Today is the 9th International Day of Women Engineers, and this year's theme is "Inventors and Innovators" . The festival aims to advance women's equality in engineering, provide better career opportunities for female engineers, and celebrate the outstanding achievements of women engineers.
We also took the opportunity of the festival to conduct an exclusive interview with Dyson's female engineers – in the engineering industry considered to be male-dominated, women are also able to ride the wind and waves.
▲ Picture from: Dyson
What is an engineer? Based on scientific knowledge and universal laws, they solve real problems, design real objects, and make good products serve people and help improve people's lives.
Dyson has always been committed to emphasizing an engineer culture. At present, Dyson has more than 14,000 employees worldwide, and engineers and scientists account for nearly half of them, of which female engineers are not low. We hope to get an answer from them:
Is being a female engineer any different than being a male at work?
Believe that problems can be solved, but don't be afraid of failure
"I've always been interested in how the products we use are designed and produced."
There is no need to talk about how the interest was born and blossomed. Because of such a natural result, when Li Xiaoyang entered Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, he chose the Department of Mechanical Design without hesitation, and had the idea of becoming a design engineer. In 2016, Li Xiaoyang graduated with a first-class honors degree. In the same year, he joined Dyson's R&D and design department in Singapore. He is currently working as a senior design engineer in the hair care category at Dyson.
▲ Li Xiaoyang. Picture from: Dyson
"Truly let young designers fully participate in product design and development" is what Dyson attracted Li Xiaoyang in the first place. The design of accessories for hair care products, the first application of multi-pole magnets on the nozzles of hair care products, the optimization of the product's internal structure and the improvement of product performance are all part of Li Xiaoyang's work. Li Xiaoyang also participated in the design of Dyson's popular product Supersonic hair dryer.
The appearance of the Supersonic is different from that of a traditional hair dryer, the center of the dryer is empty. The hollow hair dryer directly saves the trouble of hair being "eaten" by the hair dryer. Of course, this is mainly due to design needs – Supersonic is based on airflow multiplication technology to achieve fast drying, and the middle must be empty.
▲ Supersonic hair dryer. Image from: Dyson
But it is not easy to realize such a design, because all power boards and originals must be placed in the position of the center control circle. Supersonic's R&D team took about 4 to 5 years and made 600 prototypes to design a product they thought would eventually hit the market.
One year after the release of Supersonic, Li Xiaoyang's team has carried out a comprehensive upgrade of the suction of the tuyere magnet. For the first time, the technology of "multi-pole magnet" has been used in Dyson hair care products. Capital investment achieves the most significant magnetic upgrade, which solves the problem that the tuyere is easy to fall off in the hair salon.
Although the process of innovation and invention is very difficult, Li Xiaoyang believes that this precisely reflects the essential characteristics of engineers: "As an engineer, don't be afraid of problems, believe in your ability to solve world problems, and be good at discovering problems in life. , actively looking for the root cause of these problems, and then constantly finding ways to fix it.”
The phrase "keep finding ways to solve it" also implies a meaning: believe that the problem can be solved, and don't be afraid of failure in the process. Even in Li Xiaoyang's view, not being afraid of failure is a must-have for an engineer:
Instead of enjoying success, engineers experience failure most of the time. It is impossible to achieve one success in engineering and science. You may need to build thousands or even tens of thousands of models to test and develop, and it may take a lot of time to study seemingly impossible problems.
This "necessary mechanical repetition" before dawn is very trivial and boring, and it is a test of patience. For newcomers to the engineering industry, Li Xiaoyang also suggested the same: Be sure to love the engineering industry, accepting the same problem may need to be repeated countless times until the source of the problem is found.
Everything is new, all you have to do is explore
In October 2018, Dyson launched the first Airwrap hair styler. The traditional curling iron uses a high temperature of over 200 degrees Celsius to set the hair, which will inevitably damage the hair; Airwrap uses the heated airflow to wrap the hair around the curling roller to achieve styling without the temperature being too high.
Yin Hang also participated in the launch of the product and was impressed by Airwrap. "It was quite a sensation at the time, and the way to use airflow to curl hair was amazing." At that time, she graduated from the Nantes Business School with a master's degree not long ago. Her main research direction is design thinking and product innovation, and she is a member of Dyson's marketing team.
▲ Yin Hang. Picture from: Dyson
What makes Yin Hang more curious is the early research and development process of Airwrap. She wants to know how to make a product as amazing as it, and she wants to participate in the company's research and development department and the creation of new products. After 2 years of work, Yin Hang changed his position as he wished and is currently a research engineer, responsible for user research of early products at Dyson Shanghai R&D Center.
Early product development is roughly divided into two major parts: research and design. The design team is responsible for designing the actual product and is also the most recognized type of engineer. Yin Hang's research team is in a parallel partnership with the design team. They are responsible for any problems the design team encounters in the process of developing the product, and what kind of feedback consumers will have on the early concept of the product.
