Fielder discusses her entry into the golf industry, her leading role within the company and opportunities for women in golf
It’s no secret that the STEM world has a low presence of women in the workforce. According to Econofact, only 29% of women were in technology and engineering as of 2019; today, MIT notes that 28% of the STEM industry in general employs women.
Part of Fore Hire’s goal with its Women Who Want to Work in Golf program is to expose women to jobs that don’t immediately come to mind when thinking about working in the golf industry.
Ping, one of the event sponsors, hosted the 31 attendees at its Phoenix, Arizona, facility, providing tours throughout the campus, a fitting presentation and a panel discussion with key female Ping employees sharing their experiences both within the company and in the golf industry.
The First Call’s Kelly Okun met with Rose Fielder, Ping’s director of engineering operations, to talk about her path and the opportunities for women who want to follow in similar footsteps. Fielder has been with Ping since her first internship 17 years ago and, like Stacey Pauwels, Ping’s executive vice president, continues to find ways to grow women’s presence in the golf industry, specifically in golf club engineering.
The First Call: What inspired you to pursue golf or a job in the golf industry after college?
Rose Fielder: I played in college for a couple years. I started in high school, like freshman year, got the bug and worked at a golf indoor hitting range.
I was pretty obsessed with it. I played golf and field hockey in high school and then ultimately chose golf going into college. I made it on the team at the University of Michigan as a walk-on, and then redshirted my freshman year. I didn't play a ton my second and third years and then ultimately decided to move more toward my engineering degree.
But while I was playing golf, I also had a professor that was doing a research project with Ping. I was on a research project with him and I said, ‘Can I get a contact for somebody at Ping? I want to submit my resume for an internship.’ I had no idea that they did hire engineers, so when I found that out, I was like, yes, that's what I need to do. I was able to get an internship and then interned for a couple summers and ended up being hired full-time – the rest is history. I can't believe how well it worked out.
TFC: Did you have any mentors who helped along the way, especially being a woman navigating a male-dominated industry?
RF: You know, it's funny. So in my engineering program, I was used to being one of very few females in every class that I had and I never found it to be a real issue or anything. It just was the way it was. And so when I entered into the golf industry, it was kind of similar where I didn't really notice that I needed that mentorship from another female necessarily within the industry. I'm realizing that more now as I'm later in my career.
Stacey [Pauwels] has certainly been a great mentor for me, as is Tina [Palley, director of manufacturing] and all the other women that I work with. I've had a few bosses that have been really just great advocates and friends over the years that I've been here. I would say it's been a group of people not, you know, specific individuals.
TFC: It sounded like everyone can apply to different departments within Ping when there are openings in order to get a holistic view of the business. What did your path look like coming in? Did you jump around as well?
RF: I didn't really jump around. I've been foundationally in product development the whole time, and I'm not a big risk taker, so I think for my personality, it's worked out well. I was able to secure a full-time job when I graduated. I started working here as a project engineer and got pretty proficient with that. My manager ended up leaving, so it created an opportunity to become manager of the group.
I knew the group well and I knew the content of the work well, so I stepped into that role, which was unnerving. It was different trying to manage people, and I was pretty naïve and young at the time. I was in that role for about eight years, and the thing about that role is that it gives you a very broad view of the company just by virtue of the fact that you're working with every different group to collaborate on bringing a product to market.
So a lot of the work starts off in the engineering and product development group. But we bring in marketing, we bring in finance, we bring in supply chain as a big partner during the process. I got really good exposure to all those different groups while I was in that specific role.
Then this new role [as director of engineering operations] is more broad, spanning across the entire engineering department. So it's very different from the project engineering manager role that I was in before. But again, within hard goods product development, I'm fairly comfortable within that space and that's been the path so far.
TFC: What are some of your main responsibilities as director of engineering operations?
RF: One of the big ones is our product development procedure. We have a standardized set of deliverables that we have to step through and check off, like a big checklist basically. But it’s kind of nuanced in the way that the procedure dictates how you interact with other teams and at what point you bring in other people. So I manage that whole process and work with each of the managers of the different groups involved in the process.
