From working parents to military veterans, GE would not be the company it is today without its employees. We created “Quick Six” to celebrate our diverse talent by asking employees six questions that uncover the unique ways that they contribute to GE and the world.
In our next installment of Quick Six, we sat down with Wendy Lin and Lori McGrath, Consulting Engineer for Polymer Matrix Composites and Chief Manufacturing Engineer for Systems Supply Chain at GE Aviation’s headquarters in Evendale, OH.
A graduate of both MIT and Stanford University, Wendy began her career as an engineer at the GE Global Research Center in Schenectady, NY, where she led development on next generation wind blade technology, as well innovation work for several other GE organizations including Aviation, Oil & Gas, Plastics, Fuel Cells, and Steam Turbines.
Lori McGrath, a graduate of the University of Dayton, joined GE Aviation as a Materials & Process Development Engineer and progressed her career as a former Black Belt, leading an advanced engineering team tasked with new production introduction and tollgate process improvements, as well supply chain and manufacturing engineering optimization.
This month, Lori and Wendy were named to the list of ‘Top 20 Women Making Their Mark in Aerospace and Defense’ by SME Smart Manufacturing Engineering Magazine, in recognition of their outstanding career contributions and achievements.
Q: Can you provide a brief overview of your careers, and what led you to your current role?
Lori: I’ve been with GE Aviation for fifteen years now. I joined the company from an outside firm, composite aerospace materials oriented, after graduating from the University of Dayton with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering. Upon joining GE Aviation, I took advantage of the partnership between UD and GE to obtain a Master of Science in Materials Engineering. I’ve worked in a number of different roles, but all sort of centralized to composite materials innovation and vision for smart or advanced manufacturing.
I currently serve as the Chief Manufacturing Engineer for Aviation Systems Supply Chain, focused on manufacturing engineering (ME) organizational design and processes to integrate with design and program teams to drive manufacturing producibility, strategy and readiness early in the New Product Introduction and toll gate change management processes, and with the manufacturing teams to develop process capability and control.
Wendy: I’ve been with GE for a total of twenty-four years, spending the first part of my career with the Global Research organization before joining GE Aviation in 2013. My educational background includes BS/MS degrees in Chemical Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a PhD degree in Materials Engineering from Stanford University. I’ve led award winning work for Wind Power and contributed to many other research projects across various GE businesses including Gas & Oil, Plastics and Steam Turbines. Fittingly, my first ever assignment was for fan blade technology for Aviation.
My present role is Consulting Engineer for Polymer Matrix Composites (PMC) in the Chief Engineer of Manufacturing organization. I am responsible for introduction and development of Emerging Polymer Matrix Composite manufacturing technologies with GE Aviation and lead the PMC technology pyramid in supply chain. I am also the Intellectual Property Focal as part of the Composite Design Board (DB16) leadership team and own the PMC IP strategy roadmap.
Q: What has been a lesson that you’ve learned during your time at GE? Do you have any advice for others?
Lori: GE is such a large company, if you’re not an extrovert it’s sometimes difficult to have your voice heard in larger team settings. Perspective is important, you can always scale the situation. It’s all about finding your core of people to bounce ideas off of and gain perspective from. Often times I know that if I have a question and I’m not sure if I should ask it, it’s likely there are others with the same question. Be confident, speak up, the organization needs diverse perspectives and your contributions matter!
Wendy: I agree with Lori, be bold, be confident. I was not an Aviation engineer by trade, but Lori and the organization took a chance on me. In doing so they brought in diverse talent, different capabilities and embraced new thinking, which has led to significant technological advancements in our portfolio.
Q: What motivates or inspires you to work hard?
Wendy and Lori: It might sound a bit cliché, but we share the affinity for solving really technical and complex problems. To us, it’s not only the engineering or business challenges that motivates us, rather it’s the idea of putting together the right talent collective to move us forward. Often the problems we face are never-before-seen challenges so we can’t always rely on normal processes, so finding the right players with the unique yet complimentary skill sets can be a tall task but it keeps us on our toes and truly inspires us to do better.
Q: Being named as a top talent in your industry is an impressive achievement. What did the Smart Manufacturing Engineering Magazine recognition mean to you?
