Ulrike Fuchs - 2019 SPIE Women in Optics Planner
Vice President Strategy and Innovation,
asphericon GmbH, Germany
Country of Birth: Germany
Math, physics, and chemistry were okay in school, but I never really got excited about them. What really inspired me was what I learned about the work of my father who was a physicist and my grandfather who was an engineer. For me this was a completely different world than what was taught in school and I wanted to be able to solve problems the way scientists could. The ability to approach tasks and get answers with logic and experimental setups fascinated me.
My current position comprises my personal dream potpourri of tasks and topics. I oversee all R&D topics at asphericon, including strategic product development. Counseling customers about layout, design, tolerancing, and optimized manufacturing of their optical systems are also part of my work. Furthermore, I love to participate at conferences presenting our latest work and learning more about current challenges in optics.
Switching from academics to the manufacturing industry was a culture shock since pace and the variety of customer requests are much more demanding. Having a great CEO, who encouraged me to trust my skills and my gut instincts, made that change the best choice in my career.
Studying physics as a woman never seemed special to me. Later on, I had to learn the hard way that some people thought of me as being part of a quota. I wish someone had told me before that part of my journey was to prove that I am actually doing a good job.
It is not a simple yes or no decision to go into a STEM field. Be aware of your own unique set of skills and keep on looking for your niche. Getting up in the morning for a job you love, no matter what it is, not only leads to a great deal of satisfaction, but also to the best results possible. Be happy as often as you can.