Profile: Lisa Goodwin, Instron

Materials World magazine
1 Jan 2015

Simon Frost speaks to Lisa Goodwin, a Product Manager at Instron, about her unexpected path into engineering and her time in the industry. 

How did you get into engineering?

I never knew what I wanted to do at school. I left aged 16 and took a temporary job at a company that manufactured seatbelts. I spent some time working with the Quality team, conducting various hardness tests on components and helping to make improvements to assembly line equipment. This fuelled an interest in the technology and processes used in manufacturing, and engineering started to look like a good career choice for me.

I took an engineering apprenticeship at a company that manufactured air compressors and was the only girl, with more than 20 men. While there, I had one day a week at college to study my ONC, then HNC, in Mechanical Engineering. I really enjoyed the mix of study and practical work experience – I worked hard at it and was awarded Engineering Apprentice and Trainee of the Year. Following that, I secured a job at Instron in technical publications and became fascinated with the extensive world of materials testing.

How has your career developed since?

I wanted to continue my education and, with assistance from Instron, I was able to study for a business degree part-time while working. At this time, I took responsibility for three staff within a larger R&D team, finding new ways to develop user assistance, including online help systems and user interface design. I went on to manage the Software and Software Quality Assurance team during the development of the ElectroPuls all-electric fatigue testing instruments. This was where I found my enjoyment of people management and nurturing talent in others.

I was keen to get commercial experience to complement my degree in business, and I moved into the role of Sales Support Engineer within the Dynamic Systems business team, which is where I am today. I love that my current role allows me to use technical skills within a commercial environment to help and support real customer situations. Looking back, I can’t quite believe that I have been at Instron for 18 years – the time has gone so quickly.

Describe a typical day at work.

No two days are ever the same. My day-to-day plan is often heavily structured by what my email delivers, which is the main point of contact, as the sales teams are spread across the globe. I can be doing anything from responding to customer enquiries for new testing equipment or accessories for existing machines, analysing product sales and financial data, working on marketing programmes to generate market awareness and sales of new products, or working with our R&D department to develop new products that will deliver benefits to customers. With high-value capital B2B sales, the buying process can be as long as one or two years and solutions get quite complex, requiring a good degree of customisation. Each sales situation is unique and there are many commercial and technical factors to consider.

I often visit customers in person, which helps me to properly understand their requirements and enables me to demonstrate how our equipment can meet their needs. Recent trips have been within the UK and to Turkey, and I also cover the North European and Central European territories here at Instron. I am currently helping to plan a seminar to be held in Latvia and am looking forward to meeting some of our newer customers there to discuss their testing requirements.

What motivates you in your work?

I really enjoy that I have such a varied work life. I particularly like the travelling aspect and the fact that I get to meet a variety of new people, finding out first-hand what our customers need and observing how the world of materials testing is constantly evolving. My motivation is to solve customer problems and find solutions to complex issues. I get a rush from closing sales, too.

What are the biggest challenges facing the materials testing field at the moment?

The first is that our customers need to be able to conduct incredibly complex testing in a way that is simple enough for their operators to get to grips with and be comfortable carrying out tests with accurate results.

Keeping up with the rate of change in the market can also be difficult, especially with demanding materials that need new testing solutions. These are the problem solving aspects that I enjoy the most.

How do you manage your professional development?

I always try to find time to attend seminars or meet customers who are experts in their field. Time permitting, I would like to study for an MBA to complement my business management responsibilities.

I am also involved in Instron’s Women’s Business Network (WBN). As an engineer in a male-dominated environment, it’s a great opportunity to share experiences and knowledge with other women across a wide range of departments that you might not connect with on a day-to-day basis. The WBN attends graduate and careers fairs across the county to encourage women to work in the engineering field and pursue a technical career. Times are definitely changing and the perception of engineering being a male-only industry really is no more.

We also have a Graduate Intake Programme within the company – we take on three new graduates each year, so there are always fresh ears, keen to learn and get involved. I really enjoy helping others to learn more about products and applications, so it’s great that I can assist in someone else’s development.

Do you have any advice to offer readers looking to follow a similar path?

Don’t be afraid to try new things and keep asking questions. If possible, look for a mentor and find the people within your organisation that are keen to share their own experiences and take just that little bit longer to explain something to help you along the way. In the end, I believe a good balance of real work experience alongside the right education is the key to success. Education never stops, so keep learning.