Jill Brotz: “I strongly encourage females to enter this field!”

Jill Brotz

Jill Brotz is a Mechanical Design Engineer at UNISIG, a role she secured before graduating from Lakeshore’s Mechanical Design & Engineering Technology program.

Are you naturally curious about things, detail-oriented, and good at solving problems? If so, many careers could be good fits, including mechanical design and engineering – a field historically dominated by men. Jill Brotz, a May 2024 Lakeshore Technical College graduate of our Mechanical Design & Engineering Technology program, is doing her part to help diversify that mix. 

“I strongly encourage females to enter this field!” says Jill, who is also currently employed as a Mechanical Design Engineer at UNISIG. “Females are definitely underrepresented in Mechanical Design Engineering.” 

Jill says she didn’t grow up with much interest in mechanical things and struggled with confidence when she first entered the program, in spring 2022. 

“I was comparing myself to men who grew up with it. But I’ve learned that there are so many other skills that go into being successful as a design engineer, such as a high attention to detail, a curious mind, and a problem-solving mentality. Learning the ins and outs of mechanical design comes with time, through school and job training,” Jill says.

Jill’s Path to Lakeshore
Jill became interested in mechanical design and engineering after observing engineering teams at the fabrication company she previously worked at. She wanted to move forward in her career, and the design engineers were very helpful in advising her on the proper steps to take. Some of the design engineers she worked with at the time were Lakeshore Mechanical Design & Engineering Technology program graduates, who recommended the program to her. 

While learning at Lakeshore, Jill says she has had good experiences with instructors going above and beyond to help her succeed. She has also found a lot of the material she learned to be applicable in real life.

Real Experience for the Real World
When asked whether she ever takes what she learns in her coursework and applies it to her job, and vice versa, Jill is clearly positive: “I have experienced a lot of cross-over. Having experience in this field made learning quicker because I wasn’t starting with a blank slate. Then, learning through a classroom environment made the information I had learned at my job sink in and gave me a deeper understanding.”

Jill was originally hired as an intern by UNISIG, which engineers and manufactures drilling machines and systems for use worldwide, before getting offered her current full-time position a few months later. She brought design work experience from her previous job and says she was ultimately hired due to her experience with the design software, the impending completion of her associate degree, and her previous experience as a hands-on fabricator, which set her apart from other candidates. UNISIG also appreciated Jill having her Lean Six Sigma Blackbelt certification, which she earned at Lakeshore.

Student Success On the Job
While Jill was still a Lakeshore student, UNISIG tasked her with redesigning a particular mechanism. She accomplished the task with great success. 

“I was able to improve on the design by making it more cost-effective and easier to manufacture. I also worked closely with our electrical and automation teams to improve the design for their needs. It turned into a more complex project than what was initially planned, but the result was very positive,” says Jill. In addition, Jill says she will be able to apply the improvements to similar products.

During a tour of UNISIG in April, Lakeshore Adjunct Instructor Kelly Ryba had the opportunity to see the machine Jill redesigned and learn more about how valuable Jill had become to the company. 

“Not only was the company impressive in their engineering, manufacturing, and machine building, but for me it was so great to see how Jill has applied the skills she learned at Lakeshore to the significant work she does at UNISIG as a Mechanical Design Engineer,” says Kelly. 

In addition to Jill’s redesign success, Kelly learned from UNISIG representatives that she was instrumental in the company bringing its fabrication department in-house. The work had previously been fully outsourced. The department now includes a laser, press brake, and welding equipment.

“Jill is a terrific example of the top caliber Mechanical Design & Engineering Technology program students Lakeshore is training to satisfy needs in the manufacturing industry,” says Kelly. “She’s also proof of how successful females can be in a field traditionally filled with men. I welcome more females to join me and Jill in this field.”

In spring 2024, Jill was one of only four females enrolled in the program.

For more information about Lakeshore’s Mechanical Design & Engineering Technology program, visit gotoltc.edu/programs-and-courses/degree-programs/mechanical-design-and-engineering-technology