Angela Utzig-Müller (Dipl.-Ing.) has been working at EPC Engineering & Technologies GmbH (formerly EPC Industrial Engineering) in Alzenau since 2007.
As Project Engineer for Process Engineering she focuses in the area of polymers engineering, especially polymer plants for polyesters. Currently, Angela Utzig-Müller is mainly responsible for polycarbonate projects. Her responsibilities include Technical Preparation of Offers, Project Management, Feasibility Studies, Revamping and ongoing interesting challenges beyond average engineering tasks.
What do you like most about your job?
Due to ongoing development in engineering and products as well as new technologies and markets, my job is always varied and never gets boring. I have never really been worried about my job because the career opportunities for chemical and process engineers have always been very good since I started my career. Balancing work life and family life is also a very important fact for me. Fortunately, my profession enables me to realize my personal ideas.
Why did you chosse this career?
Since I was a child I have generally had a very great interest in science and technology. Especially tricky tasks in the field of sciences, the derivation of connections or mathematical proofs etc. was much more fun for me. But also the application of knowledge was something I could deal with easily.
Later the repair of my car and the technical understanding of the vehicle was a time-consuming task for me.
Growing up with two brothers, I didn't spend so much time with typical girl's activities. I went to a scientific secondary school. Once it was a boys' school and when I started there it was only open to girls in the second year – a very characterizing fact in the way of learning. I followed the independent recommendation of my math and chemistry teacher to have a look at the Chemical Engineering Department in of the University of Dortmund. After the visit, the decision has been made.
Have you ever been confronted with prejudices in your job? How did you deal with them?
In the first years, sometimes I was not seen as a full-fledged engineer, but rather as a girl who failed her professional career. At the beginning of a meeting, especially with clients in Asia, business partners assumed I am responsible to take notes. These initial difficulties could then be quickly overcome.
When I started my career, on one hand I was quite a young girl compared to my fellow students and on the other hand I seemed to be quite young. At that time, I was the only female engineer, who was confronted with a team with well-established procedures. Starting with anti-woman jokes or an image of women of staying at home and manage the household and the children.
After a short time, the first discussion with the head of Process Engineering has happened. After completing a task I was sure that the complaint about my solution was not justified. When I asked for an explanation to avoid this error in the future the discussion became more and more aggressive and loud. The room was getting filled with interested colleagues, but I could not leave the conversation without a solution and I tried to keep cool and relaxed.
After this incident, I was number one topic of conversation in the office: Coworkers knew who I am and they regarded me as a serious female colleague – at least in my field of responsibilities. Also a quick-wittedness or a relaxed retort was helpful in many situations.
However, I believe that the image and attitude towards women in male professions has improved significantly over the last 30 years and that this is almost seen as normal in these days.
How do you generally see the chances for women who apply for jobs in a technical environment? What career opportunities do you see for them, especially in the engineering sector?
From my point of view, in this professional field earnings and career opportunities are less gender-dependent. Even though a full equality between women and men has certainly not yet been achieved in all areas. In modern days women also benefit from the fact that more and more men are now taking parental leave, at least partly and an improved childcare is provided by the government. As a consequence, many employers in Germany are less concerned about hiring women. Furthermore, there are not enough male candidates available in this area – an advantage and a real chance for women to use their career opportunities in the labour market.
Which tips would you like to give prospective female engineers?
In particular, young women should be aware that they interact with colleagues, fellow students and teachers - whether man or woman - with respect and a clear conscience, but also to meet others at eye level.
My observation is that extremely defensive behaviour is often soon recognized to take advantage of it. In turn, this means that the competencies are not properly appreciated. I can only give advise not to loose self-confidence in any situation - firmly and determined without becoming obstinate or loud. In my personal opinion, I like working mostly with men, as the communication and working atmosphere is usually open, clear and distinct.