CEO of Wilmington-based Energetiq (pronounced energetic) since 2016, Gustafson joined the College’s Industry Advisory Council last spring. Its members keep the College on the cutting edge of engineering practice.
Energetiq makes advanced light sources used in semiconductor manufacturing and in analytic instruments for life sciences research. Energetiq’s founders recruited Gustafson to the start-up in 2005, but Gustafson began as a steel-toed-boots-on-the-ground field service engineer, installing HVAC controls at sites across the nation. She earned an MBA from Bentley and moved from operations into engineering sales, marketing and strategic planning.
As one of three female students in a class of 35 with all male professors, Gustafson arrived expecting equal treatment in school and in industry. “That was the biggest mistake of my life” she laughs. Now she works to educate industry participants about unconscious bias.
"As CEO, it’s great to be able to set directions and promote diversity. At Energetiq, we use case studies and everyone in the room realizes that without meaning to they can create bias – like referring to ‘the new girl’ or addressing ‘Dear Sirs’ instead of ‘Dear All’. Globally, there is increasing awareness and it’s getting better.”
Growing up on Cape Cod, Debbie picked the college for mechanical engineering. As she tells it, “I always loved working with my hands in small engine repair and wood shop, even though I was the only girl in the class. My first choice was to pursue musical theater on Broadway, but the thought of waiting tables while seeking a big break wasn’t appealing and my second choice was to design cars.”
Although she majored in mechanical engineering, Debbie found lifelong friends in her roommates studying business and arts. Her advice for students? “Find a mentor to support you when you are stressed, build a network to uncover opportunities, strive to maintain a balance between work and life outside your job, and know that while it’s hard to be a trailblazer, it’s fun and rewarding.”