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STEMinist Profile: Ruth Ford, Electronics Technician

Ruth Ford

Electronics Technician

U.S. Coast Guard

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I love to be challenged and I love to explore and discover the world around me. I have had very strong role models in my life and have always been pushed to better myself. I pretty much followed in my father’s footsteps and chose to go into the military and after trying a few different carrier paths, I found my true love of troubleshooting.

Before joining the Coast Guard I worked as a bank teller. One day our coin counter stopped working, we were all very distraught because counting coins was not anyone’s favorite pastime. So I decided I would try to “fix” it; much to my boss’s dismay I completely disassembled the mechanism to try and find the root cause. It was a disaster! So after the technician was called in to fix it, I found myself asking him a million questions and spent 8 hours learning about a single system. I learned a lot that day and found my true calling.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I was entrusted to work on a multibillion dollar system for the Coast Guard. It was a inter-agency project and I trailblazed the entire field of intelligence technology for the Coast Guard. I can be seen in the Oct 2014 edition of the Journal of Electronic Defense (JED) magazine for the Association of Old Crows and was awarded the Military Service Award. I was also nominated for the 7th Annual AFCEA Leadership Award. Currently I am an instructor for the largest Radar system in the Coast Guard.

“AFCEA is an international organization that serves its members by providing a forum for the ethical exchange of information. AFCEA is dedicated to increasing knowledge through the exploration of issues relevant to its members in information technology, communications, and electronics for the defense, homeland security and intelligence communities.”

Role models and heroes:
My Father
My Husband
Billy Jean King
Ayn Rand

Why do you loving working in STEM?
It is a challenge and rewarding. I love to find out what the root of a problem is and electronics are a great platform to do just that. I also want my daughter to find a passion for technology and be able to feel confident in her abilities and strengths in this field.

Advice for future STEMinists?
“If a human made it then I can figure it out” – Richard Cordova (My father)

Favorite website or app:


STEMinist Profile: Leah Ridgway, Lecturer in Electrical Engineering & Electronics

Dr. Leah Ridgway

Lecturer in Electrical Engineering and Electronics

University of Liverpool, UK

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I was a 4 year-old girl who knew what an axle was! I’ve always been fascinated by why things work and love the buzz when you understand that why. Now my job is to inspire and help student engineers understand the world around us and teach them the tools they need to solve the world’s problems.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I’m keen on finding new ways to use technology to support the learning of a diverse student group. I did a series of videos to support my lectures for students to watch in their own time. I had no idea if it would be successful and I had to get over hearing the sound of my own voice! The feedback from students was overwhelmingly positive; they liked studying at a time which suited them and it stimulated discussions about the content outside of class.

Role models/heroes:
You may laugh, but my role model growing up was a fictional character: Jadzia Dax from Star Trek DS9! She’s a strong female character with an analytical mind and has an incredibly sex-positive attitude.

Part of the reason I don’t have a role model is that I don’t think there were many notable people who I felt I could relate to in any way, thankfully I think this is changing.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I love working in STEM because it’s interesting. No two days are the same and there are always new problems to be solved. There’s a lot of creativity involved which I don’t think most people realise until they talk to us.

Advice for future STEMinists?
I wish someone had told me that you don’t have to give up being feminine to succeed in a male dominated industry and don’t let anyone try and bully you into it (sometimes women are just as bad as men for this). I describe myself as a glamorous tomboy in a dress!

Favorite website/app:
I’m absolutely addicted to Twitter. It’s my personalised window into what’s happening in the world around me where I can hear things apart from the mainstream news. I’d also be lost without Dropbox which I use to easily sync files across multiple devices.

Twitter: @verdantstar


STEMinist Profile: Maria McKavanagh, Research Associate, Wireless Sensor Networks

Maria McKavanagh

Post Graduate Research Associate, Wireless Sensor Networks

The University of Manchester, UK

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I have always loved mathematics and physics from a very young age. I liked how logical they were and how I could always see why I was right or wrong. My brother, who is now a software architect, gave me a book called “Java in 24 hours” when I was 12. This was my first taste of computer programming and I loved it!

When I went to grammar school there were many “Insight into Engineering” days and I went to all of them. My love for problem solving just grew and grew and so a degree in Electronic Systems Engineering was an obvious choice.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
My coolest project would have to be the one I worked on in the third year of my degree. It was a colour reader for blind and visually impaired people. I have always wanted to help people, and teachers at school suggested I become a doctor, however the sight of blood makes me faint so it didn’t seem like the career choice for me!

The outcome of this project was something that had the potential to seriously improve the quality of some people’s lives and I thrived on that. The realisation that being an engineer still allowed me to help people reaffirmed that it was the career for me.

Role models/heroes:
I watched a TED talk a short time ago by Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook. It was called “Why we have too few women leaders.” I found it extremely inspiring. I would also have to say my mother. Despite never having worked as one, she is one of the best engineers I know. She can solve any problem and I’ve seen her fix everything from a shelf to an extractor fan. She is determined and will stop at nothing to solve a problem.

One day I witnessed her saw off a door frame to move a piano from one room to another, and have it glued back on and repainted before my father got home! When she decides she is going to do something, she will always find a way, no matter how long it takes to learn how to do it—I definitely have her to thank for where I am today.

Why do you love working in STEM?
Working in STEM makes me feel like I can change the world! That may sound silly, but in my research I may just discover something that no one else has before. Every single day is different which keeps me motivated. Working in a university means I cross paths with some of the best in the field of electrical engineering and I find them fascinating to talk to.

Advice for future STEMinists?
If you are considering a STEM career DO IT! It is challenging but there are big rewards. For those embarking on their career I would say work hard and have confidence in your ability. STEM is still male dominated which can sometimes be a bit intimidating, particularly early in your career, but women bring skills to STEM that men can’t.

We are lateral thinkers which means we can sometimes come up with very innovative solutions to problems. I have heard many men in the profession say that women bring a whole new aspect to their team and so industry is crying out for more of us to join.

Favorite website/app:
I love Appy-geek. It is an app for Android and iPhone which gives you all the latest technology news in one place. It has an alerts feature so when an article on something you are interested in becomes available you know about it straight away.

Twitter: @IgorinaJP