Avionics/electrical systems engineer
Airplane manufacturer in Wichita, Kansas
What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I wasn’t always the best at math and science, but in high school I started appreciating & liking it more. If you had a good idea you didn’t need credentials or even friends to agree with you, you just had to prove it logically. If it worked, it worked. How lovely!
I decided the job prospects for engineers was better than the ones for physicists and got a degree in electonics engineering technology, and eventually a masters in electrical engineering. And then a pilot’s license, just for fun. I sort of fell into aviation by accident, and airplane love is contagious once you’re there.
What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
In large vague terms, let me just say that when you’ve poured months of your life into an airplane prototype, squatting in the middle of 15 people in a cabin six feet wide playing “twister” to get your oscilloscope probes in the right place to troubleshoot a data bus, it brings tears to your eyes to see it all fly. You stay up late with it, answer calls about it, put your name on it, worry about it… it’s your baby! (And I’ve had an actual baby, so I can say that sort of thing now.)
Role models and heroes:
In high school I would have said Hypatia or Ada Lovelace, but now that I’m in the world there are so many inspirational engineers I’ve met in person, mostly through the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). Women who were told by their professors that they couldn’t make it, who lived in constant fear of being that failure mark against all women. Women who had to explain that they were there to do “just what the men do”.
Everything we’ve done since the beginning of history is so amazing, there are stories from everywhere. Of course I have male heroes too, my favorite guy this month is author and mathematics professor John Allen Paulos. But in my personal life it’s the women who’ve made the biggest difference.
Advice for future STEMinists?
As Gail Evans says, “play for the women’s team!” I feel like there’s been this division between feminism and STEM, because feminism is really a field of sociology and sometimes it’s hard for us nerds to relate. So I hear woman engineers say “There’s no way to tell why I’m the only woman in this department. I guess something’s wrong with other women. I made it on my own just fine, we don’t need feminism to increase the numbers of women or improve things for me.”
I think we DO need feminism, we need a lot of it, the lens would improve things for science. It will make technology better because we’ll draw talent from the entire population, not just men.