Federal Aviation Administration, Office of Commercial Space Transportation
What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
My parents definitely encouraged me to go into engineering. I like to say that three fourths of my parents are engineers. (I have a stepmom and a stepdad too.) So engineering is in my blood.
What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
In my previous job, I was a risk analyst for the launches out of Cape Canaveral. We looked at the possibility of rockets breaking up and raining debris onto the ground, blowing out windows from the explosion, and creating a toxic cloud. Events like that rarely happen, but our team made sure we were prepared. We made decisions to move groups of people or close certain parts of the Cape to mitigate the risk. In the history of the US space program, no one that wasn’t involved with the launch has been hurt by a rocket. It’s nice to know that I had a small hand in keeping that record clean.
I look up to all the women who enter jobs where they are the minority (from engineers to construction workers to pastors). We need to look out for each other and support each other. My mom is a big role model for me. She worked as an industrial engineer for Harley-Davidson for more than 20 years.
Why do you love working in STEM?
I love working in STEM, because there are always new challenges and things to learn. I love sitting around a conference table and thinking, “We’re talking about launching a rocket into space, and this is our job!” And honestly, I love having the means to take care of my family. We can have a comfortable lifestyle, go on nice vacations, eat dinner out, and spoil my daughter a little.
Advice for future STEMinists?
Search out people that are interested in the same things as you. It’s much easier now with social media to stay connected to people with your same interests. But also, look for colleges that have a focus in the area you are interested in. I went to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. I liked that it was a small school devoted to all things air and space. The professors stopped class so we could go outside to watch space shuttle launches. Walking around campus, everyone would stop and look up if we heard a plane going overhead. The connections I made there are still strong. And your professional network is one of the most important parts of your career.
Favorite website or app: I check Twitter and Facebook first thing everyday. I follow all my fellow space tweeps (spacetweepsociety.org).