3D Printing Spotlight On: Nora Touré, Business Development Director, Sculpteo; Founder, Women in 3D Printing

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Since its founding in September 2009, Sculpteo has been making a splash in the 3D printing world. A big part of the company’s success in the industry traces back to its employers, as co-founders Eric Carreel and Clément Moreau assembled a strong team to get the endeavor off the ground and working across several areas of focus. The company’s eighth employee, on board since October 2010, has been making a splash in her own right as she has grown with both Sculpteo and the industry. Nora Touré has established herself over the last seven years as an integral part of the larger community, contributing to the growth of Sculpteo, where she is currently working as the Business Development Director based in the company’s San Francisco office, and participating in numerous other endeavors. Among them is Women in 3D Printing, a group she founded in December 2014 to highlight women working in additive manufacturing fields through a series of interviews and features. Touré has also co-initiated #3DTalk, a series of panels hosted in San Francisco, New York City, and Paris featuring women, and which we’ll be hearing more about quite soon. She is also a Board Advisor for both 3D Africa and 3DHeals, and has contributed to 3D printing publications including Fabbaloo.

With her breadth of experience across the industry and unique understanding of implications of diversity in 3D printing, it was a pleasure to talk recently with Nora about her perspectives and insights on the industry as we continue to spotlight the impressive work of women across our industry.

Sculpteo at CES 2017 [Photo: Sarah Goehrke]

Can you tell us briefly about your educational/professional background and what led you to a career in the 3D printing world?

“I have always been interested in Tech and Sciences, but was also always interested in people. After 3 years of law school and a Bachelor of Law from the French University Pantheon-La Sorbonne, my interest in business and especially international business raised.

I completed a Master’s Degree in International Business Management an immediately found a job announcement for Sculpteo. I had never heard of 3D Printing before but found in Sculpteo a great opportunity to come back to my initial interest for Tech.

And of course, as many of us, I was hooked as soon as I saw a 3D printer in motion, during my job interview with Clément Moreau. 7 years later, no matter the printing technology we’re talking about, I’m still enjoying it as much!”

Do you feel, as a woman working in business development in a fast-growing industry, that your daily experience is substantively different from those of men in similar positions?

“I haven’t felt any difference in treatment from any of my coworkers or my management at Sculpteo from being a woman. We actually have a fairly good diversity representation at Sculpteo, in both of our locations.

During trade shows and meetings, however, I’m from times to times reminded that Additive Manufacturing can be a male-dominated industry. I stopped counting all of the sexist comments and attitude I can get when on a booth (from both male and female attendees moreover). I am sometimes wondering if I’m getting this treatment only from being a female or from being young as well. I guess I have 2 ‘disadvantages’ for the Additive Manufacturing industry!

I am pretty sure my male counterparts in similar positions don’t get the ‘I’m good, thanks, I’ll wait to talk with the technical guy’ reply when you ask how you can help someone coming to your booth! Or they don’t get asked ‘where the meeting room for the conference on metal is’… while walking down the hallway of a trade show, just because, you know, I’m young, I’m female and I have a conference badge, so who else could I be than a hostess, right?

With that being said, there are an increasing number of initiative to put women on the spotlight, like this series of articles, but also initiatives to have more women on stages of the main AM conferences.”

What led you to found Women in 3D Printing in 2014? What was the reaction initially, and how has the organization grown since?

“I believe the reason why I get the treatment I described above (which is common to a lot of the women I’ve been talking to), is simply because women are not expected to be in Tech and Manufacturing fields. It is fairly new to have women in those industries, and a few men are still working in 100% male-environments.

I wanted to share the stories of women who are building the AM because we are usually not very visible. Go to any AM related conference, and you will be able to count the number of female speakers on one hand, both hands if it’s a big conference, and yet, there are hundreds of women more than capable of being on stage and talk about their companies, innovations, researches…

Since they are not on stage, I decided to give them an online platform to share their stories and work.

So far, Women in 3D Printing received only positive reactions – from what I know!

To be honest, I’m actually starting to be a little overworked! I’m looking for volunteers to help me with the blog’s progress… feel free to contact me if you want to be more involved.”

What is your greatest hope for Women in 3D Printing? Outside of the organization, what about for women in 3D printing, in general?

“I would love for organizations such as Women in 3D Printing and other ‘Women in’s’ tech groups to not be needed anymore.

No matter our political believes and no matter if we consider gender equality trivial or not, I believe we can all agree that we are living in a challenging world. Access to technology and the use of tech is so deeply linked to our present and our future that we cannot afford to not use 50% of the brains available to resolve those challenges.”

You’ve also joined as a board member for both 3D Africa and 3DHeals; what drew you to become so deeply involved with these organizations?

“For the exact same reason I created Women in 3D Printing. I believe Tech is deeply linked to today’s and tomorrow’s challenges and the opportunities to resolve those challenges, and we need as many people, from all genders, backgrounds and horizons as possible to be knowledgeable about Tech.

I believe organizations such as 3DHeals and 3D Africa are going into this direction as well:

3DHeals’ mission is the have practitioners and 3D Printing professionals talking and working together. Even though we are seeing an increasing number of medical applications for healthcare, there is still a lot of things to figure out to take it to the next level: material certification, regulation, data protection…

3D Africa is also going into this direction of spreading access to technology. 3DAfrica is part of the Youth for Technology Foundation, founded by Njideka Harry. I’m going to steal this quote from Njideka as I believe it sums up best 3D Africa’s mission: ‘Transforming the Continent from ‘Aid to Africa’ to ‘Made in Africa’.”

Diversity and inclusion in 3D printing are big themes; how do you break these down into actionable projects and initiatives?

“Not everybody is comfortable sharing their story, not everybody is allowed to share their ongoing work. Some prefer writing about it, others talking to an audience. This is why we are trying to offer various ways to promote women in AM, by either sharing their stories on the blog, having them writing about their area of expertise, or talking during female-speakers events. We are working with Cyant to build monthly female-speakers events, #3DTalk. For now, #3DTalk exists in San Francisco, New York and Paris.”

What do you see as the biggest challenges to diversity in the 3D printing industry?

“The biggest challenge to diversity is our subconscious. Why do we think women are less knowledgeable than men when it comes to tech, business, sciences…?

It is now acquired in most countries that women can drive, vote, work and study whatever they want, and yet, we don’t go for sciences at school, even when we love sciences…!

There was a tweet a few months ago, comparing girls and boys magazines offering:

Those kind of gender-based magazines have perverse consequences: while boys are allowed to be interested in exploring the future and sciences, girls are invited to be interested in their hair, being pretty and think about what to hear when going to school…!

It might have us smiling as adults, but let’s not forget that kids don’t always listen to their parents… Even if you tell them they can do everything they want and that they are “allowed”’ to go into sciences, they will also be influenced by their friends, what they see on TV, what they read…”

The biggest benefits to a more diverse workforce?

“Mind opening of the team, discussions, debates, much more interesting brainstorming…ultimately leading to greater innovation and better financial results! There has been a number of studies showing by the number how beneficial a diverse workforce can be for a company.”

What would you want to tell girls considering the pursuit of studying STEM areas? What about advice for women interested in working in 3D printing?

“To girls: What you see today of Tech and Scientific fields will change by the time you get in age of working. At the time I had to decide what major to study, I looked at what Tech looked like and did not recognized myself in what I saw (Never felt like a Steve Jobs when looking in the mirror at 15!). Today, most role models in Tech are men. It will probably change within the next 5 to 10 years, so don’t decide not going into those fields “just” because you don’t see anyone like you.

To women thinking about working in 3D Printing: It’s not too late to start! The beauty of 3D Printing is to be a transverse manufacturing technology, applicable to almost industries. No matter what your area of expertise is, I’m pretty sure 3D technologies could apply somehow!”

As Nora continually demonstrates, a willing spirit to learn and to get involved can propel one far in the 3D printing industry. We’ll be hearing more from her and her teams’ efforts in the near future as we work as a media partner with #3DTalk, and continue to follow Scultpeo’s business progress. Share your thoughts in the Nora Touré forum at 3DPB.com.

If you are interested in sharing your story, or know a woman we should get in touch with for this new series, please reach out any time. Send us an email or connect on Twitter. We’re looking forward to sharing more stories about women in 3D printing. Find all the features in this series here.

 

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