Sarah Goehrke – “The more diversity that comes into the industry, the more ways of thinking that are brought to the table, the more approaches become possible”

Sarah Goehrke has been covering the 3D Printing industry since 2014, in a leadership position since 2015, and loves the opportunity to gain first-hand looks and inside knowledge through traveling to events and sites. As the Editor-in-Chief of 3DPrint.com, Sarah helms content operations, overseeing full-time and freelance writers, heading social media efforts, and encouraging unique content creation. No matter for how long you’ve been in the industry, Sarah’s name is probably familiar to you, and she knows about you and your company too! We are thrilled to share a bit of her and how she got into this industry in this interview. 

Sarah, could you let us know about your background and what brought you to 3D printing in the first place?

Growing up in a family where both of my parents and all three of my sisters taught, I was naturally inclined toward teaching as a profession, and was an education major through my sophomore year of college; the plan was to teach high school AP English and direct the plays. I eventually accepted that I don’t have a teacher’s patience or disposition and dropped the education major. I graduated in 2007 with my bachelor’s degrees, Summa Cum Laude, in English and theatre, with a Spanish minor. And with no plan.

Over the next decade, I learned that career trajectory often comes down to two major factors: luck of timing and hard work. The unpredictable economic environment I graduated into made me drop my plans to move to the UK for a master’s degree in theatre direction, and I instead went full-time at the manufacturing company where I’d been temping. From there, I embarked on a six-year career with a Cleveland-based industry research/market forecasting company where I became the lead copy editor, managing departmental project flow. I also authored about ten studies as a research analyst, projecting growth in US markets for chemicals, animal health products and services, and various other industries. It was a great company but six years on, I was ready for my next move. That’s where it really came down to timing and luck; I was interviewing everywhere. I came very close to working with a restaurant management company, overseeing and editing menus in high-end restaurants; with a tire company as the content manager; and with a small manufacturing company working with data assets. I had also subscribed to a national email list collating remote writing opportunities, where I happened to see a small listing, via a Florida Craigslist post, for a tech news site hiring for an editor/writer. It turns out that was 3DPrint.com, and with a leap of faith I started less than a week later as one of the site’s earliest full-time employees in October 2014. 

Sarah learning about 3D printed cardiac models from Dr. Dee Dee Wang and Marianne Rollet at Henry Ford Hospital

In September 2015, less than a year after my start date, the site was acquired and in the changeover of operations, I was promoted to Editor-in-Chief of 3DPrint.com, a position I have held since. The happenstance of seeing the Craigslist ad – and of even responding to a Craigslist ad – was my jumpstart, but I pushed myself to learn as much as I could as quickly as I could about every aspect of the technology and the job. Trade shows, interviews, site visits, and summits have exponentially increased my access to, and understanding of, the technologies; on-the-ground learning has been critical.

What was your very first experience with 3D Printing?

The first time I heard about 3D printing was probably around 2010 or 2011 when the hype began and the news started featuring desktop 3D printers. I didn’t really think of it again until I edited a 500-plus-page study on the global 3D printing equipment market in late 2013. Even then, it was just another day at work (for a while, I could also recite the annual growth percentages predicted for beer demand in China; that was a great job for random knowledge). In autumn 2014, though, I took the plunge headfirst into 3D printing and haven’t looked back since.

Do you have any (fun or not) story about your career to share with us?

My career is all about telling stories, so many of them are already published. I will say this is the first time I’ve been on this side of an interview!

You have written about your personal experiences being a woman in the AM industry, and especially about being harassed during a trade show in 2016. What do you think can be done to prevent similar situations from happening again?

Attending events in the 3D printing industry – in any manufacturing industry – it’s impossible not to notice that there are more men than women involved throughout. It’s not uncommon for me to be the only woman at a table during event dinners. That imbalance never bothered me until 2016; I had accepted it as a fact of a young manufacturing field that was growing and would see more women, more diversity, participating as the industry grew. But at an exhibitors’ night in Frankfurt, I was grabbed for the first (and second, third, etc.) times. Walking across the floor at a trade show, even after hours, was never something I’d given a second thought to, but suddenly it wasn’t a safe place. That doesn’t reflect on the event or its organizers, nor on the industry as a whole; the bad behavior was from individuals. The problem was that those bad eggs were there representing companies that I work with every day. The problem was that it happened at all. The problem was that one of the people whose behavior caught me so off guard was someone I had previously trusted.

That was when I started speaking up more. It was terrifying, publishing that first account. I think I hit publish and immediately closed my browser. When I opened it again, though, and anxiously checked messages, they were wholly supportive – and mostly from men, who wanted to know how they could help the industry to be better. This year, I was nervous when I went to the same event, but had a great evening, for the most part. It broke my heart when I heard that wasn’t the case universally for the women in attendance. And I spoke up again. The message is spreading, and major companies are taking stances as well: zero tolerance.

The best way to prevent these situations – to prevent harassment – is through strength and unity. We’re living in the age of Harvey Weinstein, of Matt Lauer, of not silently putting up with powerful men’s misdeeds anymore. We need to speak up, we need to universally not tolerate disrespect. More event organizers are taking hard lines and are training their staff – event and security alike – to respond appropriately and immediately to reported incidents. That is brilliant and so heartening.