Wendy: So, to me the recognition by Smart Manufacturing Magazine is a great honor and validation of our contributions. In 2013, I was awarded the Wind Power Engineering Innovation Award for work that my team did to develop a fabric-based wind blade, a product to revolutionize the industry’s manufacturing processes by increasing performance while dramatically reducing manufacturing costs. It’s the same principle thinking that our Aviation team is applying as we seek to introduce automated production for the GE9X composite fan case, the largest component for the largest commercial engine ever made. But in the end, to me, it’s less about the individual recognition as it is the validation of the importance of the work that we do.
Lori: To build off Wendy’s last point, I completely agree. I’m honored to be mentioned amongst the top talent by SME Magazine, but its most important to see the recognition and endorsement of what we do – we work to solve complex problems that drives real innovation which improves our industry and the world of Aviation and Defense. To me that’s the biggest honor you can achieve. Aviation and Engineering on the surface appears so defined and perhaps somewhat limited in opportunity and diversity, but really, it’s such a broad universe and you can do anything you put your mind to. I’m being recognized for work and leadership in polymer matrix composite fan cases and ceramic matrix composite high-pressure turbine components, that’s pretty cool. Its proof that there’s so much more to our industry than common perception.
Q: GE has undergone a fair amount of change over the past few years. As veterans in the field, what would you say to someone new considering a GE career?
Wendy: Things will always change and evolve, but when you look closer it’s really the organization that changes, the people diversity and talent stays the same. It’s important to recognize the difference. We’re a company built on innovation and so long as we never take that for granted, we’ll continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible. And that’s why I love GE. We’re the leaders in our field, and it’s all built by our collective talent, commitment to the work, and an innate curiosity to create and advance technology.
Lori: Change is probably the one constant, just kidding. But Aviation is constantly evolving and it’s also one of the things that makes this journey so exciting. For example, the past couple of decades our organization has seen such an uptick in Commercial aviation with the introduction of new technologies such as the GEnx and LEAP engines, and the GE Passport engine in our Business Aviation organization. And now some of that excitement and focus is shifting towards our military division where there is a lot of innovation happening and unique problems that need to be solved. We constantly have to adapt to these industry cycles, but it pushes us to be the best version of ourselves and stay humble and hungry.
Q: In closing, in your own personal AvGeek opinion, which is your favorite aircraft and why?
Lori: Gosh, great question. There’s so many to choose from. I’ll go the military route on this one. I love the Lockheed Martin F-35 jet, it has a lot of composite technology onboard. Furthermore, it’s a super versatile aircraft with its capabilities for short and full-length takeoff.
Wendy: For me it’s the Dreamliner 787. I had a chance to lead the composite technology work to support the aircraft as part of a GE/Boeing collaboration program. It’s an aircraft that changed the composite industry, and it’s exciting to see it performing so well and travelers and flight crews benefiting from its forward-thinking, revolutionary design.
Read more about Lori and Wendy in the Smart Manufacturing Engineering Magazine February 2020 edition.
Did you know Quick Six is a series? Read our previous features:
- Quick Six with Bridie Evans, advanced technology engineer at Dowty Propellers in Gloucester, UK.
- Quick Six with Stefanie Darlington, Materials Planning Leader in Evendale, Ohio.
- Quick Six with with Laurence Vigeant-Langlois, Product Manager in West Chester, Ohio.
- Quick Six with Jordan Kovacs, Manufacturing Engineer at GE Aviation in Asheville, North Carolina.
- Quick Six with Kusha Ansari, Engineering Technology intern in Evendale, Ohio.
- Quick Six with Savannah Frazier, XLP program participant (Accelerated Leadership Program) in Evendale, Ohio.
- Quick Six with Jack Cohen, Sourcing Commercial Leader in Evendale, Ohio.
- Quick Six with Tiffany Liang, Materials Leader for the LEAP-1A and -1B Core Assembly in Lafayette, Indiana.
- Quick Six with Katie Schafer, Quality Engineer in Asheville, NC.
- Quick Six with Carlos Duenas, lead mechanic at GE Aviation Flight Test Operations, located in Victorville, California.
- Quick Six with Bryne Berry, Environmental Barrier Coating Engineer at GE Aviation in Evendale, OH.