I may not be very knowledgeable about the details of every process, but I have to work to extract that from the manager or from the individual contributor and put it in the procedure in a way that makes sense.
Going along with that, one of the resources that works for me is our staff knowledge analyst, Kaitlyn Mobley. She oversees our entire knowledge environment, so all the knowledge that we generate through product development, problem solving efforts and information about our suppliers and [golf club feature design] guidelines.
All that information that we gather is stored in a virtual database, and she's in charge of organizing that and making it findable to the people that are trying to consume it in the next product cycle. It's a massive challenge, and she and I are always working on ways to solve that problem. So that’s another area of responsibility.
All the tools that we use to execute the development process are mostly created in-house and she's, again, that resource that helps develop those tools. The analysis and testing team reports up through me, so all the tests that we do to validate our products for quality and performance and durability.
I don't get in the weeds with a lot of that. The manager of that group is really, really good at overseeing the day-to-day and the details, but I do try to support him directly. And then our project engineering team still reports up through me, so I am involved in the product development process and the execution of it.
Goals and metrics for the department is a big responsibility. Each manager has different ideas about how they want to scope things for their teams, so I try to help standardize that across the department so that we can communicate effectively across the different teams and ultimately align on what our overall objectives are.
I also oversee and organize the internship program and work with HR for that and also all the hiring that we do for full-time roles; I'm the main liaison with HR for our department.
TFC: You’re just a little busy. When it comes to navigating work and such a big job as a mother, what advice do you have for moms coming back to work or who want work while maintaining and growing their family?
RF: My husband and I both work full-time, and we are extremely fortunate to have family support. I don't know how parents do it without family support because that's been huge. My son is actually sick and he's with my in-laws right now instead of at school while we're both working.
I think [it’s about] finding a company that's flexible enough to support you spending that time. I mentioned in the panel discussion [for the Women Who Want to Work in Golf event earlier] that one of my priorities is being there with my kids for important events. My daughter has a Kindy 500 cardboard box race this Wednesday that I want to be there for.
All my coworkers, and the company in general, are very supportive of taking time here and there to go do those things. So that's great. If I had a job where I was chained to my desk with very little flexibility, I think that would be probably a deciding factor between do I work or do I stay home with my kids.
I think being kind to yourself about setting boundaries [is important]. It's hard to not compare yourself to other people, either other people that don't have kids or maybe a coworker that has a spouse that stays home full-time and can manage some more of the stuff with their kids that we can't with a two-parent-working household.
I have to constantly remind myself that it's okay, I'm doing the best I can and I don't have to do everything and I don't have to be everything for everybody. But that was a very difficult transition going from single, fresh out of college with all the time in the world. I would spend 60, 70 hours a week working and I loved it.
Then I got married, and we bought a house and we did some renovations. I had less free time to spend with work. Then it kind of proceeded to go down from there as I was pregnant and was tired and felt like crap for nine months and trying to be kind to myself during that period where it's like, I might have to get up and go puke in the bathroom and come back and work for the rest of the afternoon.
Just all of that is something that I think a lot of women – especially in a male-dominated industry, it's not the fault of the coworkers – don’t broadcast. So you kind of feel like, well, I just have to suck it up and make it work, which I did, but I beat myself up a little bit in the process of that.
TFC: How does Ping benefit from having women in their engineering department?
RF: I think in general, diversity is important. It's not a very common combination to have an engineering degree and college golf experience. So that in and of itself, male or female, is pretty rare. But what we found is there are a lot more men that apply for our roles than women. I think because of that, without extra effort to attract more women, we have tended to hire more men and into our roles and we're definitely male-dominated within our department.
We still have a lot of diversity of thought even with that, but just adding another element of that to trying to get the female perspective is helpful with brainstorming.
Our first ever (that I'm aware of) female design engineer will be starting soon. She's a college golfer and interned with us last summer. Having her with that woman's perspective, thinking about what women want out of the G430 product – not all women play our ladies-specific products – [will be helpful].
