Natalie Vanderspiegel

By the time she was in junior high, Natalie knew engineering was the right field for her. While studying for her undergraduate degree, in addition to working as a research assistant, Natalie worked as a night shift front desk clerk for a local hotel. “I knew that these positions were helping prepare me for my entry into my professional career after college,” Natalie recalls. “They provided valuable lessons about customer service, accountability and creating personal motivation.”

In graduate school, Natalie did research on bio-medical glass used to cure cancer, promote bone growth and deliver medication to the source of inflammation to reduce drug addiction. At the start of her professional career with Caterpillar, she worked on a team doing material based research on aftertreatment systems that enabled heavy-duty diesel engine to meet strict EPA on-highway emission limits. But a pivotal moment of Natalie’s career came when she was being interviewed for a position at Solar Turbines.

When Solar expressed interest in Natalie as a candidate and began discussing the logistics of the transfer, Natalie took a big risk. She informed the manager that she and her partner, who at the time was in the Manufacturing Professional Development Program (MPDP) rotational program, considered themselves a dual career couple and that the transfer would affect both of them. At the time, the established benefits and protections for heterosexual dual-career couples were not available to them. Natalie shared, “The instant response from the manager was ‘Of course, it is the right thing to do’ – it was so refreshing to hear a leader say those words that I knew Solar Turbines was the right place for me and my family.”

At Solar Turbines, Natalie managed a team of 11 and was responsible for inventory accuracy, transactions and storage of inventory valued at more than $65M. In February 2016, Natalie was promoted to Value Stream Manager and leads a team of 65 to manufacture and test Solar’s controls systems. Natalie has improved manufacturing and assembly processes which allow the production of Solar products in a safer and more efficient manner.

As a recipient of the STEP Ahead Award, we asked Natalie about diversity in the manufacturing field. “It isn’t just important… it is proven that gender diversity directly adds value to the enterprise. Women think and approach situations differently – we bring distinctive perspective and experiences to the table. In order to remain a profitable and relevant business … we have to innovate to find creative results and collaborate to find system solutions. However, diversity alone isn’t enough, it must come with inclusion. Inclusion that all voices are heard, approaches considered and ideas valued.”

Natalie’s passion for people and proven ability to achieve incredible business results has made her an incredible asset to the Solar team. Congratulations, Natalie!