Kara Byrne: 2021 Early Career Award recipient

// Mechanical Engineering

Photo of Kara ByrneKara Byrne (BSME ’04)
North America Commercial leader, turbomachinery and process solutions-valves, Baker Hughes

We are honoring Kara as a technical and strategic leader in energy, valves and turbomachinery whose passion for inspiring women to enter engineering has enabled her to mentor, develop and retain future women leaders in energy industry.

How did you choose engineering?

I chose engineering at UW for two reasons: No. 1, I was in high school when the movie Apollo 13 was released. Since Jim Lovell went to UW and I wanted to be an astronaut, I figured UW engineering was a good way to achieve my goal. No. 2, I participated in a UW engineering camp before my senior year of high school. My physics teacher nominated me to attend and that one week influenced me to choose engineering. I selected mechanical engineering specifically because the curriculum gave me flexibility to experience different disciplines within engineering.

As a student, how did you spend your free time?

My first year, I was the electric bass player for the Wisconsin Singers. Being a part of the troupe was a great way to meet friends from outside engineering. Those relationships triggered a curiosity to understand how engineers impact the world. Also, I joined ASME as an officer and was able to create a program connecting students with companies in the industry. That was my first endeavor into volunteerism and helping others take control of their careers.

Who has played the greatest role in your achievements?

My high school physics teacher, Jack Batten. Until he sent me to the engineering camp, engineering wasn’t on my radar. I still remember walking through the nuclear reactor in the ME building and being shocked one could reside on a campus. During my time at UW, I worked with Professor Scott Sanders in the Engine Research Center. He always pushed me to ask one question further, giving me much-needed mentorship and coaching. And finally my manager, Guido Faramondi, during my time on the LNG team. He is the most risk-adverse person and plays devil’s advocate. It’s kind of frustrating, but it made me look at both sides of the coin—you need to make sure you understand and mitigate all types of risks before you sign a contract, especially one that is $500 million!

What are your best memories of UW-Madison?

My favorite memories are centered around student life: football games, building lifelong friendships, and becoming “Kara.” I also enjoyed the fact that UW has an eclectic and interesting academic curriculum. Students can easily take classes outside their major if they are curious enough to do so. I was very close to having a certificate in sociology and loved that I could take volleyball for seven semesters straight.

Any hobbies or interests?

I am a board member of the nonprofit Women’s Energy Network (WEN). Next year, I will become global president. WEN is a huge part of what motivates me personally, because it’s giving back to the ecosystem that I’m part of, clearing barriers I’ve run into for women, and giving them guidance as they navigate a very male-dominated industry. I also am a huge music buff, enjoying the symphony and theater (even virtually over the last years).

Anyone you’d like to mention?

My husband, Ivan, is from Peru and came to the U.S. over 20 years ago to practice medicine. My two fur-babies are the best surprise of remote working, becoming my favorite co-workers. And, I wouldn’t have become who I am today without my parents.

Author: Staff