Alumni Spotlight: Heather Abbott-Davis

Tell us about yourself.

I am a Racine, WI native, married to my wife for three years and we have three dogs and two cats plus the occasional foster dog(s). I completed my BS in IME in 2016 and my MS in Engineering in 2020.

Since graduating with my BS, I have held several roles: process coordinator, industrial engineer, and manufacturing engineer. My current role is engineer analyst at SC Johnson, where I work in the Lean Department. Outside of work I really enjoy being in nature and working with Furever Friends Sanctuary to help rescue dogs from all over the U.S., including Puerto Rico.

What drew you to choose UWM?

UWM’s location and reputation were big factors in my choice. I was a non-traditional student who already had some tech college experience and a life established in Racine. I had always heard good things about the university’s engineering programs and knew that companies valued the skills that students took away from UWM. It ended up being a no brainer and my only choice after moving on from a tech college.

How beneficial was your decision to pursue the accelerated Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering BS/MS program?

Honestly, I had no intention of getting a master’s degree of any kind. But as I started to get further into my BS, and I learned about the accelerated program, it was an opportunity I could not pass up. Not only are there monetary incentives for postgrad work, having a MS has opened up several opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. It will continue to be beneficial as I work through higher positions in my career.

Which courses/aspects of your IME education have been most beneficial in your career?

It was extremely beneficial to graduate having AutoCad experience (from IME 112) and standard wok knowledge (from IME 470). My first role was a typical IE position where I was doing standard work and plant layouts utilizing AutoCAD frequently. As I started to grow in my career and take on more responsibilities, utilizing the undergraduate- and graduate-level ergonomic courses helped me grow in a new area at work, an area in which the company had been lacking.

Highlight some of your involvement at UWM.

During the last year and a half of my undergrad work, I was working in the battery lab under Dr. Qu. I was able to make so many connections and meet others outside of IME, which helped me shape how I think about things. Obviously, I learned a lot about batteries but I was also able to grow the professional skills required to work in a research lab. Those skills transferred to the real world and navigating the “real job” world.

Highlight an accomplishment in your career so far.

My highest accomplishment so far is successfully transitioning into very different roles. There is so much you can do with an engineering degree, and I struggled to find my work passion. One of my goals after graduating was to be open and willing to try new things, which is something I usually try to avoid. I still consider myself a young engineer but trying out new roles tin order to learn different skill sets has helped me refine what I want to do in engineering and what I absolutely do not want to do. It was very scary trying new jobs that were different from previous roles, but it has set me up in a good position to work in an area I love.

What motivates you to continue to collaborate with the UWM IME department?

I enjoyed working with everyone in the IME department during my time as a student and I did not want to lose those relationships after graduation. I also enjoy helping students and mentoring them. Collaborating with the UWM IME Department is a way for me to help students and give back to a place I hold close to my heart. My time at UWM not only grew me as an individual ready to work in the engineering world, it helped me grow as a person—to find myself and the things that are important to me on a personal level.