Her main work is to deconstruct user behavior through research methods such as anthropology, semiotics, qualitative and quantitative analysis, and facial expression analysis. Because he can have some influence on the early development of products, Yin Hang feels "very lucky".
There is something special about the early product R&D department. It is responsible for the products in the next 3-5 years. It is responsible for the goal of product innovation, that is, it must be "new". This is both an opportunity and a challenge.
You will make different things, but the process of research and development will definitely be much harder than making a technically mature product.
Dyson Zone released by Dyson in March this year Air purifying headphones are the first product that Yin Hang participated in the research and development. Combining air purification and headphones is a brand new concept, but the difficulty is how one plus one is greater than two. Whether the noise of the motor will affect the sound quality of the headphones, whether the headphones will be too heavy or uncomfortable, and how to balance the comfort of the product and the function of the product are the problems that Yin Hang and his colleagues have been solving for two years.
▲ Dyson Zone Air Purifying Headphones. Image Credit: Dyson
This is just a small aspect. Yin Hang's work is full of "new". When she browses the literature, she rarely finds useful and existing research. If Yin Hang's work can be summed up in one word, it is "exploration". As she said:
Everything is new, your research has never been done before. So you have to innovate yourself and find ways to solve product problems. For me, it's a process of constant exploration.
There is no difference, good or bad, but there must be love
Ruan Yulin is a front-end development engineer at Dyson. She thinks the most interesting part of work is "challenge". And exploring, researching, stepping on pits, and making breakthroughs with excellent colleagues makes this process more interesting.
▲ Ruan Yulin. Picture from: Dyson
This is also Ruan Yulin's way of life. At a meeting in the former company, she was the only girl, and a colleague said, "I hope everyone can take care of her." Ruan Yulin rejected him. It's not that she can't hear the kindness of the colleague, and it's not that she doesn't need help from others. What she doesn't like is the extra care and the presupposition inside and outside the words, which means nothing to her. At Dyson, no one emphasizes this.
Ruan Yulin is more willing to use time and actions to prove that she is "worthy of being expected and entrusted", so she takes the initiative to undertake more difficult work that requires independent research and development, and will also ask her colleagues what needs to be optimized. "There is no problem in seeking help proactively. , a person bites the bullet to dry, but it is not suitable for collaborative work.”
Similarly, in Li Xiaoyang's view, most of the time, there is no difference between male and female engineers. If there is a difference, it is also from the perspective of actual usage scenarios, and it is about how to better serve users. For example, girls generally have more hair than boys and take care of them more frequently. Therefore, in the hair care category, female engineers have more profound experience of practical problems, and may be more likely to find problems that affect user experience and raise more substantive issues. Suggest.
But in the end, the quality and level of product performance will not be different because of the gender of the engineer. "Gender is not the standard to measure an engineer at any time. Relatively, for design, research and development, ability and enthusiasm are the most important things. ".
▲ Picture from: inwed
Regarding the question of gender, the answer to Yin Hang is the same, it is nothing more than five words – "speak professionally":
If the research you do is helpful to the project, you'll be respected, so I'm not particularly challenged by gender. I hope that, both from a women's perspective and a user research perspective, I can be involved in more research and provide more inspiration in the early stages of product development.
But it is also true that there are fewer female engineers in the larger environment.
EngineeringUK research shows that 16.5% of engineers in the UK are now women, up from 10.5% in 2010. At the Dyson School of Engineering and Technology, founded by James Dyson, 41 per cent of the latest graduates are women, compared with an average of 15.1 per cent for UK engineering university courses. According to a report released by the domestic school recruitment platform "Indus Fruit" , the proportion of female engineering students in the 2020 class is 36.11%.
The proportion of graduates is not equal to the proportion of employment, but there is still a certain reference value. According to the "2021 China Workplace Gender Pay Gap Report" by BOSS, the proportion of women in Internet/digital technology R&D positions will rise to 19.5% in 2021.
▲ Picture from: Dyson
This can lead to a vicious circle: There are not many female engineers, and a male-dominated environment makes a limited number of women doubt their potential, similar to the "Pygmalion effect" – high expectations lead to better performance, while low Expecting to lead to worse.
The low percentage of female engineers is not a new topic. From social prejudice, social division of labor, family and motherhood constraints, to habit cultivation in the process of growing up and individual lack of self-confidence, various complex factors solidify each other, spiral upward, and weave into a systematic network that hinders the way forward.
However, virtuous environments and individuals are equally facilitative. At the very least, we see more female engineers before change can happen. Women entering the workforce might be encouraged to take on challenges as they please if they see female engineers like them battling their way through.
This is also the original intention of International Women Engineers Day when it was established in 2014 : to support the inclusiveness of the engineering industry, to promote the stories of women engineers, to make "engineering" and "women" appear in the same sentence as much as possible, and to encourage more young people Women are making engineering a career choice, helping women in engineering go global.
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