So if she's able to help bring in that perspective, I think it's just incrementally over time going to make a big difference and impact. That's been my mentality with hiring both for internships and full-time roles – try to get more exposure of our roles out there in the industry to female golfers and let their resumes and their experience speak for itself.
Which it has. Almost 50% of our interns are female this summer, which is fantastic.
TFC: Do they all have golf experience in some capacity?
RF: Yeah, golf or competitive sports. We actually do a year-long internship with Loughborough University in the UK. We've done a couple of different universities, but that's the main one. Actually two of them are coming over from Loughborough for a full year, starting in July. I don't think either of them play golf, but they're very much into competitive sports - field hockey or soccer. It seems like most people here have some sort of sports background.
Not everybody at Ping has a background in competitive sports or golf, but I think definitely of people in some of the higher positions like Tina, she's not afraid to say it like it is and she manages her team extremely well I think in large part due to her sports background and competitiveness.
TFC: Why do you think we need more women in STEM or what do you think could encourage more women to join it?
RF: I think there's an intimidation factor. I see it with my daughter – she’s 6 and in Girl Scouts. I recognize that the natural tendency for that environment is to do arts and crafts and things like that. She's very creative but she's also scientific, and I know she's not getting that really pushed at her naturally. So I have to take a more active role with it and I think for me, what the benefit for me with going through a STEM program in college and being more focused on that was problem solving.
Problem solving is something you can apply to anything in your entire life. There are always problems that come up, and being empowered and feeling capable of solving your own problems is huge for confidence and just overall satisfaction with your decision making, your ability to adapt and to solve problems.
I think that's what the core of any STEM program is, and what I think anybody, but specifically women, can benefit most from. I went to her Girl Scouts one week and taught a physics lesson for 5-year-olds on catapults and asked, ‘What happened? What's behind why one object goes further than another? Or how can you manipulate the design of the catapult to get things to go farther?’ It was cool to see actually. One of the girls answered, ‘Oh, well because it's not as heavy.’
I'm like, yes, that's awesome. I do feel like at that age at least you can see the interest level and then the knowledge starting to grow. It helps to have a specific push in the STEM direction, I think to make, move the needle.
TFC: It sounds like the interest can start young and needs to be open or implemented more in schools.
RF: Probably, yeah. From an earlier age I don't have a great insight to what my daughter does day in, day out at school, but she gets some exposure to it and she's obviously in a class with a bunch of boys, but her friends at school are more interested in dance lessons. I signed her up for a Lego class at the beginning and it was her and a bunch of boys, and she hated it because she was the only girl.
I think if there were more girls in that environment working together on something like that, it wouldn't be as intimidating. And maybe she would've loved it if there were 18 girls and two boys instead of the other way around.
TFC: What opportunities are there for women to start working at Ping?
RF: We're pretty flexible on the internship front. I talked to Melanie De Leon [a program attendee] who's transitioning from an Army officer into a civilian role, and she was asking about internships. I'm like oh, that's unique, we don't ever do that, but we could easily make something like that work.
I think there's a lot of flexibility with our company and the size and the fact that we're family-owned, can influence a lot of those decisions. I've tried to do that in certain cases, trying to create roles that maybe nobody thought of, just because somebody asked me, ‘Hey, do you guys ever have a need for this?’
And I'm like, well, I didn't realize we did until you said something, but yes. So a lot of those happen organically, but customer service has a regular cadence of openings. That's really the one department I can think of that's pretty consistent with hiring.
As you saw with the employee boards, we have a pretty low turnover within the rest of the company, so it's hard to predict. We don't have a class that we hire every year for a certain role other than customer service
TFC: What's your favorite part of campus here in Phoenix?
RF: Oh, man. That's a good question. The machine shop has produced all of the equipment that we use to manufacture clubs down in assembly.
When I was an intern, I didn't know anything about threads. We were having issues with it and I was like, I have no idea how to solve this problem.
So I go down to the machine shop and they have just an incredible amount of knowledge down there. You ask them any question on how to make anything and they can do it. The ability for them to fabricate literally anything you can think of is fascinating to me.