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The eighth edition of the Women in CFD series features Mary Alarcón Herrera, a product engineer for the Cadence Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) team. Mary's unwavering passion and dedication toward a career in CFD has been instrumental in her success and has led her to where she is today. Read our conversation with Mary as she shares insights on her career journey, her thoughts on women in engineering, and her advice for anyone interested in pursuing a career in CFD.
Tell us something about yourself.
I was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and moved to Spain in 2014 for further studies. I pursued mechanical engineering from Universidad Simón Bolívar, Venezuela, a five-year program in my country, equivalent to a Master's degree in Europe. I joined an integrated Ph.D. program at Universitat Politècnica de València, where I completed a Master’s degree in combustion engines. For my thesis, I worked with CFD technology. While enrolled in this integrated program, I worked as a researcher and consultant for other companies, such as OEMs. During the final stages of my PhD program, I decided to withdraw. I was going through a challenging time, and writing a thesis felt overwhelming. Prioritizing my health and well-being was important, and I have never regretted my decision.
Can you share your journey toward starting a career in computational fluid dynamics?
I gained valuable experience in mechanical engineering through two internships. The first was a three-month internship at Andritz Hydro, where I worked on a project rehabilitating turbines for hydroelectric power. The second was a long-term internship at Bayer, where I developed maintenance strategies for compressors and boilers. While enrolled in the integrated Ph.D. program, I worked as a researcher focused on diesel injection lines, which allowed me to work with CFD tools and develop and calibrate CFD models using open-source software. I also learned some programming using MATLAB. After leaving the Ph.D. program, I worked as a diesel calibration engineer for the Bertrandt group, providing service to the Nissan Technical Center in Europe. In this role, I calibrated and validated diesel particulate filters (DPFs) to meet market requirements.
After working with Bertrandt, I realized my genuine interest was in CFD. That’s when I started looking for career opportunities and was interviewed at Cadence. At Cadence, I work as a product engineer for the meshing team. In my current role, I work alongside developers to test new features in Fidelity Hexpress and on the quality control aspect of it. I also participate in benchmarks for prospective clients, fulfilling their requirements and giving external support from the meshing side.
If you were not working in the field of CFD, what profession or activity would you pursue instead?
I have always been interested in environmental issues and am passionate about combating global warming. I always do my part by reducing consumption and recycling. If I hadn't been in CFD, I would have worked in the environment sector.
I've been practicing ballet since I was six years old, and it's a passion of mine. Initially, I wanted to pursue it as a career, but I faced challenges due to not having the typical ballerina body. However, eight years ago, I discovered adult ballet classes in Spain, which were difficult to find as ballet classes are usually focused on children. I attend these classes twice a week and dedicate my weekends to practicing. Ballet is demanding, especially when it comes to pointed toes, but I still enjoy it as a hobby.
Can you share your perspective on the role of women in engineering from your professional experience?
My perspective is that men have been conditioned from a young age to believe that they are entitled to representation in all areas, while we have not. However, progress has been made, as we can now see women of all backgrounds and ethnicities represented in various fields. In my opinion, the presence of more women in technical fields could serve as a source of inspiration. More female colleagues would boost women's confidence in sharing their thoughts and ideas. This is not just a cultural issue specific to Venezuela but a common phenomenon in many places where women are taught to be quieter and less assertive.
However, speaking up and sharing your ideas is crucial in technical fields. It can be daunting, especially when men outnumber women. That's why I think having more women in our field is vital. It would create a more comfortable and inclusive environment where everyone feels empowered to share ideas. In addition, I think having more visibility for women in technical fields would be helpful through various forums, workshops, and articles like Women in CFD.
What are some of your hobbies or activities outside of work?
Staying active is an important part of my life, and I enjoy going to the gym and running whenever possible. On weekends, I challenge myself by running five kilometers and, if possible, hiking. Furthermore, I have a creative side that I like to nurture. I enjoy watercolor painting; it’s a great way to relax and unwind.
Traveling is another one of my favorite things to do. I make it a point to visit my family in Spain and Colombia every year, but I also try to explore new places whenever possible. Planning for future trips is always exciting and gives me something to look forward to. Taking care of my mental health is as important as my physical health. I practice yoga regularly, which helps me stay centered and focused.
For those interested in pursuing a career in CFD, below are a few helpful tips from Mary:
Bonus Tip – Prioritize Your Health: Do not neglect your well-being amidst career demands. Seek support, be kind to yourself, and remember that your work cannot be sustainable over time if you are unhappy.
Final words from Mary
It's important to remember that diversity is key in CFD, just like in any other field. Don't let the male dominance in technical fields discourage you. Instead, use your unique skills and viewpoint to succeed in your CFD career. By following these tips and staying committed to your goals, you can build a successful and fulfilling career in CFD.
To learn more about Cadence Fidelity CFD solutions as it evolves, connect with Mary Alarcón Herrera on LinkedIn.
If you would like to try Cadence Fidelity CFD for your different applications, request a demo today!