EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT – PAM DESHON-STEPP

Position at SIGMADESIGN: Engineering Project Manager
Time at SIGMADESIGN: 1+ years

{I value being surrounded by people who treat each other well and do great work.}

I am a Project Manager with 19 years of mechanical design and management experience. My experience includes strategy and planning, deployment, technology integration, bench-marking, requirements definition, and team leadership. I enjoy project management on a variety of new product development projects at SIGMADESIGN.

BACKGROUND

What was your youth like?
Like a lot of people at SIGMADESIGN, I grew up in a rural area. I ran around in the woods of Rogue River, Oregon, back when there was still a fair amount of logging going on. There was 20,000 acres of forest nearby, so I was pretty free to roam. I attended kindergarten through 12th grade at Rogue River public schools. My father was a fish biologist and my mom was a secretary at an electronics firm that did kiln controls.

What did you study?
In high school, I liked Physics a lot. A couple of really fantastic opportunities moved me in the direction of a science-related career. The first was my introduction to a woman with a PhD, who had just retired from NASA and moved to Rogue River. Her PhD was in Physics and she was writing a Physics textbook. She would come to our high school and have us do the labs in the book she was writing. That was really cool! I remember one time, going to the parking lot and pushing a student’s Volkswagen bug around with a bathroom scale between us and the bug. She had us do some really awesome, real-world, hands-on experiments to understand physics.

Hiking at Obsidian Creek, OR

The second opportunity occurred when I went off to my first year of college. Another woman with a PhD in Physics and who had done research for NASA became a professor and had a big influence on me. I studied physics for a couple of years, but wasn’t sure what I’d do with it so I decided to go another route and actually got a psychology degree in my first round of college. Psychology was interesting to me and I wanted to save the world, so I went to work with people with disabilities. I worked as a job coach for people with disabilities for 5 years.

Later, I decided to go back to OSU to pursue a mechanical engineering degree. I was interested in alternative energy and energy conservation. After I graduated, I had the opportunity to work at Tektronix in the color printer division. There, I found I really liked new product development. Making things drew me in. I found creating something out of nothing to be a very strong motivator. I did do some work in the energy field as well, but went back to product development because I just love it.

WORK EXPERIENCE

My work background includes employment at Tektronix, Xerox, InFocus and 3D Systems. I have experience in service, reliability, and manufacturing as well as mechanical design and project management.

I love working to create new products and I love working with brilliant people. The creative process that an individual can take going from clean sheet development, to production, to something that’s being made and sold is an amazing thing.

How did you find SIGMADESIGN?
When it was time to leave 3D Systems, I was feeling pretty burned out. The pressure of project management and new product engineering was getting to me. I knew that I wanted to look for something new and I didn’t want to work 60-80 hours per week.  I wanted to continue to have an environment that was collaborative – somewhere I didn’t have to fight with people to do my work. A firm that was working on interesting projects is where I hoped to land.

So, in searching for work, I found a project manager position listing at SIGMADESIGN. The core values on the company website seemed to line up with what I wanted. I knew Jamie Kelso (Mechanical Engineer at SIGMADESIGN) from Xerox, so I called him to ask if SIGMADESIGN really lived their stated core values. He confirmed they were real. So I applied.

Now, after working here for over a year, I can see that other company values don’t have the strength that the SIGMADESIGN values have. Other companies may be willing, in the name of profit, to cut corners. I’m glad I don’t have to worry about that at SIGMADESIGN. I’m drawn to engineering and creating things, and I found a good working environment and culture as well.

WORKING AT SIGMADESIGN

Kayaking at Lost Lake, WA with Jake Dog

What do you enjoy most about your profession? 
Creating things. Making stuff real. Now that I do more project management, enabling people to do really cool work and watch them thrive and create things is very rewarding.

What do you enjoy MOST about working at SIGMADESIGN?
It’s a toss-up between the people and the variety of cool stuff we work on with clients. You don’t get this kind of variety at other firms. I was surprised by how much true product development is going on at SIGMADESIGN. I only knew peripherally of SIGMADESIGN before I became employed here. I didn’t realize how many different companies the firm works with and how many different products we are designing. If I had known, I would have come years ago.

What type of project work would you enjoy more of?
More tech-enhanced products. I like products that really improve people’s lives such as tech-enhanced fitness products, or tech-enhanced medical products.

What are your favorite projects or project types?
I like projects that are smaller, interdisciplinary, electro-mechanical, and involve a big challenge. These are things that include human interaction and impact someone’s life. It’s interesting to figure out how a product will interact with the user. The opportunity to positively impact people’s lives is engaging.

I enjoy working with teams that involve mechanical, firmware, and soft goods professionals.  Bringing together disciplines and helping a group of people create something more complex than anything they could do on their own is great.

TEAM WORK AND VALUES

Strolling through Wengen, Germany

Do the core values influence your work?
Yes. That influence hit me one time sitting in a conference room and a client asked us to do something that seemed a little dishonest. One of our team members, looked at the core values which are posted in every room. He didn’t even say anything, he just had to look at the core values, and the entire conversation changed. That was amazing. We told the client we couldn’t do it, but we came up with an alternative that was totally fine with the client. We didn’t have to go down a wrong path. The core values do influence my work every day.

What do you value at work?
Being surrounded by people who treat each other well and do great work.