Manufacturing Success: How One Engineer Turbocharged Her Career in a Male-Dominated Industry

Sponsored by Cummins

Melissa Allende Sarver, a Senior Quality Engineer at Cummins.

Photo courtesy of Cummins.

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June 16, 2024 at 6:11PM UTC

“Manufacturing has no gender.” 

That’s what Melissa Allende Sarver, a Senior Quality Engineer at Cummins Turbocharger Technologies (CTT), has to say to women who are hesitant to join this male-dominated field.

“I am a first-generation American with Cuban ancestry; I was raised by my mother and grandmother, who are both truly strong-willed, independent and fierce women,” she tells us. “They inspired me to fight for my dreams and to never allow anyone to diminish my light. And, of course, my grandma would say: ‘If someone says you can’t achieve something, prove them wrong.’” 

This advice and support has served Sarver well throughout her entire life. For instance, when she was part of an Engineering Magnet Program in high school, a male classmate told her that she would not make it in the STEM field, which had so few women. However, Sarver never let comments like those affect her. “I had my mission to become an engineer,” she says. And, so, she persevered — becoming one of five women graduating in her year as a mechanical engineer.

“You can’t allow the perception that it is a male-dominated industry stop you,” Sarver advises. “There will be people who are set in their ways and may try to deter you, but these people do not serve you. You have to be the change you want to see. I hope being where I am inspires other women and girls to pursue a STEM and manufacturing career.”

Looking for a little more inspiration? Read on to hear more about Sarver’s career journey — as well as her top advice for women who are considering starting or pivoting to a career in manufacturing.

Can you tell us a bit about your job?

I am responsible for leading continuous improvement projects to reduce the potential for defects, and ensure continuous improvement in our manufacturing process. I manage a team of quality technicians where I aim to create a climate where people are motivated to do their best to help the organization achieve its objectives. 

When I first joined Cummins, I was a High Horsepower Marine Application Engineer working closely with our customers to ensure that our engines performed as promised once installed on marine vessels. As part of the rotational Engineering Development Program, I worked as a Product Validation Engineer for the B-series engine and later as a Product Engineer for CTT. 

Why did you decide to pursue your current career path? 

I thoroughly enjoyed my previous roles while working at Cummins. Those roles provided me with the opportunity to be extremely technical, work on product validation and truly develop an intimate understanding of the products that we produce. 

Working as a Product Engineer at CTT had me working adjacent to the manufacturing plant, and I was always curious to look behind the curtains and learn the “how it gets made” aspect. I knew how and why we set our specifications and tolerances for our product, so it felt natural to transition into a role where it is my responsibility to ensure we are producing turbochargers to those specifications. 

What advice would you give to other women who are considering starting or pivoting to a career in manufacturing?

If you are a woman considering starting or pivoting to a career in manufacturing — start now. Reach out to other women in manufacturing, ask them about their experience and join societies or groups that are focused on women in manufacturing. There is no better way to learn more about manufacturing than through someone already experiencing it. 

And, remember, it's never too late in life to learn new skills and reinvent yourself. Life is a journey; be kind to yourself and allow yourself grace during the process.

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