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Inspiring and encouraging future female engineers

By Bethany Deuel

Published: Sep 7, 2022 3:00:00 PM

Evans addressing incoming female engineers at the 100+ Women Strong New Student Welcome Event Evans addressing incoming female engineers at the 100+ Women Strong New Student Welcome Event

Sharlene Evans has gathered many lessons about leadership, genuineness and life throughout her more than 30-year career. Today, she is eager to share those lessons with young Auburn engineers.

Evans graduated from Auburn in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering and went straight to Purdue for a master’s degree. At her first post-graduate job as a project engineer with Eli Lilly and Company, Evans worked to help improvement initiatives in different functional areas of the company, supporting logistics and quality. It was there, leading a project to redesign a warehouse layout, that Evans learned the key for successful project management.

“No matter what you do as an engineer, whether you’re designing a new process or a solution, if you don’t have people who support and adopt your idea to make it successful, it’s not going to work. There is so much power in leveraging people behind a solution,” she said.

Dell Technologies Inc. then recruited Evans to the international operations development team where she first experienced working internationally. As project manager of a new assembly line in their plant in Mexico, Evans helped design and implement the process to assemble and configure personalization features in personal computers for the local market. This began a great experience in what was a fast-growing technology company. 

Evans began the true bulk of her career doing consulting in her next role at Ernst & Young. One of the highlights of her career, Evans said, was a project she led to find more effective ways to reuse equipment in automobile factories following platform changes through creating a database to keep track of available equipment. The project became one of the top 10 projects at Ford Motor Co. globally, and taught Evans more about managing a project with people holding a variety of process and technology skills.

In her next role at Celerant Consulting, Evans began to make the transition from focusing on operations and supply chain work to organization effectiveness. After 13 years at Celerant, Evans worked at Hitachi Consulting and SSA & Company before moving to Myrtle Consulting Group to serve as the Chief People Officer.

“It was the perfect job,” Evans said. “I could help make an impact on the organization that was growing, that I cared about and wanted to be part of, but I could also still help shape and support the work that would be done for our clients.” 

When Myrtle was acquired by Accenture PLC two years later, Evans was selected to serve as the integration lead where she managed the merger of not only two companies, but of many people with vast skill sets.  

“Throughout my whole career, that interaction with people has always been critical, whether I was doing process improvement, or I was down on the production floor down in the middle of Mexico.

“That’s the thing about engineering. The skills that you bring with an engineering education will be applicable to anything you do. You learn a methodical approach to problem solving,” Evans said.

Evans’ engagement with Auburn is wide and deep. She is a member of 100+ Women Strong and the Auburn University Foundation Board of Directors, serving on the executive committee and as chair of the directorship committee. She is also a member of the College of Human Sciences Advisory Board and the First Coast Auburn Club.

When she was asked to be the keynote speaker at the 100+ Women Strong New Student Welcome Event, Evans immediately said yes, but debated what message she wanted to convey to the incoming freshmen. Based off her own career experiences, Evans wanted the group to understand the importance of grace and confidence.

“I just hope they will enjoy their journey and give themselves grace along the way,” Evans said. “There’s a lot of power in that because they are embarking on a very difficult curriculum.” 

From her many leadership roles, Evans has also seen the value of genuineness.

“There’s a perception that if you don’t come across as tough then you’re not going to be respected. That’s not necessarily the case. I think you go in, you be who you are and you find your style. Sometimes we do have to go outside of our comfort zones, but you don’t have to do it in a way that misrepresents who you are,” Evans said.

Giving back to Auburn Engineering through a scholarship was a given for Evans, who loves education, Auburn and creating opportunities for others.

“Those are the things that mean the most to me when I look back at my career,” Evans said, “It’s great to be able to see the accomplishment of what you helped an organization achieve, but it’s way more meaningful to see what you helped people and individuals achieve for themselves.

“I have a special affinity for female engineers, I have to say,” she added. “Just because I know what engineering has been for me and for my career. I know how difficult it can be, but I know how rewarding it can be. So being able to impact and inspire other young women to stay the course — that’s why I continue to support 100+ Women Strong.”

Media Contact: Bethany Deuel, bcd0048@auburn.edu, 334.844.5519

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