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For the December post of the Women in CFD series, we have Fanny Besem-Cordova, principal application engineer at Cadence, to inspire us through her career journey. She is a woman with multiple talents and a great role model for those who aspire to excel at both work and co-curricular activities. Read our conversation below to know more about Fanny and her journey in the world of CFD.
Tell us something about yourself.
I reside near San Jose, CA, but I come from the French part of Belgium. I grew up and did most of my studies there. I completed my undergraduate study at the University of Liege in my hometown. I pursued my engineering studies in physics and mechanics. At the end of my undergraduate degree, I wanted to study abroad and dreamed of moving to the US. So, I found an Erasmus Mundus scholarship program called THRUST. This program allows you to obtain a double master’s degree from two renowned universities. I was lucky to be selected in the inaugural year of the program, and I spent my first year at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, and the following year at Duke University in North Carolina. My specialization was in the area of turbomachinery and aeromechanics.
I enjoyed working with and learning from Dr. Robert Kielb, my principal investigator (PI) at Duke University. So, at the end of my master’s program, I enquired if I could stay and do a Ph.D. under him. He happily took me under his wing for a couple more years. I conducted my Ph.D. research on unsteady aerodynamics, collaborating with Purdue University, Rolls-Royce, and ANSYS.
When did you first learn about CFD technology, and when did you start working with Cadence?
I was introduced to CFD during my Master’s degree and got to appreciate the inner workings of Duke’s in-house Fortran code during my doctorate studies. While I was presenting my Ph.D. work at a conference, I met with the director of NUMECA, USA, and we stayed in touch as I was interested in what they were doing. Later, when a position opened, I was interviewed and offered a job. I started working as an application engineer for NUMECA (now Cadence) right after my Ph.D., and I have been enjoying and growing in my role for the last eight years. Cadence acquired NUMECA in 2021, but our team has stayed the same. Since we were a small team, I wore different hats at work, from customer support to working on benchmarks for consultancy projects.
Fanny and her Ph.D. colleague at the ASME Turbo Expo conference, where they presented their thesis work and received the Young Engineer Travel Awards.
Currently, are you working on any specific domain in CFD?
Here at Cadence, I get to work on different domains in CFD. I get to learn the domain-specific jargon and use CFD for various applications, from boats to supersonic airplanes. Having said that, my primary work area is turbomachinery and external aerodynamics. We are a team of three - my manager Jean-Charles Bonaccorsi takes up most of the marine CFD work because he is well-versed in that domain. While my colleague and I, since we have the same background, split the customer support, training, and benchmark tasks among ourselves. It’s a varied day-to-day work, as we train customers in the morning and work on multiple support projects in the afternoon. It keeps the work fun and interesting.
Meshing and solving air flow around the Seattle Space needle for the SIAM IMR meshing contest.
If it wasn’t for CFD, what would you be doing?
It’s funny because I have a list of other jobs I would be happy doing if it wasn’t CFD. So, over the years, I've thought about many different careers, from being a baker to taking up studies around psychiatry. When I was young, I wanted to be a psychiatrist but later realized the studies would take up too many years. And to become a baker, I had to wake up early, and I was not enthusiastic about that. Eventually, I eliminated all those possible choices and took up engineering because I loved math and science. My dad is also an engineer, so he also pushed me a bit in that direction!
How do you spend your time when you are not working?
I like triathlons and have been actively participating in them since I moved to the Bay Area, unlike the couch potato I was back in Belgium (because it always rains there). Many Californians are into hiking and cycling, which motivates me. So, I got into community-level triathlon, started doing longer distances, and eventually started participating in the Ironman triathlons.
But now, since I have a two-year-old daughter, finding time for such activities has been a little difficult. I'm trying to get back into it, starting with shorter distances. Apart from that, I'm also learning Spanish, taking lessons every morning before work. My husband is from Venezuela and speaks Spanish to our daughter. I want to understand and speak the language better, so I’m in the loop and get to know all the secrets between father and daughter (laughs).
What are your thoughts on Women in Engineering from a diversity, equity, and inclusion perspective?
The situation is drastically different now than a generation ago, but improvements are still being made. For example, when my dad was in college, women engineers in his class were almost unheard of. Conversely, we had 5-10% of women in our classes during my studies. That being said, it’s still rare to be in a team where there are other women. Most of the time, when I've had internships or summer jobs, I was the only woman on the team, and it made me feel a little intimidated. But I have always been surrounded by fantastic colleagues and fair-minded managers. Interestingly, one of my managers, Carolyn Woeber, is a woman, and I’m delighted to have her as a role model.
Women inclusion groups at work are also very helpful. They give you the required exposure and connect you with other women with similar ideologies and interests. Cadence is doing great work in this area through women mentorship programs and other women-specific agendas to make us feel wanted and help us grow toward our career goals.
Fanny volunteered at the Cadence-sponsored 'Rise Against Hunger' food packing event.
To learn more about Fidelity CFD as it evolves, connect with Fanny Besem-Cordova on LinkedIn.
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