“Young women in technical careers” has always been a rather unusual combination, but the trend is now changing. And the chances are good that they will succeed, because the need for qualified, motivated young people in the technical fields is growing continuously. It is especially in this area that we would like to become active and pave the way for the transition from school to technical careers for girls and young women with information and projects.
Denise Bertelmann started her training as a mechanic at Festo in September 2012. Although the trend is changing, she is still an exception as a woman in a typical male-dominated field. For Denise Bertelmann, this was however not a problem, even though she did not immediately choose a technical profession. She has not regretted this decision.
Blue overalls instead of a business suit
It's loud and dusty, and people speak in a somewhat harsher tone of voice. When Denise Bertelmann enters her workplace, she does not find men wearing neckties or women in business suits on their way into the office, but instead mainly men in blue overalls heading in the direction of the production halls. Then it's time for her to go to work on some steel. Currently, she is spending several hours a day filing pieces of U-section steel to a mirror finish. This requires maximum concentration and precision work and causes Denise Bertelmann to work up quite a sweat.
When she is not busy with filing and polishing, she sits at a desk in a vocational training school and takes on board the facts needed for basic mechanical training. A completely new world for the former university student, when you consider that she initially chose a totally different career. The 27-year-old began a few years ago by studying German and English. However, she was never satisfied with this choice.
"I simply never thought earlier of taking up a technical profession. I wanted to be with the other girls and started to study at a university after graduating from high school like most of the others. But I knew from the start that this was not the right thing for me. However, I did not want to throw in the towel immediately."
It took a few semesters until the former student could bring up the courage and change her professional direction. Today, she regrets not listening to her father. He had recognized her interest in technology at an early stage but still stood behind her decision to study. "When I realized later that I wanted to be a mechanic, this came as a surprise to everyone, but the wish was simply there and has remained with me ever since," says Denise Bertelmann.
Practical experience through a vacation job
The new beginning was, however, not a hasty decision. After finishing high school and during the semester holidays, she worked in Festo's production department to supplement her pocket money. Skilled manual work in an environment occupied mainly by men was therefore by no means strange to her. "I learnt so much in this time from which I can now benefit. And when I see the finished product at the end on which I have laboriously worked with my hands, then I know that I'm in the right place," she explains proudly.
Now her training has begun and she is as enthusiastic as ever. She in no way regrets her present role as a new trainee. Her colleagues are friendly and help whenever there is a problem. The family atmosphere at her workplace also convinces her she has taken the right decision. Denise Bertelmann was also won over by the practical and educational facilities at Festo, which does a great deal to provide training for its staff. The fact that almost all her colleagues are male does not bother her. "I have to prove myself in my daily work like anyone else work and show that I can do something. The humour of my male colleagues is always very refreshing."
Denise Bertelmann's switch to a technical profession shows that it is never too late to do something new. "Initially some people questioned my decision and did not believe in me. This made me all the more motivated to complete my training with top marks."
The first step of many
Denise Bertelmann has some more great ambitions. After her basic mechanical training, she would like to train further as a technician. In this, she is setting a good example for other girls who are still making their minds up about a career and is demonstrating what can be achieved with the right motivation and enthusiasm and that "You must not allow yourself as a woman to be told that technology is not for you."