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  /   ESCO Engages Blog - A Weir Group Publication
ESCO Engages Blog - A Weir Group Publication
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One of the First: Weir’s Pioneering Female Engineer

 

By Steve Sester


April 3, 2019


When Becky VanRaden joined ESCO’s Dragline Products Group as a design engineer in 1979, she was the first female design engineer hired by the company. In the 40 years since, Becky has seen a lot of growth at ESCO —now Weir—including the company’s recently renewed emphasis on gender equity across all functions, including engineering.

 

Growing up the only girl in a family of three boys, Becky watched her father serve as a Plant Engineer for the U.S. Government Services Administration from a young age. After high school, she began her career as an x-ray technician at Providence Hospital’s Pulmonary Catheter Lab, where she was able to observe the inner workings of some of the medical equipment and found she loved watching the repair technicians calibrate and maintain the machines.

 

After four years at Providence, Becky decided to return to school to study mechanical engineering. She completed a couple of undergraduate prerequisites at Portland Community College before applying to transfer to the Multnomah School of Engineering (now University of Portland). Before she was admitted to the engineering college as a junior, Becky says she was required to take a freshman design course, “to make sure that engineering was a good fit.” 

 

She graduated magna cum laude from her engineering program in December 1979, one of three women in a class of 25 engineers, and was quickly offered a job in our Dragline Products Group.

 

In the nearly 40 years she has worked for the company, Becky has worked in several areas of the Products and Engineering Department—including Dragline, Cable Shovel, Dredge, the Product Test Lab, and New Product Development (NPD). In recent years, she has specialized in Finite Element Analysis. She currently serves as an Analysis Subject Matter Expert for the division’s global product teams, the Innovation Center and NPD. 

 
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Becky says the most enjoyable part of her work is helping others solve problems. As her manager, I appreciate that Becky not only helps others with their analyses, but she also takes the time to document her methods so others can learn from her experience. She also serves as a mentor, reminding colleagues that they should start their designs by hand-drawing a free body diagram so the computer analysis will be more meaningful when complete. 

 

Over the years, Becky has seen many changes at the company. Some of the most significant changes she has experienced include new products and engineering tools such as 3D Computer Aided Design (CAD) modeling in the late 1980s and Computer Aided Engineering such as Finite Element Analysis (FEA).  

 

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Becky has also seen the culture of the company shift. While the legacy company always had a family feel and valued all employees, in recent years she has seen an additional emphasis on supporting female team members through programs like the ESCO Women’s Network. 

 

While our division, and Weir as a whole, still have a way to go when it comes to gender parity, especially in the engineering department, we are fortunate to have Becky’s experience and expertise to lean on as we work toward that goal of promoting more women in engineering and across all departments at Weir.​