Peek behind the curtain and meet Debbie, Lead Engineer at LJ Design & Manufacturing. We sat down to chat with her to learn how the contract sewing magic happens.
Tell us a little about your career so far.
For the first eight years of my career, I was immersed in industrial design, expanding and refining my abilities. After a short hiatus to start a family, I returned to the field with a manufacturing engineer position. Delving deeper into the engineering side of product development allowed me to gain a good understanding of product lifecycle.
Where did you go to school?
I got my degree in Apparel Textiles & Design from the University of Wisconsin-Stout.
Did you always know you wanted to go into industrial sewing?
Absolutely, 100%! Even as a child, I was stitching doll clothes by hand for fun. When my grandma introduced me to the world of sewing machines, then, then I discovered the magic of the craft.
With a lot of hard work, I started learning the sewing machine and mastering patternmaking. I took advanced sewing courses in high school and by junior year I was creating my own designs and clothing for friends. I knew I had a passion for sewing, but it wasn’t until an early position that I realized my true calling was in product development.
Why Product Development?
I enjoy helping clients produce high-quality goods, but my real love comes from helping the production team develop more efficient ways to manufacture products. Being able to equip the team with the essential tools to succeed is incredibly fulfilling. Engineering’s job is to facilitate manufacturing’s ability to create something magical for our clients which in turn benefits their customers. The end result is reflected in the quality of work produced and everybody benefits.
What is the most challenging about your role?
The most challenging part is also the most fun part; as a leading contract sewing manufacturer with a robust engineering team, we have a full docket of projects. Being able to partner with our clients on the creative and innovative products they bring to market means no two days are the same. One day I’m working on an industrial vest for crane operators, the next it’s a medical device. Or I might find myself strategizing how to cost-effectively manufacture a new industrial cover that has thermal cooling requirements or needs lead shielding.
How long have you been with the company?
I’ve been with LJ Design & Manufacturing since 2021.
What is one of your favorite projects?
Honestly, the more complex and complicated, the more I like it. We do a lot of soft goods sewing and cutting projects for the medical industry, other manufacturers and industrial companies and they typically have very exacting standards and specifications they need us to meet. I love figuring out how we’re going to do it and not just do it, but do it faster, better, more affordably and at a higher quality than expected.
What advice do you have for girls looking to enter this field?
Don’t be intimidated by the fact that engineering is a male-dominated field! I strongly believe that pursuing your dreams is what matters most. If you have a passion for building things and are interested in learning how things are made, then this is where you belong. Trust your instincts, don’t be afraid to forge ahead and blaze the trail!