Emerging Engineers: Audra Thurston


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To be honest: I was skeptical when I first heard IPC APEX EXPO 2021 was going to be virtual. We have all attended too many Zoom meetings that are not engaging, and it is easy for virtual events to fall into this stereotype. However, after attending this one I am a full supporter of the virtual format and hope the IPC considers a hybrid format for future conferences!

I see the virtual format as a solution to increasing participation, especially for engineers. It can be hard to justify sending your entire engineering team to an event like IPC APEX EXPO, especially for manufacturers like Calumet Electronics where engineers are needed around the clock to keep the wheels turning. Typically, the most senior engineers end up going to these conferences, which limits the participation of younger engineers. The committee meetings, technical sessions, and professional development courses have been critical in my development as a young engineer and using the virtual format to make this content more accessible would be invaluable to our industry in building up the next generation of engineers. If the event offers virtual content next year, I think we would definitely have all of our engineers participate virtually while still sending some representatives to the live conference.

The All-Access Pass of the virtual conference also allowed me to attend more courses because they are available for 90 days after the live event. I have been able to go back and watch meetings based on my schedule, which has increased my exposure to topics that I would have otherwise written off as low priority. Again, as an early career engineer looking to expose myself to as much as possible, this on-demand availability has been valuable.

I hope that IPC considers a hybrid model for future IPC APEX EXPO events to make the conference more accessible to more people, particularly early career engineers like myself. With IPC’s focus on the Factory of the Future, which includes some aspects of virtual reality, I’m sure we can figure out the best hybrid conference model in the world and set the standard (pun intended) of what virtual events can be.

This article appeared in the 2021 edition of Show & Tell Magazine.

Audra Thurston of Calumet Electronics received the IPC Rising Star Award at IPC APEX EXPO 2021


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