That said, the obvious best way to prevent any of this is simple: don’t do it. It shouldn’t be a thing that needs to be said, but just in case: don’t touch someone without their consent. It’s important to have a strong stance and a voice of support and unity, but the best way to stop harassment is to never start it, to never allow it to start. Don’t do it. Don’t stay quiet when you see something happen.

There seems to be a fear of backlash, as well, that any casual comment could be construed as “too much” and be ruinous. There’s a definite distinction between harassment and friendly joking, or even appropriately timed flirting if there’s romantic interest. It’s common for partners to meet through work; I met my husband at my last office. During work hours, we were professional colleagues, and we started courting during happy hours and otherwise on our own time. It’s very possible to build personal relationships that start professionally.

Thanks for sharing, Sarah. Anything exciting coming up you’d like us to know about?

As always, there’s a lot to look forward to in 3D printing – and as always, there’s a lot I can’t say yet ☺  

On the record, though, 3DPrint.com and SmarTech Publishing are hosting our first Additive Manufacturing Strategies summit in Washington, DC on 22 and 23 January, and there are some top-notch speakers lined up focusing on the business of 3D printing in medicine/dentistry. Summit-type events have become my personal favorites, as there’s such a mix of expertise to be shared and there’s great value in having so many experts in the same room at the same time that panels and networking both present unique opportunities to learn and advance business strategies.

2018 is also looking really exciting personally, as I continue to become more invested in this industry. Starting in Q1, I’ll be working more closely with Women in 3D Printing to present quarterly reports, working with Nora, on the state of diversity and inclusion in the industry. We’ll be examining advances, efforts, personal stories, and more against the backdrop of 3D printing as a business.

What is the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing you’ve seen so far?

I’ll be frank: I always hate this question. I’m in a very unique position to have a bird’s eye view of the additive manufacturing industry, and I know how lame it is to say, but every single day I see something that impresses me. (I also see the opposite, but…) People are brilliant, and 3D printing is allowing that brilliance to come to fruition in a crazy variety of never-before-possible projects.

If I had to pick one single thing, though, I’ll go with probably the most impressive person I’ve ever encountered: Lyman Connor. I met him at CES 2017, where he introduced me to his work with Handsmith, the nonprofit he founded outside of his day job as a GE engineer to create affordable bionic prosthetic hands. His intelligence, drive, and compassion brought me to tears when we talked (not my usual interview tactic). He embodies so much of what I adore about this technology. He’s also speaking at the AM Strategies summit, and I’m so looking forward to hearing more from him.

What do you consider game-changing technologies in Additive Manufacturing?

I consider boring applications to be game-changing. Additive manufacturing is a manufacturing technology; it shouldn’t be sexy, it should be useful. When 3D printing isn’t news in and of itself, that’s the real paradigm shift. The disruption comes in adoption and real-world use.

What makes the 3D printing industry particularly interesting for you:

  • In your profession?

As a writer and an editor, this industry keeps me busier than I could have ever imagined. A ‘slow news day’ in 3D printing has more going on than similar in pretty much any other field. There’s always something happening, someone to talk to, some project in the works. Not everything is inherently news-worthy, but every development adds something to the growth of the industry. This is also one of the only fields I could work in where within three and a half years I could have been around for ~10% of industry history and been in place to witness major leaps forward.

  • As a woman?

3DPrint.com writer Clare and Sarah at an open house at a manufacturing facility in Akron, Ohio

Despite what I’ve mentioned of negative experiences, those are by far the exception to the rule. I’ve met some of the most phenomenal people through this work, including some truly remarkable women making waves. On the whole, I have never felt discouraged from pursuing tech writing because I’m a woman, and most of the women I’ve spoken to, both journalists and direct industry participants in a variety of positions, have felt the same way. This field is so welcoming and so new that it hungers for a broader variety of voices. The more diversity that comes into the industry, the more ways of thinking that are brought to the table, the more approaches become possible.

What do you think of the 3D printing industry today? And how would you like to see it evolve?

Looking at 3D printing just a few years ago, this industry has catapulted forward so fast that advances are almost exponential. The technology, the print speeds, the different approaches to design and to post-processing, the appreciation of collaboration, the targeted efforts to lower barriers to entry – these aspects keep bounding ahead. Today it’s becoming a much more serious business.

I’d love to see it continue to evolve sustainably; fast growth is great, but it has to be sustainable. There’s so much that 3D printing can make possible, and sustainable is the right word for so much of it; impacts can be felt throughout so many industries and the world itself. I’d love to see more focus on continuing to lessen environmental impacts of manufacturing, as it can help our planet in addition to our consumer-centric (and far-too-frequently wasteful) society.

In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with 3D Printing?

Mentors are all-important as the industry grows; it helps so much to raise visibility for aspiring scientists/engineers/designers/artists/healthcare professionals/etc. to have role models, to see someone like them in a position that interests them. Raising the profile of a more diverse cross-section in all STEAM fields helps to encourage more participation. It starts young, especially as additive manufacturing makes its way into school curricula at all levels.


Thank you for reading and for sharing! 

We invite you to join Women in 3D Printing on LinkedIn and to like our Facebook page for further discussion.

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