Ask an Engineer: Meet Sarah Devitt
From working in Lisle as a signal integrity engineering intern, to moving to Seattle as a sales engineer, Sarah Devitt has been taken across the country for stretch assignments over her last three years at Molex that have not only challenged her, but developed and kept her hungry for the next opportunity. Today, the University of Notre Dame alum is back in Lisle, this time as an associate product manager who, despite being in the middle of a pandemic, is eager to take on the next challenge of her career. She shares her story of personal development, life outside of Molex, and how she’s been working differently (while starting a new role) during COVID-19.
Q: Where are you from?
Sarah Devitt: LaGrange, Illinois
Q: What college did you attend?
SD: University of Notre Dame
Q: What are some of your favorite things to do outside of work?
SD: I really enjoy running (when I don’t have to run any hills). I’m never going to turn down an invite to grab a coffee. When I was based in Seattle as a sales engineer, I was close to the mountains and was able to hike and ski all the time. That’s not as easy to do in the flat Chicagoland area!
Q: What’s a unique fact most people would be surprised to know about you?
SD: I don’t have a middle name.
Q: What’s one item on your bucket list?
SD: Visit all countries that begin with the letter “I”. I’ve been to India, Israel, Italy, and I’m *hoping* to visit Ireland next year.
Q: What was your path that led you to your current position?
SD: I started with Molex as a signal integrity engineering intern, but I started full time as a product specialist in the backplane group. After about a year a half, I moved into a sales role in Seattle, calling on Amazon Web Services. My background in Electrical Engineering was important in each of those transitions as it provides me with technical knowledge, but also the problem-solving skills vital to every new role. Today I’m an associate product manager for RAST – a German acronym for Raster Anschluss Steck Technik – which is a grid pitch connection plug technology that’s glow wire and IDT compatible. In layman’s terms, it’s used primarily in the home appliances market.
Q: Talk a little bit about your experience as a sales engineer. How are you applying some of those skills in your current role as an associate product manager?
SD: A sales engineer works directly with our customers to listen to their challenges and help overcome them with our technology and capabilities. We get to be the front facing voice for Molex and represent the company—its values, strengths, and initiative—to the rest of the industry.
As an associate product manager, I’ve used my experience in sales to firstly, better understand the issues the sales engineers I work with are facing, as I’ve recently been in their shoes. I’ve noticed that I’ve changed the way I approach things from when I was a product specialist because of my time in sales. I know how to ask better probing questions and it has given me ideas on how to grow this product line to new customers by looking at RAST from their perspective.
Q: What are some of your favorite aspects of the role?
SD: I really enjoy working with so many different people and teams across Molex. I joined a new team in a new division, and they have all challenged me to change the way I think about problems. I’ve been closely engaged on a recent product transfer. The teams involved with this are so knowledgeable about Molex and our products, I’m constantly in awe of how well everything flows.
Q: What has Molex taught you?
SD: Advocate for myself, have difficult conversations, push myself, be confident in my role, and have self-awareness. Coming to Molex straight out of college, I’ve learned how to be a professional in the working world. This may seem insignificant to anyone who has been doing this for several years, but to someone who has spent more time in school as a student than as a professional, it’s an adjustment! I’m lucky the people at Molex have been so accommodating to my learning curve and encourage lifelong learning!
Q: What attracted you to Molex? What do you like most about working here?
SD: I love the people and community at Molex. As an intern, I got to see that support firsthand, as so many people took time out of their day to teach me and explain things to me. No one has ever brushed me aside or made my questions seem unimportant. To work at a company where people have been around for so long is a telling sign that it is a company that cares about its employees. I’m lucky to be part of such a knowledgeable workforce and a company that is usually in the background for consumers, but makes a huge difference in the industry!
Q: How do you describe what you do for a living to your family or friends?
SD: It changes for each of the roles I’ve worked in. As a product specialist, I’d just point at my iPhone and say that we make the connectors you charge your phone with. In a sales role, I said I supported the physical infrastructure that is behind the cloud, and that Molex provided the connectors and cables hyperscale customers use when building the physical racks that populate datacenters. Now, managing RAST, it’s much easier to just say, “I manage connectors that are in your dishwasher or washing machine.” People understand that one better 😉.
Q: What’s one of your favorite projects you’ve ever worked on and why?
SD: I’ve really enjoyed working on several bus bar designs. Working with the Triton team is an opportunity to explore new business and engage with a different group at my customer. I’ve enjoyed working with one of the acquisitions, though there are roadblocks with integration, it’s interesting to see how our capabilities have expanded.
I also get to work with my former manager again—but both of us are in new roles. Even after changing roles within the company, I love that I can still work with many of the same people.
Q: What have you learned about yourself as your career progressed?
