Elisabeth Lindström-Dupuy is Head of Sales Area North Asia at Sandvik Coromant. She started as a Production Engineer in Gimo, Sweden, and then took on different managing roles in France, Germany and is currently stationed in China where she has been for over six years. Her experiences within the tooling industry have been predominately positive and have formed leadership traits that take her where she wants.
Why did you want to become an engineer?
It was a combination of the era and my upbringing. In high school in Sweden I was subjected to a lot of information about how a technical career was a profitable option and a safe bet for the future. I was also raised to take care of myself. My intention was to get a well-paid job to be able to be independent. As I was very good at math, I looked for a university education in the technical sector. This was not common for female students at the time, and it’s sad to see that math is still something girls are less likely to pursue, mainly because they are not encouraged by teachers and family the same way as boys are.
What was your experience studying in a male dominated academic field?
After high school I began to study at LiTH Linköping Technical University, Sweden, and I think we were only 11 percent female students at that time. But I never felt that I was treated incorrectly. It was a friendly attitude. I was soon caught up in the more social parts of student life and I am regretful to say that I neglected my studies. I flunked my first year. So, I decided to get some practical experience instead and left LiTH and took a welding exam. After that I was ready to get back to academia again and got a master’s degree of science in Mechanical Engineering & Ergonomics from LTU Luleå University of Technology, Sweden. I also studied Industrial Economics at INPL in Nancy, France.
To be able make it as a woman in a male dominated business you need some extra power from within to actually do what you want, because sometimes you need to assure some of the people around you that you belong
What does your current position entail?
I’m responsible for sales in China, Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong and that means a vast geographical area to cover, and a lot of employees that I am responsible for. I lead the organization management team and set sales goals as well as deciding what industry areas to focus on, from airplane construction to medical manufacturing. I make sure every sales area follows up on the customers’ demands and help them develop their machines. After sales market is another important area where I make sure each area collects the information needed to sell new tools when the old ones are used up. I have a daily run down on what tools work in different industries and I always look at new possibilities and products to offer our customers.
What is the future for your field?
How to handle data and transform that into real customer scenarios. Intelligent tooling and artificial intelligence will make the industry more efficient and safer as the tools themselves, for example, can communicate when they need to be exchanged for new ones. I think AI and robotics will broaden the scope for female engineers as it promotes a more holistic view of the industry where you combine knowledge and see different aspects and possibilities.
You have had a long career within Sandvik, how did it start?
As a PhD student at LTU I was asked to go to an interview for a position as production engineer at Sandvik’s facilities in Gimo. I remember them asking me, a bit typical maybe, if I wouldn’t be startled by the machines. But I had my welding exam to show I had the practical experience with production machines and so I was hired. It was a great place to work at, very friendly and heartfelt.
How have you navigated your role within the industry?
Wherever I have been in the world, my competence has never been challenged. There have been some occasions when someone outside of Sandvik has addressed me as the secretary, even though that has never been my role, but otherwise my expertise and position has not been disputed.
What are your main leadership traits?
I listen, observe and then I act in the way that is most beneficial.
Have you had any female role models?
Not in the industry, for obvious reasons; there weren’t any female engineers on my level to identify with. My role model in life is my mother, who was courageous and had a great drive within.
What would you like to say to female students today that you would have wanted to hear yourself?
Focus, focus, focus and follow through. Don’t give up on your aspirations and keep doing what is important to you. To be able make it as a woman in a male dominated business you need some extra power from within to actually do what you want, because sometimes you need to assure some of the people around you that you belong. And, get a female mentor. I never really had one, even though I have a great network. In hindsight I realize it would have been a good thing to have a female mentor to go to just to vent and develop ideas.
Title: Head of Sales Area North Asia at Sandvik Coromant.
From: Stockholm, Sweden. I’m an European, born in Sweden, raised in Germany – so my home bases are both Sweden and Germany, as well as France through my marriage.
Family: Husband and two daughters.
Hobbies: Music and travelling.
Something others might not know about me: I am a polyglot. I have native proficiency in Swedish, speaks fluent English, French and German, plus basic Chinese.