Process Engineer, Metals
Nicole Altman is a process engineer in the Downstream Metals team, and she calls our Pittsburgh office home. She started her career as an intern in the steel industry and accepted a job in Hatch's Iron & Steel team in 2015 after graduating from Penn State University with a degree in Materials Science and Engineering.
Outside of work, Nicole is an active member of the Association of Iron and Steel Technology (AIST) as the Young Professional Chair (2020-2023) for the Pittsburgh Chapter. She also enjoys cooking vegetarian meals and golfing with her husband.
A stereotypical myth about women in STEM is that they aren't good at technical jobs. Hatch is a living example of how women can hold, and be excellent at, the most technical jobs.
Why did you become interested in the STEM field?
I was naturally better at math and science than other subjects so I figured pursuing something in that category would be best. In high school I liked both chemistry and physics, so when I was browsing engineering majors at Penn State, I thought Materials Science and Engineering would be a good fit. I thought I would engineer a new glass for the iPhone that didn’t crack. Little did I know, I’d actually end up in the metals industry!
What myths would you dispel about being a woman in a STEM field?
A stereotypical myth about women in STEM is that they aren't good at technical jobs. Hatch is a living example of how women can hold, and be excellent at, the most technical jobs. There is also the myth that if you are good at your job and work hard, everything will be smooth sailing. That neglects the cultural and emotional aspect of work and sometimes being the only woman on a team or project can be tough.
What advice would you give to young women about the STEM field?
Take advantage of all the women-in-STEM type opportunities you can, from girls science camp at a young age to women in engineering college clubs, or professional societies specifically geared toward women. Finding people who can relate to and talk through concerns you have relating to your career as a woman in STEM can be a huge help.
Did you have any mentors during your education and/or career? Have you been a mentor to someone?
I was talking about this the other day because I just started supervising a young woman in my group. She asked about mentorship, which makes you think of one person giving you advice throughout your career. I don't feel like Hatch is necessarily set up that way. I’ve found that I’ve had mentors at different points in my career. When I first started at Hatch, I was working with one project manager for two or three years and I considered him a mentor. Over the next three years, I was working with another project manager, and I learned from him too. I’ve found that if you ask questions people are willing to guide you.
What are you most proud of in your career?
In my second and third years at Hatch, I was based on a client site where I was to manage a project. That was my first project management experience and my first-time coordinating construction activities and seeing my work put into action, which was very rewarding. I was in my early 20s and directing multiple parties, which was an intimidating but valuable experience because it taught me how to manage stress, which in turn benefited my work life. It’s something I continue to work on. So even though it was very stressful, it was a pivotal moment that made me more aware of my emotional well-being at work.
Do you feel supported at Hatch?
Hatch's reputation brings in a lot of interesting work and I think I've been supported in getting to work on very exciting projects to build my skills. Outside of my direct work, I have been a part of the Association of Iron and Steel Technology since I started at Hatch and have been able to travel for training and take on a role for the local Pittsburgh chapter, which has been supported by Hatch throughout my career.
How do you think the Hatch culture is different from other companies related to diversity and inclusion?
To be honest, I don't know how our culture would be compared to other equivalent consulting companies. I can just comment on how I've experienced the shift in diversity and inclusion culture at Hatch. In my eight years at Hatch, I have certainly seen that our efforts to attract more diverse candidates has improved our diversity in the workplace and hopefully that continues.