As today, Friday, March 8, is International Women’s Day, SMRP is recognizing two outstanding members – Shannon Ostendorff, Senior Manager of Maintenance at Lonza and Kristin Ruzicka, Vice President and General Manager of Reliability Services at Allied Reliability. Along with serving as leaders in their respective fields, both Ostendorff and Ruzicka are champions for getting more women involved in maintenance and reliability. As the need for such skilled talent touches every industry, SMRP is excited to encourage and support the next generation of female maintenance and reliability professionals to follow in the footsteps of women like Shannon and Kristin.
Ostendorff is currently senior manager of maintenance at Lonza Group, a multinational chemicals and biotechnology company, where she leads a team of 23 technicians and engineers in Bend, Oregon. Shannon fell into maintenance and reliability after college, joining a chemical engineering team in central Oregon with a particularly optimized maintenance plan. “My first job was on a team of 40 people where I was the only woman,” she described. Though a tough transition as a young female in the field, she offers this advice to young women facing the same: “you have to embrace the situation and lead within your position.”
In her next career move, Ostendorff worked on semi-conductors, but as the job began to pull her away from central Oregon, she moved to Redmond to manage the city’s wastewater facilities before serving as Redmond’s Assistant Public Works Director. “When I started working for Redmond, I lead a team of 26, and there was only one woman on the team – here I am… managing a group of men that were significantly older than me – but it’s just the nature of the industry,” she explained.
Ostendorff emphasizes the importance of getting women involved in math and science at an early age and credits her career in maintenance and reliability to a sixth grade school trip to the Colorado School of Mines. Ostendorff went on to receive her Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from that very same school, where her graduating class was just 20 percent women.
“I love to encourage girls and women to go into [STEM] fields – but I do let them know that being the only woman on a jobsite or in a company is part of the reality, and they need to be prepared for that,” she said. She also recommends young women seek out mentors and female peers. She credits the support of her circle of mentors and strong women for many of her successes.
Ostendorff also highlights that she currently has a female reliability engineer and a talented female technician on her team at Lonza and looks forward to seeing more women following in that same path.
Ruzicka is the vice president and general manager of reliability services at Allied Reliability Inc. in Houston, Texas. After graduating from Purdue with a degree in Electrical Engineering, Ruzicka began her career at General Electric (GE). She spent 13 years with GE, going from intern to Executive within GE Oil & Gas before joining Allied Reliability.
Throughout her career, Ruzicka counts herself lucky to have had many great mentors within both engineering and business management. “I’ve had some incredible coaches, both male and female, who have advocated for more women in these fields. Not only by creating new opportunities, but also by taking the time to educate younger professionals on learnings outside of the daily deliverables” said Ruzicka.
Mentorship is something Ruzicka sees as a valuable step for engaging more young people with maintenance and reliability. “These opportunities don’t have to be formal mentorship programs” adding “when a young professional is working on a remote site, they may need to cast a broader net to find a mentor on site.”
When asked what advice she would give to young women interested in becoming a maintenance and reliability professional, Ruzicka says “Don’t be afraid, put your name in the hat. This is a growing industry and one that is desperate for talent in all shapes, sizes and forms.” Ruzicka went on to add, “now is a really good time to start a career in reliability, whether you’re just graduating from college or have been working in engineering for decades, STEM fields need more talented women!”