Sometimes you have to first take a well-worn path before embarking on the road less traveled.
For Erin Weimann, that path was a career in education. “My original interest was in teaching math.” So she began with a semester in Cardinal Stritch (in Milwaukee) and another semester in Lakeland. And came to a realization. “Then I realized I really didn’t want to teach math. So I decided to take some time and see what I really want to do.”
That “time” stretched to eight years. But she was neither wandering or lost. Weimann was hired at an international manufacturer of automotive components, with a factory in Sheboygan. What started out as “just a job” evolved into “maybe a career” in mechanical engineering. “I got promoted really quick to an assistant supervisor and moved up the ladder to an engineering specialist role.”
And it was a role that not a lot of women aspired. Even as she progressed in the company, Weimann had to constantly prove her worth to her peers. “The guy who was training me, I passed him up pretty quick. He ended up being told he could learn a lot from me.”
Weimann started working more with maintenance and engineering. And discovered she not only had a talent but a passion for engineering. But this was a career that demanded credentials to progress—specifically a bachelor’s degree. “There was one engineer I was working with and he had earned his degree as an adult. So I decided this is what I want to do.”
At that time, in 2018, the mechanical engineering program at the UW-Green Bay, Sheboygan Campus, was a collaborative degree with Platteville. She had meetings with an advisor and developed a plan of action based on what classes were offered when and where. Not easy, but doable.
But it was the merger of UW-Green Bay and the Sheboygan Campus that really made the program more viable.
“I could just stay in Sheboygan and that was extremely exciting for me. The fact that it’s all local and I don’t have to drive down to Platteville is awesome.”
Plus no need to prove herself all over again. “My advisors and professors have been super supportive. They’ve worked with me if I wasn’t able to attend a class I was able to work on my own.”
While designing is one of the main attractions to pursuing a mechanical engineer degree. Weimann’s approach has always been more hands-on. “More like let’s design it, build it and test it. Let’s do everything.”
Add to that Weimann’s “everything” also includes as raising a young daughter and working full time as a Supplier Engineer at Vollrath—a commercial food-service equipment fabricator with a 150-year history in Sheboygan—all while earning her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.
“My hope is, because I go very part-time, to graduate by 2024.” Her plan continues— now designed, built and tested.