Women Engineers

Volkswagen Engineer Breaking The Industry’s Gender Barrier

Written by Marco De Novellis | Women Engineers | Thursday 21st January 2016 15:26:00 GMT

Female engineer says working at Volkswagen was “not easy”

Carla Buda is taking her engineering career to the next level with an MBA

Carla Buda is taking her engineering career to the next level with an MBA

When Argentine engineer Carla Buda landed a top engineering job at Volkswagen, she knew she was a woman entering a man’s world.

According to the US Chamber of Commerce, only 14% of US engineers are women. In the UK — according to the Royal Academy of Engineering — only 6% of the engineering workforce is female.

Argentina has seen a consistent decrease in the number of female engineering graduates over the past decade, according to a 2015 report by UNESCO.

Carla therefore raised a few eyebrows when she decided to study engineering at high school. Yet she would go on to break into the overwhelmingly male-orientated automotive industry, spending almost a decade working in project management for car manufacturing giant Volkswagen.

Now, the ambitious engineer is flying the flag for women in business. Keen to take her career to the international stage, Carla relocated to Italy to pursue an MBA degree at the prestigious MIP Politecnico di Milano.

How was your experience as a woman working for Volkswagen?

I won’t lie, it’s not easy being a woman in engineering working for a big automotive company.

It was a little intimidating. In so-called “male industries” women face a lack of credibility just for their sex. Obviously when the time passes, your own work gives you a level of credibility. However, it takes time and effort.

This can be really frustrating and discouraging. But it’s a nice challenge for women engineers to prove to others that we are capable. You get to strengthen your character and learn how to deal with difficult situations.

Fortunately, the people at Volkswagen were really kind and I learnt a lot. I would not change the experience for anything. I grew a lot as a professional and I’m very thankful for the opportunities that Volkswagen gave me.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in automotive engineering?

Since I was a child I have always had one goal: to become an engineer.

I have been highly influenced by my parents, both of whom are civil engineers. I remember that my father used to have a blue Volkswagen Golf. That for me was the best car in the world!

So when I was in my third year of engineering I decided to apply for an internship at Volkswagen. I did not think I would get it, but luckily I did!

What was the response from your peers?

A lot of my high school classmates were amazed. They said engineering was for men! Shockingly, it was the girls, not the boys from the class who told me that.

How hard has Volkswagen been hit by the recent emissions scandal?

Many companies have had huge scandals and have managed to recover just fine.

A few years ago Toyota had to recall millions of vehicles due to problems with the accelerator pedal. Nestle also suffered several scandals due to the use of palm oil in the KitKat chocolate bar. Both of these companies managed to recover from these scandals and I don’t think VW will be the exception

We cannot forget that companies are made up of people, and people make mistakes. The important thing is how the company reacts to the mistake and how they manage to learn from it.

Why did you decide to move on to business school and an MBA?

I wanted to study abroad and invest in my education.

These days it’s important to go on studying to stay competitive and an MBA was the ideal next step. For me, MIP — a top Italian school with a strong technical background — was a match made in heaven.

What are your plans for the future?

My goal is to work as a project manager in a company that fits my values. I want to stay in the automotive industry and apply my new set of business tools that the MBA has provided.


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