Career Quick Look
Engineering, Quality Control
Certificate, and Electrostatic Discharge
Certificate, Soldering Technology
Certificate in Machine Tool Technology
Marilyn Lawrence's Resume
To other women considering a career in electronics, "I say
go for it! There just aren't that many of us in the field. And
electronics isn't really that hard. There are all different
levels of skill...You don't always have to know everything;
you just have to be able to troubleshoot. There are many different
[technician level] jobs in testing, engineering development
and field service."
"I'm proud of my accomplishments. I've always worked hard to
Getting Started: In the 1970's, Marilyn Lawrence was
earning $2.40 an hour working in the fast food industry. Teaching
electronic circuitry and soldering was probably the farthest
thing from her mind. But with two children to care for, Marilyn
wanted to earn a "dad's" income in order to support her family.
She thought about becoming a secretary but decided that she
couldn't afford the wardrobe. Instead, she ended up being hired
at Varo Electronics in Garland, Texas processing image intensifier
tubes for night vision equipment. She found she liked electronics
because she could "do as a woman, but make money like a man"
without having to climb up telephone poles or squeeze underneath
cars. Marilyn worked at Varo for 4 years and was eventually
promoted to a group leader. It was at Varo that Marilyn was
exposed to a female engineer for the first time. Before this,
Marilyn thought an engineer was someone who drove a train. She
was very impressed and said to herself, "that's what I want
"In high school I had a lot of math," she says, "so
I figured I could probably do it. Then once I got into the program
itself, I started really enjoying it." She completed the
Electronic Technologies program in two years, and started her
first job in 1980.
Education: Inspired by the engineer she met, Marilyn
looked into the local community college and found an Engineering
Technology Program. Varo Electronics was willing to pay for
her schooling, so Marilyn enrolled in part-time night classes
to begin pursuing her Associate's degree in Engineering Technology.
Because Marilyn only enrolled in a few classes at a time, it
took her almost 10 years to complete her degree, but she was
an honors level student with an excellent GPA. The degree gave
her a strong engineering background in both electronics and
mechanical technology, as well as some basics in Quality Control.
After achieving her A.S. in Engineering Technology, Marilyn
further supplemented her education with a 1 year certificate
in Quality Control and is one of the first women in the United
States to get Electrostatic Discharge certification. This background
has allowed Marilyn to work in many different areas of electronics
for several different companies during her 25 years in the industry,
as well as prepared her to start her own business as a Technical
Trainer and Consultant.
Greatest Professional Achievement: Marilyn is proud to
have the University of Pittsburgh as one of her clients. Among
other projects, she works with the school consulting on the
development and assembly of electronic components for a particle
accelerator at CERN, The European Organization for Particle
Research, based in Switzerland. CERN's particle accelerators
are among the world's largest and most complex scientific instruments
in the world. Particle accelerators help scientists explore
what matter is made of and what forces hold it together. This
research has led to diverse developments ranging from medical
imaging to the WorldWide Web. Marilyn is excited about contributing
to such a significant international project, and it allows her
to use a little of her French.
Barriers: Having worked in the Electronics industry for
over 25 years now, Marilyn has encountered numerous barriers
to her promotion and success, requiring huge amounts of persistence
and patience on her part. Co-workers were sometimes confused
about her job title, not understanding that she really was a
technician and she was occasionally ignored by certain management
because she did not "look the part" of a technician or engineer.
She also dealt with condescending names such as "solder girl"
when she taught soldering along with other technical skills
to company employees and was always required to prove her abilities
before they were recognized. But Marilyn was not discouraged
from her career choice and continued to work in the field and
pursue her degree and certificates, despite the problems she
encountered. A co-worker once told her that she was ahead of
her time. Now she has the freedom, independence and satisfaction
of owning her own business as a technical trainer and consultant.
"I'm proud of my accomplishments," Marilyn states, "I've always
worked hard to better myself."
"Every time I got laid off," she says, "I came
back to TVI and I kept up with the latest technologies. So when
things turned around the employers would notice, and it really
Working with Men: Marilyn often did get lonely as a female
working predominantly with and for men. She always had to prove
her abilities while her male co-workers were taken at face value
and she was generally segregated from the main working group.
"In a technical sense, guys are scared to work with women; they
feel threatened that you might show them up. I never understood
that because I always worked as hard as them," Marilyn says.
But she persevered and trusted her own abilities and knowledge.
Now she has the satisfaction of serving as a role model to encourage
other women and girls towards the electronics industry. If things
get hard, "just hang in there," Marilyn advises.
Advice for Women: To other women considering a career in
electronics, "I say go for it! There just aren't that many of
us in the field. And electronics isn't really that hard. There
are all different levels of skill...You don't always have to
know everything; you just have to be able to troubleshoot. There
are many different [technician level] jobs in testing, engineering
development and field service," says Marilyn.
Typical Workday/Environment: Marilyn's job as a Technical
Trainer involves a combination of technical and interpersonal
skills. She accommodates all experience levels at Conformance
Technologies, so getting acquainted, asking about background
experience, and coaxing her students is as important as the
technical knowledge she uses to instruct them. Marilyn trains
small classes, usually no more than four people per class. She
begins by performing demos to the class along with verbal instruction
and then allows her students to practice with the equipment
hands-on. Marilyn offers instruction in soldering and electronic
assembly of circuit boards as well as certifications for specific
technical jobs. In addition to this, Marilyn also works as a
consultant for other companies on technical projects.
"I like helping students," she says. "I know
so much more now than I did at 20, and it's great to be able
to pass that along."
Career Ladder: An entry-level job in electronics may
offer $10 - $15 per hour depending on where you live, who you
work for and what specific job you're doing. Advancement may
take several years, but there is usually room to grow as one
achieves additional technical certifications. Remaining at the
technician level, you can become a Technical Specialist or Associate
Engineer, which both require more specialized knowledge and
experience and begin at approximately $35,000-$40,000. A management
position may take up to 10 years to achieve, but salaries usually
begin around $45,000 per year, again depending on where you
live and work. Many electronics companies offer good benefits
as well as assistance towards education.
Professional Associations: Surface
Mount Technology Association (SMTA), National
Association of Radio & Telecommunications Engineers (NARTE),
Hobbies: In her spare time, Marilyn enjoys singing, playing
guitar and violin, speaking French, and gardening. Also, she
was just accepted into the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh.
*Annual salary number is not the role model's actual salary. Salary for Electronic Technician based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition