Just like an orchestra needs a conductor to unite the sonic outputs of its musicians, so too does an advanced metal additive manufacturing technology company need that one leader to keep everyone marching to the same beat. For Velo3D that person is Elena Demchuk, Technical Program Manager.
We recently chatted with Elena to learn more about her role at Velo3D, her involvement in two historic moments for the company, and what projects she’s most proud to have worked on (so far).
Hi Elena, tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at Velo3D.
Yes, so I’m a Technical Program Manager at Velo3D, and I studied at the Pedagogical Institute in Ukraine. My work in the tech field started in 2000 at a small start-up company. In 2002, I moved to Microsoft and was there for 13 years.
How did you make your way from Microsoft to Velo3D?
It’s funny because when I came to the US, I didn’t have a background in computer science. I had never even worked in Ukraine, so I started from scratch. I went to community colleges in the Bay Area, and I took a lot of computer science classes, including programming. And then I started working in the college computer lab as an assistant.
After that I got my first real job at a start-up company in Oakland, and it was my first real project working with actual customers. But instead of being a developer, I decided I wanted to do more software development engineer in testing, and then eventually program management.
Tell us about your first few days or weeks at the company
It’s interesting because I joined when we were developing our first machine, we called it the Alpha One. And it was a special time because during my first week, we printed our first cube. So, I got to be part of the company’s history. And I remember how we all were showing this little cube and Benny Buller, our CEO, was putting it in a Ziploc bag just to share our progress with others. And you know what? I was recently part of another historic moment for our new Sapphire® XC. I got to make history twice!
Sounds like you need to add “Good Luck Charm” to your official title!
Exactly! You know, this company always amazes me because we have many difficult technical challenges to solve. And what is most amazing is that there are times where I think there is no way we can do what we need to do on time, but we always manage to – it’s incredible and it’s an incredible feeling to be a part of that success.
It’s no secret that there is a gender imbalance in the tech industry. What additional challenges have you faced as a woman working in tech?
I’ll be honest with you, I have always been lucky enough to work on teams or at companies where I haven’t been alone, where there have been other women working alongside me. I know that is not the case for everyone, but I have been lucky in that way. I’m also very proud to be part of this community of women working in tech. I started from scratch and worked my way up, but I know that isn’t always the case for everyone, and that’s something that needs to improve.
The good thing is at [Velo3D], we have a lot of women on the team. And that’s a good thing because you want to work at a company where you are treated equally. You don’t want to be at a company of just guys, it would be difficult! And that’s important because greater representation is good – it brings about new ideas, new ways of thinking, and ultimately makes for more successful teams.
What does your day-to-day typically look like?
Currently I’m tracking all engineering work, so software work and hardware work. And to some extent, I’m helping across team projects that involve hardware and software like our process team, since they are doing a lot of experiments and validations for Sapphire® and XC, and they intersect with other development projects. I am also one of a few people at the company who has helped setup workflows that most of the engineering teams use daily.
What does that involve?
Streamlining of the processes. For example, we have this daily meeting, where we are planning for the week for every [Sapphire] that we have. We have six in the lab, so you have to plan what work will be done on each machine each day.
What’s your motivation for working at Velo3D?
You know, I absolutely love the product. It’s challenging but it’s exciting. I really want to be part of this team and its success. But it’s not only the product that we are working on; I also love the people. The people here are amazing. I’ve worked in different departments in different big companies and small companies. But I think this team is the most dedicated, honestly. You come to work, and you can see how this team can overcome any difficulties, any problem, and it makes me be proud to be a part of this team. I also love being in the office! We were working from home for more than a year and that was hard. Because when you’re away from the team, yes, you’re doing your job, but it’s not the same as being in the office; you feel involved, and you feel important.
What in your opinion separates Velo3D from other additive manufacturing solutions?
We are pioneers, right? And to be pioneers, it’s always difficult because you need to convince everybody else that however you used to do something, we can give you tools or the ability to do that thing in an absolutely different way, a more efficient way. And we do that, we help our customers do things that they thought were impossible.
What has been your favorite project that you’ve worked on so far?
I can’t say! They’re all equally important! But I do like to work on new products. For example, our Flow print preparation software, well, we built it from scratch. I’ve been involved with it since the beginning. We used to have a Beta version of software, but we quickly realized we needed to develop a new, more robust software to make our customers truly successful. There are many others that I’ve been involved with from the beginning, too, so that is why I say they are all equally important; they are all like my babies – you cannot say which is better! When you really analyze it, it’s amazing to have been here so long and to be involved in so many interesting projects.
What do you like to do for fun outside of work?
I enjoy sailing with my husband and spend time with my family. Besides my work, my family is the most important thing in my life. I have a daughter who has been out of the house for years now, so I do a lot of outdoor activities with my husband. We enjoy biking, hiking, swimming. Recently, we started sailing, and we like to fish by the ocean. I feel like every few years we’re starting something new, and this is our next chapter, and I’m looking forward to what comes next.