Olivia Fehlberg - 2022 SPIE Women in Optics Planner
Edmund Optics, Inc., USA
SPIE Early Career Professional Member
Born in the US
I’ve always had a love of asking questions, and throughout my childhood I was lucky enough to have parents who helped me find the ways to answer them. My dad would spend hours showing me how to take something apart and fix it; my mom would point out a plant or bird and tell me all about it. So, when I told them I wanted to be an astronaut they never questioned it or the countless hours I’d stare up at the moon through my telescope trying to find the Apollo 11 landing spot. That curiosity and dream drove me in my favorite classes and through those I found a home in science and eventually optics. While I may never be an astronaut (you never know!), I love knowing that the work we do in optics is enabling future technologies and even missions to put people on Mars!
As an optical/opto-mechanical design engineer, I design optical components and systems using optical and mechanical design software, then work with the other team members to get those designs out to manufacturing and into the world. I’ve worked on a variety of systems, from industrial camera lenses to laser system components and more. It's a rewarding experience to have something that you designed be built and then put into use.
Actively working on my confidence in both myself and my abilities has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve taken on, but it’s also been one that has immensely improved my work, my professional relationships, and even my sense of who I am and what I can do. I had to learn not only how to trust in what I knew or felt, but also be okay to say it aloud and stand up for what I think and believe in. For me, it has meant leaning on supporters in my network and having hard conversations with myself at times, but it has been and continues to be worth the effort.
When I started out, and even now, I sometimes think I must be great at something right away. It’s not true! I couldn’t have gotten to where I am or be going where I’m trying to without help and support along the way. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it and put in effort along that way to build yourself a network that lifts you up and inspires.
If something excites you, even if it’s tangential to what you think you want to do or completely unrelated, lean into that. There is so much more to STEM fields than we can even imagine, so if it interests you, I say go for it—you never know what could come of any opportunity.