own development. We each had the tenacity and drive to take on bigger, more challenging assignments as they made sense for our personal situations. We have also been able to balance and re-evaluate our priorities from time-to-time to ensure we are fulfilled from both a personal and professional perspective. Feeling fulfilled, both inside and outside of work, leads to better performance and even more development opportunities.  

What advice do you have for young women looking to build careers in manufacturing?  

You are the only one that is going to manage your career the way you want it to be managed. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you what the right next move is. Take control of your own future and don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone to take on challenging assignments that will stretch and develop you. Be confident in your capabilities, speak up when you have something to say, and have the courage to ask questions when you don’t understand. Finally, be sure to build your network of personal advocates, both inside and outside your organization. They will help support you and guide you when you need it.

Drive your future forward by learning how to get involved with Stratasys Careers. We’ll help YOU take the next step!

Aaron Pearson

Aaron Pearson

Aaron Pearson currently serves as Vice President of Public Relations and Analyst Relations at Stratasys. With more than 20 years in the industry, Aaron is an experienced enterprise tech marketing, communications, and market thought leader.

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