An Interview with Alanna Wing Libbrecht

12068694_10101906753956583_2801748575620600643_oCurrent Job:  Lead Innovation Engineer, Advanced Concepts Team, American Standard Brands. It’s a lot of words, but what it means is that I help turn new ideas and technologies into new products.

Scientific Discipline/Field: Mechanical Engineering — I studied Mechanical Engineering (BS) and Product Development (MS); my current position is more focused on PD, but it requires the ME background.

Country: USA

Pick some letters (L,G,B,T,Q etc.):  I self-identify as queer (Q) or bisexual (B).

Website: alannalibbrecht.com

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/alannalibbrecht

What does your job involve?

The Advanced Concepts team is responsible for working with new ideas and technologies and turning those into new kitchen and bath products. We work with consumer insights to best match existing user needs, but we also do our best to think ahead of the consumer and predict what they will want and need in a changing product landscape. Most simply stated, I am a project manager for the infancy of new kitchen and bath products.

How did you get to this job (education etc.)?

I studied Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Industrial Design at Carnegie Mellon. I stayed on to do a Master’s degree in Product Development through CMU’s Integrated Innovation Institute. Coming out of grad school, I was looking for jobs that best fit my career aspirations and was referred to my now-boss at American Standard. The rest was paperwork!

Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?

In some ways, yes. I did not put a lot of concentrated effort into finding a company that is publicly LGBT-friendly, but I did concentrate on finding a company that doesn’t fit the “old boys’ club” style that is very common in the industry. I do happen to work primarily with older gentlemen, but that can’t really be helped in a field so wanting for young, diverse members. I found that the best litmus test for progressiveness is simply how I am spoken to as a young woman during the interview process. Here, I feel that I am respected and collaborated with as an equal. (Also, I made sure before signing that the company contract specifically protects LGBT identity!)

Have you had any reactions from colleagues about being LGBT, either good or bad?

It has not come up with the majority of my co-workers, but the few who do know reacted positively.

Did you have any role models growing up (LGBT, STEM, totally unrelated…)?

My role models have shifted over the years to match my career ambitions, but if I end up half as empathetic, supportive, and intelligent as my parents, I’ll be just fine.

What are your plans for the future?

Totally cliche — I want to fall in love, get married, have kids, and live happily ever after. As for my career, I plan to settle into this industry at least long enough to feel like I have the lay of the land, and then who knows!

Anything else you’d like to add?

My photo is of me with my sister-in-law at her and my brother’s wedding. Aside from being a kick-ass big sister, she is also a great example of women kicking ass in STEM — she is currently working on her PhD in Genome Sciences.

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