Sabina Hodzic: “Tough Cookie“ Engineering
Although she is only 30, Sabina Hodzic has already faced many challenges in her career to date. Comfort zone, feet up and relax? That’s never been her thing – and it wasn’t when she decided to study electrical engineering at the age of 20.
After graduating in 2014 as the only female student on her course, Sabina was drawn to thyssenkrupp Steering in the Principality of Liechtenstein. Back then the steering specialists were looking for a development engineer to optimize noise levels from the electric motor used in EPS systems. This is still a very young discipline with many unexplored areas and unanswered questions. Exactly the right thing for the new graduate. Sabina is convinced that to make the right decisions “you have to be brave and maybe even a little bit delusional ”.
Just moving from the city to the countryside in January 2015 proved to be a small personal challenge for the young engineer. “The life, culture and mentality here are rather different to what I was used to,” says Sabina. But even more of an adventure than swapping the flat landscape of East Westphalia-Lippe for the Alps was starting her job. As a development engineer Sabina was joining a team dedicated to evaluating and reducing noise from electric power assisted steering systems (EPAS): The discipline “Noise, Vibration, Harshness” (NVH) is concerned with optimizing noise and vibrations in vehicles or machines.
“You have to understand that NVH is still a relatively new field in the area of steering systems, and it’s only in the last few years that it has gained rapidly in importance,” says Sabina. “That means there are still many unexplored areas and unanswered questions.” As a result the team’s work involved carrying out numerous test series and proceeding by trial and error. Sabina: “It was obvious to me that it wasn’t going to be an easy job, but it would be fascinating and never boring. And that’s exactly why back then I said: Challenge accepted!”
One project sticks particularly in her mind. “It was a really demanding job. Our customer set very high requirements – probably because it was their first new-generation electric vehicle and they wanted everything to be perfect and ‘noiseless’,” says Sabina. “We already had a potential solution, but no-one really believed it would work. We kept on hearing things like ‘that’ll never get off the ground’ or ‘it’s not robust enough’. Thankfully I and a few other colleagues were motivated enough to keep bouncing back even after months of setbacks and we worked hard to make the impossible possible. The project was a complete success: We managed to reduce noise emissions in the vehicle interior by up to 14 dB (A) and structure-borne noise in some cases by as much as 24 dB.“
It was this project that also won Sabina her unusual nickname. “People appreciated the fact that I never gave up despite various obstacles. Since then people have been calling me ‘tough cookie’,” says Sabina with a smile.
With her expertise and strong can-do mentality, she was quickly singled out as promotion material. “After around four years I was given the opportunity to take on a leadership role – in exactly the same team where I had previously been a team member and colleague,” says Sabina.
Promotion to Head of Competence Center NVH at 29 was a further challenge. “It hasn’t always been easy,” says Sabina. “But with transparent communication, openness and really great team members everything is possible. They are one of the main reasons I still love my job even after six years.”
“There’s no such thing as a typical working day”
But even after six years in NVH, there are no signs of boredom or routine for Sabina. “There’s no such thing as a typical working day,” she laughs. The job is simply too unusual and interesting for that: “That’s partly to do with the area of NVH itself and partly with our position as a central interface,” says . “My team and I have to ensure that our steering gears deliver acceptable acoustic performance in the vehicle. That means we have to work together worldwide with customers, internal and external suppliers, the various business units and specialist departments, plants and regional headquarters.”
Sabina is making her own way in what is still a largely male-dominated engineering world. But the young manager is not surprised: “Competence is never a question of gender. I hope we will see more skilled female colleagues and expect female representation in the sector to rise in the future.”
Sabina also has some advice for new female – and of course male – colleagues: “I can recommend thyssenkrupp to anyone who is not afraid to start with a completely blank sheet. If you’re looking for creative and varied work you’re in the right place here.”