Women Leaders in Science and Technology - An interview with microtechnologist Saskia Schröder

Women are underrepresented in technical professions - even though the job market opportunities are excellent. MINT apprenticeships and courses of study open up a wide range of professional perspectives, excellent career opportunities and good earning potential. And smart women are needed. On the occasion of GirlsDay, we interviewed microtechnologist Saskia Schröder, who co-heads the "Module Services" group of the Micro Manufacturing Processes business unit at ISIT.

You started in the microtechnologist training? What has changed?

In August 2005 I started my training as a microtechnologist at ISIT. At that time, I worked in almost all areas of our department, because that is what the training plan provides for. With this knowledge I was able to support many colleagues and take over their work. Today, I have become more involved in one area of the institute and organize the procedure and working methods myself. Today I can integrate the trainees in such a way that they support me. That works very well.

When you think of your first day at ISIT many years ago and today: what has changed for you?

On my first day at ISIT I had no idea about microtechnology, dealing with customers and difficult technical challenges. Today, I am one of two wire bond experts at ISIT and receive many internal and external inquiries for the development of new, ever smaller products. In the meantime, I have taken over the management of a group from our department, I am the laboratory manager of the bonding laboratory, I meet many of our customers at trade fairs and conferences, and I support our trainees during their 3-year training with us.

Why did you choose ISIT back then and why are you still here?

I applied for an apprenticeship at ISIT because I was eager to start a technical apprenticeship. I always wanted to wear a cleanroom suit and experience what it might be like there. But I was even more attracted by the mixture between working in the laboratory and at the desk. A job where you spend the whole day at your desk seemed boring to me at the time.

I also wanted to stay in Itzehoe or the surrounding area. I had the chance to continue living with my parents during my training. That was a very comfortable and, admittedly, simple starting point.

The advertisement in the newspaper drew my attention to ISIT and I became curious about the fact that many different technologies that were still unknown to me were processed there.

Why am I still here?

I had a great apprenticeship and decided to study engineering afterwards. I used the opportunity to continue working at ISIT as a working student during my studies to further develop my experience. After my final thesis I was hired and worked in many areas of my department. My training enabled me to support colleagues in almost all areas. However, the tasks in a laboratory became more and more and more challenging for me and so I got the chance to take this laboratory into my responsibility. Today I still work in this area, which I enjoy very much and which presents me with new challenges almost every day.

Another very-very important point why I am still at ISIT is that I have super great colleagues, some of whom have become good friends.

What is so particularly exciting in your field?

My area of expertise is wire bonding. I process 25µm thin wires there. This is about half as thick as a human hair. With the naked eye you can hardly see the wires. Therefore a good microscope is essential.

I weld these thin wires on semiconductor chips that I have glued into a package before. The wires then form the electrical contact between the chip, which was produced in the clean room, and the leg of the component housing. The housing then gets a lid and can be soldered to circuit boards that will later be used in cell phones, televisions and all other electrical devices known to us. I am always fascinated by how small it all is and what a big impact this technology has on today's technology.

There are many leadership and especially female leadership approaches. What is your leadership style and how are you treated as a woman?

You often hear the saying "Once a trainee, always a trainee". I can well imagine that many problems result from this, but I didn't have this problem in my department. After the training / study I was considered as a scientist and was assigned the appropriate tasks.

I also never had the feeling that I was less respected as a woman than my male colleagues. This point is very important, because especially in technical professions the female share is still very low. Fraunhofer is already addressing this issue and is working very hard to promote female talent.

With great power comes great responsibility. With responsibility comes a lot of judgement, feedback and criticism from all sides. How do you deal with this?

I am grateful for any feedback, whether positive or negative. If you tell each other directly what does not fit, it is much easier to find a suitable solution for both sides.

I think I am an open and cheerful person. I think my colleagues know that they can always approach me and that they can confide everything to me. I also like to help with problems or conflicts.

What motivates you to get up and go to work every day?

To hear a happy and serious "Good morning" or "Moin" from my colleagues. The great thing about us is, whether you know each other or not - everyone is greeted. I find that refreshing.

Afterwards I look forward to working in the lab and satisfied customers when the work is done.

What would you advise young girls and women?

Do that which brings you joy. If you don't know this yet, try a few things, such as different internships in very different areas. If it says afterwards that this is not your thing at all, then you are already one step further... Always think positively, that helps a lot! Just accept the challenge and give your best. If it doesn't turn out perfect, you'll know how to do it next time.


Career Milestones:

2005-2008 Training as microtechnologist at Fraunhofer ISIT

2008 Study Bachelor of Science in Heath, Information and Electrical Engineering

2012 Study Master of Science in Hamburg (HAW), Microelectronic Systems (MES)

2008-2013 Working student at Fraunhofer ISIT

As of 2013 scientist at Fraunhofer ISIT, group leader module services, business unit micro manufacturing processes