The Glue Talk Blog

Women in Engineering

Women in Engineering | Sydney Smead

Posted 13 Sep 2022 by Megan Bratland, Digital Communications Specialist

Women make up only 14.5% of all engineers in the world, but this number is steadily growing. We are thankful to have many female engineers on our team, including Sydney Smead, who has worked as a plant manager since January of 2022 and been with H.B. Fuller for five and a half years. As a plant manager, Smead wears many hats and is responsible for several tasks, including developing direct reports, meeting the site budget, driving a culture of safety, supporting corporate EHS programs at the site, continuously improving safety and quality programs, improving the site capacity/capability as the customer of an internal engineering project, and more.

Her Engineering Journey 

Smead began her engineering journey at the Florida Institute of Technology where she received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and a minor in nanotechnology. She also participated in a co-op program during her time as an undergraduate, which led her to a career in the coatings and adhesive industry and full-time employment as a new product research and development chemist, where she formulated functional paper and film coatings. This job opportunity allowed Smead to discover her passion for experimental design, so she began completing her master’s degree online and eventually received a master's degree in Materials Chemistry with an emphasis on Polymer Science from the Illinois Institute of Technology. She continued her career in well-respected research and development positions until she found H.B. Fuller and is now, as she says, “very happy with where I am, managing a manufacturing site.”

While Smead has accomplished quite a bit over the past few years, she says there are a few highlights that come to mind when looking back over her career. She worked on a team that developed direct thermal receipt paper using Vitamin C as a reactant. Next, she received the Power Award for supporting a change to traditional processing steps that reduced processing times at H.B. Fuller. Lastly, her overall career progression with H.B. Fuller to her current role as a plant manager. She says she’s been “exposed to so many different aspects of the company by working at four different locations and in three different types of chemistry” and that her current role “is not where I expected to be, but I’m happy in it!”

Her Advice for Female Engineers 

Throughout her academic and professional careers, Smead has had the opportunity to learn about quite a few topics, including experimental design, product development, problem-solving, how to properly build relationships in a business setting, and more. Armed with this knowledge and many years of experience, she has a few words of wisdom for young women who are interested in a career in engineering. The first and most important piece of advice is to “stay curious and keep learning!”. Secondly, she also says that a having a good first manager is a recipe for success, limiting yourself by geography or industry will not let someone grow and change, and taking courses in project management, communication, and technical writing to improve your professional and personal skills will always be beneficial to your career. Finally, she says “if you come across a question or problem that really ignites your desire to find answers, pursue a Ph.D.!”

Blog Categories