A drive to succeed in engineering and beyond
Over her more than 17-year career at Boston Scientific, Nichole Elff has seen a “dramatic change” in the makeup of other engineers around her at the company.
“Back when I started, I could count 5 to 10 women in similar positions,” says Elff, who’s now a senior process development manager for the Global Supply Chain team at the Boston Scientific site in Spencer, Indiana, helping to bring new product design concepts to life through innovative manufacturing technologies. “Today, women represent nearly 40% of the engineering roles in Spencer.”
For International Women in Engineering Day, she shares, in her own words, a few of the lessons she’s learned throughout her career – and the advice she has for other women looking to succeed, and lead, no matter what their field.
1. Follow your passions.
I grew up on a farm with a single mom. We did a lot of our own repairs around the house, so from an early age I was figuring out how to put things back together. That background and interest lined me up to go into engineering. Working in health care, I am able to apply that curiosity to making people's lives better. Boston Scientific has been a perfect fit for me.
In my spare time, I compete in drag racing. I am an adrenaline seeker and it’s my own personal roller coaster. I'm currently the sixth-fastest in the world. In racing, we push the boundaries of how much horsepower we can make on a four-cylinder engine and then figure out how to make all that power actually stick to the ground because it's a front-wheel drive car. It’s amazing, exciting and a little scary.
If you follow your passions like I did, you will always be challenged, and your reward will be so much bigger because you are invested in it.
2. Overcome your fear of failure.
Earlier in my career, I sought perfection, but soon realized that if I was always waiting to be perfect in everything, I would miss too many opportunities.
Failure is part of the engineering equation. You can’t figure out how to fix something without breaking it first. So learn from your failures and embrace the process. Know you may not get it right the first time, but the next time you have a higher chance of getting it right and learning something along the way.
3. Network with people who share your interests.
Volunteering with students is a passion of mine. Years ago, when I first started engaging with students, I noticed that when young girls were asked about their future aspirations, rarely did they say they wanted to be engineers. I had the realization that they didn’t have role models who they could aspire to be. So I started to host STEM-based activities for the local community at our Boston Scientific site in Spencer to help break down stereotypes of female leaders in engineering.
I met many people who shared this passion, and together, we created our own professional affiliate of the Society for Women Engineers at Boston Scientific. Surrounding yourself with cheerleaders and advocates who can support you and give you frank feedback is very important. The affiliate has grown significantly in the last four years, and we now have representation at 10 sites across Boston Scientific.
4. Be comfortable being at the table.
Be a contributor. Don't feel like you're stepping on someone's toes. If you don't take up space, someone else will take up the space for you.
Earlier on in my professional life, I worked hard to fit in and adapt to my surroundings. As I reflect back, I recall some of the pressures I felt to be like “one of the guys.” But now, I'm in meetings where the entire management team is composed of women. I vividly remember a meeting I was in a few years ago when I looked around the table and thought, “Wow, we're not only at the table, we are the table.” It’s a pretty incredible feeling.
To apply for a job at Boston Scientific and learn more about careers at the company, visit our careers site.