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While at the SMTA West Penn Chapter Expo & Tech Forum, I met with Marilyn Lawrence, founder and president of Conformance Technologies Inc. We spoke about the importance of solder training, and how far it has come through the years.
Patty Goldman: Marilyn, please begin by telling me a little bit about yourself and your company.
Marilyn Lawrence: I started my business in 1999, with just basic soldering training for companies. As a member of the SMTA since '97, I knew that companies were not getting the solder training that they needed. I had worked for Texas Instruments years ago and one of the jobs that I had there was teaching soldering. I did a 40-hour soldering course at Texas Instruments. Some people only get five minutes.
Anyway, I started my business doing solder training and then eventually it turned into IPC certifications. We are now an IPC authorized training center for the J-STD-001 and IPC-A-610. I do the IPC/WHMA-A-620 certifications for operators also. In addition, we are providing solder training and ESD training. I was a speaker this morning.
Goldman: Tell me about your talk. I heard it was really good.
Lawrence: Oh, thank you. It was on ESD awareness, electrostatic discharge awareness, and that's one of the things that gets neglected in companies. Electrostatic discharge can destroy your product and it can destroy your components if you're not being aware of it. You would think that a company in electronics should be aware of it—that's their forte after all. You need management behind you to enforce some of the procedures and principles behind it. If people are aware, that will minimize a lot of the damage.
Goldman: If they understand why they have to do what they have to do, it makes a huge difference, too.
Lawrence: Yes. In fact, when I first started my business I also worked on a project with the University of Pittsburgh. It was the Atlas Project for that big supercollider in Europe. I worked in an electronics lab for about seven years along with doing some consulting. This was an abbreviated version today, but I actually did a better ESD version like this but for the nuclear physicists at Pitt on this project, which was just basic information. I'm talking about atoms and things, but they asked me questions because they're up in the mesons and bosons of the atom and I was talking about practical examples, in an electronics environment.
Goldman: That made you feel good, I'm sure. Now I understand there's going to be a training session in August. Are you going to be part of that also? It sounds like maybe you would be.
Lawrence: As part of being an officer, I'll be helping out. Right now, we're still planning it so we haven't figured out what we're doing yet. I'm always willing to help SMTA. My husband, Matt Lawrence, was part of the formation committee. He and another person really started this chapter and were very instrumental in it and he brought me along. Now I'm still here and I think I've been an officer all but about two years since '97.
Goldman: Where is Conformance Technologies located?
Lawrence: We're in Monroeville, Pennsylvania. I'm probably five minutes from this hotel where we're having the expo. I have a training facility so people come to me but I also go to them for training.
Goldman: How do you feel about the day today and this particular conference and show? It seems to be very well attended.
Lawrence: It's very important. The one thing with the SMTA is that we bring knowledge into our area. To just come to a regular meeting that we have, for the price of the meeting plus lunch, you can't beat that for the training that you get from experts from all over that we bring in for our meetings.
Goldman: I'm impressed that this is a free event, and you get lunch free, too. What's not to love?
Lawrence: Of course, we need to increase our membership and we need to increase our mailing list. Hopefully people will hear about us just from word of mouth. When I first started my business it was all word of mouth. This is not a business that I can just easily advertise, and I have some big competitors out there. I'm small potatoes and I know they have larger budgets for advertising. A lot of mine has been word of mouth and my reputation in this area.
Goldman: Those nuclear physicists, right?
Lawrence: I was very honored to work on that project. Every once in a while they'll call me and I’ll do a little bit of work with them, but that was nice.
Goldman: Anything else you want to talk about?
Lawrence: I can't think of anything really off the top of my head except that I was honored to be a speaker here today and that they let me do this ESD presentation.
Goldman: Let you? It sounds like you're an expert on it.
Lawrence: There are different certifications for ESD, but I'm certified through the International Radio and Telecommunication Engineers (iNarte). I try to keep up on it.
Goldman: It's been really great talking with you and thank you so much for your time.
Lawrence: Thank you.