SD: I have learned a lot! I came to Molex right out of college, so there have been a lot of things I’ve had to learn in that time—how to report to a manager, how to work with HR, how to work with people with different backgrounds around the world. I’ve learned that both my strengths and weaknesses shape me as an employee, especially when I can self-reflect and identify what needs work and where I can grow more.
Q: How does your role/function impact Molex?
SD: My goal in my role is to be the go-to person for anything RAST related! I should know everything about how it’s made, how much it costs to build, who is buying it and where they’re using it, and how we can challenge ourselves to make it more profitable.
Q: What inspires you most about your work?
SD: Finding a solution and solving a puzzle for the customer is such a rewarding feeling and makes the hard and uncomfortable conversations worth it. It’s about coming up with a solution that works for them specifically.
Q: Have you ever had a mentor? If so, how have you benefitted from a mentorship? Why do you think mentorship is important?
SD: Yes! I think it’s important as a woman in the industry to have a support system and someone to guide you. People who will build you up and push you up and provide that helping hand. I’ve relied heavily on the mentorship relationships I’ve built, especially during my transition to a new role in a new city. When you have many questions and doubts about what you’re doing, a mentor plays an important role in helping you out.
Q: What excites you about work each day?
SD: There’s always a new challenge to face. I love being a detective who solves problems, while learning more about my customer and the market they’re in. I love getting to learn about a new product and all of the little things that make it special and valuable to our customers. I also love finding new ways to be more efficient.
Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
SD: The song “I Hope You Dance” has some important words of wisdom. My dad has always been a huge advocate of mine, to never let me settle, to push myself and not let myself settle for anything less than my best. He wrote me a letter with the song lyrics on it and every time I hear it, it’s a reminder that I’m stronger than I think, to take advantage of all the challenges ahead of me, and treat them as opportunities to grow and learn.
Q: What does transformation mean to you?
SD: Transformation means embracing change and pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. It usually involves a lot of failures, looking at this from a new perspective, and accepting that the way things were might not be the best way for us now. I associate transformation with a motto at my high school: “Being open to growth.” When we are open to growth and challenged to try something new, we become a better version of ourselves.
Obviously there’s been significant transformation the past few months because of COVID-19. We’ve all had to adjust the way we work—whether working remotely or working at the plants and offices—and the way we live—adjusting the way we interact with loved ones and our communities. I don’t think that any of us could say we haven’t had personal experience with transformation after this.
Q: What are you reading, listening to and/or watching right now? What do you like about it?
SD: The Confidence Code, which I got from my mentor when I moved to my new role. It’s great to understand what impacts confidence, whether it’s genetic or situational. There are a lot of factors in play, but what can we do to overcome them?
As far as TV shows go, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a great one. She makes me laugh and is such a powerful female character!
Q: What’s something that has surprised you about the career path you’ve chosen?
SD: I didn’t expect to have so many different roles at this point in my career — three roles in three years at Molex. It has definitely kept things exciting! I’ve been able to see where I add the most value to Molex. Through the support of different teams and managers, I’ve been able to develop the skills that make me a stronger employee.
Taking a role in sales was definitely a surprise. I was intimidated by a sales role and of relocating after a year in Lisle. Yet, when the opportunity to move to Seattle for the sales engineer role arose, I was really excited! It assured me it was the right move to make. Don’t get me wrong—it was a challenge to move across the country and lose the support system I had in Lisle, but it was a lot of fun to immerse myself in a new position and new city. A lot of changes, but also a lot of new adventures from it. Today, I’m back in Lisle ready to take on this next exciting challenge!
Q: When thinking about Molex’s future, what are you most excited for?
SD: I’m excited to see how we adapt to the models our customers come to expect from us. They move quickly and expect their suppliers to do the same. We have become as accustomed to two-day shipping as consumers, and I’ve seen that immediate turnaround and urgency for products start to permeate the market. It has been so exciting seeing the change Molex has gone through already to meet these customers’ needs.
Q: How have you been working differently during COVID-19? How has the pandemic affected your role?
SD: For me professionally, I transitioned from sales to product management during the pandemic, so I had to physically move from Seattle to Lisle during this time. COVID-19 had changed both my roles—for sales engineers, you can’t call on your customers face to face, which provides an additional hurdle when trying to develop relationships through a screen/phone. In product management, we haven’t been able to travel, so the transfer teams have been managing moving production equipment to other countries without being there in person to see how things are built or monitor bringing up the machines in the new location. The team has managed to use technology to the best of their ability, using virtual glasses to show somebody sitting in one country how things look on the assembly line halfway across the world. We’ve all had to adjust how we do things and how we work with our customers as they adapt to this too.
On a personal note, I have been using this time to read a lot more! And spend more time with my family puppy, Otis, who I am deeply obsessed with.