When it comes to engineers, they are often boxed in by stereotypes relating to intelligence and other hard skills. But, Alaina Schwall, an application engineer with Victaulic, says it is her soft skills that set her apart professionally. A student of people, processes and more, Schwall has a passion for expanding her skills and scope of knowledge. She aims to undergo whatever growing pains life may throw her way with a positive attitude.
Schwall earned her B.S. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from Purdue University. She also holds an Associates Certificate in Project Management from George Washington University. Since 2018, she has served in her current role at Victaulic, collaborating with internal resources to provide customers solutions related to product applications, increased product performance, field installation, training, and new product development. Previously, she worked with Henkels & McCoy Group as an associate project manager and Halliburton as a technical professional.
PHCPPros spoke with Schwall to learn more about how she entered the industry and what her hopes are for women in the world of plumbing, heating, cooling and piping (PHCP).
PHCPPros: How did you get into the industry?
Schwall: Growing up and throughout my education, I always enjoyed STEM subjects over others. When it came time to decide what university to attend and what degree to choose, I knew that I needed to turn this love from STEM into a degree. I ended up deciding to attend Purdue University and majored in aerospace engineering. Since graduating from Purdue in 2012, I have worked in the oil field, served as a project manager in utility construction and most recently joined Victaulic as an application engineer for fire protection.
PHCPPros: Do you have women in the industry who have mentored you?
Schwall: At Victaulic, Susan Schierwagen has been a mentor to me since I met her during my interview. Susan has significant influence not only at Victaulic but also in the fire protection industry. It is evident that advocating for women in STEM is a priority for Susan. She actively fosters those around her, and I hope to implement this in my career as well.
Also, in college, I joined the national engineering sorority, Phi Sigma Rho. This network of women engineers has been instrumental in meeting other women in the field and most notably, getting my job at Victaulic. I now serve as a regional field director for Phi Sigma Rho as an active alumna and consider each of the women in this sorority a mentor for paving the way in the industry for women.
PHCPPros: Do you mentor other women in the industry?
Schwall: Since joining Victaulic in 2018, I have had the opportunity to represent our company at a Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Forum as well as the Lehigh Valley Women’s Summit. WISE Forum events provide the opportunity for high school students to meet with professionals in the field who can speak to their experiences and provide advice about pursuing STEM degrees. I hope to continue representing our company and industry in various opportunities to advocate for women in engineering.
Additionally, I often volunteer to review resumes for younger women starting their engineering career as well as in their overall career development. Outside from engineering, I also work with the local Girl Scouts and volunteer as a troop leader for a Daisy and Brownie troop and volunteer as a Service Unit Manager Admin.
PHCPPros: Is there anything that you want to add relating to women in PHCP?
Schwall: Be your own champion. Being a woman in sciences, we are often clumped as a minority and it is so valuable and important that we fight this. Always acknowledge your value and do not let anyone dismiss your perspective - everyone starts at ground zero. Also, I advise women to find a valuable network to learn from and to teach others. It is important, as women, to elevate and advocate for women as well as yourself so that we can build each other up in all industries.