Laureen Ervin

Laureen A Ervin

The Boeing Company
Carnation, WA, United States
Laureen Ervin
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Please tell us a little about your family. I have a wonderful husband, two grown sons and daughter-in-laws, two grandsons, and three cats. What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals? Short-term, I want to incorporate more of my skills into my computer graphics work, adding algorithms based on math, artificial intelligence, systems design… Long-term is more difficult to predict. I could continue along the same path, or consider down-sizing or “retirement”. I wouldn’t mind combining my engineering skills more with my artistic side; being involved with computer graphics for flight simulators is a good start. When I do get to “retirement”, I might do more painting, or fabric and clothing design, that is, indulge and further develop my artistic side. Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book or inspirational quote. For about 15 years, my hobby was being in a local music band. Another woman and I sang the leads and harmonies to most of the songs, and the guys played guitar, bass and drums and do some singing too. That was a very fun hobby, even though we are not even close to being famous. I am now more into water color painting; I can take it with me when I travel or when we go boating on the week-ends. One favorite quote would be “This is the day that the Lord hath made; let us rejoice and be glad in it”. This is what we said each morning in grade school, and I like the attitude expressed to begin each day with appreciation and optimism. What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering? Study hard; this is a challenging career, which is why it pays well and is in demand. This allows you to achieve other goals (dream home, nice clothes) and be self-sufficient. Taking on a challenge and succeeding is very satisfying. Don’t sell out; be your own self. It’s time for women to redefine being an engineer; it’s not just for nerds!
  • I am willing to be contacted about potential job shadowing by interested students.
  • I am willing to be interviewed by interested students via email.
Answers by Laureen A Ervin

Hi Kritika, 

I think it's a great idea, since I have an undergraduate in EE and a masters in software.  You will be more specialized, but also qualified for what I think are more interesting applications than people with a general software undergrad background.  You will be less specialized than if you had a masters in EE.  

Unless things have changed, EEs (electrical engineers) have a very solid background in math supporting electronics design, much of which is now done in software.  I presently work with Boeing flight simulation software, where my control systems education ties into flight control of an airplane; it is done electronically 'fly by wire" with software instead of with hardware.  I've also worked on many interesting types of medical equipment, where digital signal processing of ECG (electrocardiograms) was used, or image processing of microscopic cellular material, or ultrasound images, was used.  DSP math fundamentals are taught in EE classes - Fourier analysis, LaPlace transforms, paving the way for z-transforms.

Companies like Google will be oriented more towards big data and networking.  Networking does involve hardware, and I did just read an article about future Internet design with more routing done in software.  Networks is certainly a growing area, but not really my specialty.  They must have some hardware; they do drive around with those cameras on the cars.  

Microsoft does produce some hardware; I knew someone who went to the hardware division to work on a mouse device.  But there are many more companies than Microsoft and Google in the world.  Microsoft has a wide range of software products.

I obtained my masters degree through an online program. It was originally NTU (National Technological University) but merged into Walden University.  I don't know what the classes are like these days, but it should be available internationally.  There are probably other online universities these days; it's a growing trend.  Degrees from these might not be as prestigious, perhaps?  Ask a prospective employer about this... 

One of my employers, Philips, did have a section in India, although I have no idea which city.  Philips is a Dutch company that owns many smaller companies, including several medical imaging companies.

I know I was also drawn to software; there is something very nice about changing your design and seeing results quickly and getting it into the customer product within weeks, instead of waiting months for new hardware.  And the industry trend is to move functionality from hardware to software, so it seems like a good way to move. Trust your instincts and focus on what makes you unique and excel and sets you apart from your competition!

Good luck,

There are so many types of computer software engineering. Obviously take any programming classes that are available. I work in airplane flight simulation, so knowing physics and math is important, as well as computer graphics. If you want to do games or entertainment, then the same things are good, physics, math, but also storytelling and art, and game design. If you like music, you'll want some signal processing / filters, which is really more math. You could work on medical equipment too; I've worked on heart monitors, ultrasound imaging, and pap smear slide image analysis and classification (cancer/not cancer).

This field is challenging, although not everyone uses math. You can do database stuff, for example, or web applications for computers or iphones, etc. By the time you graduate, there will be new things we don't know about now.

People make good money doing this and there is a lot of demand. It is harder than being a hairdresser, at least for the schooling part. You would work harder in school than other students, but the payback is greater after school than other students. Since technology changes, it can be very interesting for your whole lifetime. If you are already a better than average student, you could do this too. It sounds hard when you see what you have to learn, but 8th grade math seems impossible to a 2nd grader. It's the same thing; you need to learn things in the right order from good teachers and you'll progress from where you are now to what professional engineers can do.

Hope that helps. Good luck!


Hi Alex, Explore the world of science and technology to find out what is most interesting to you. You can take classes in school on chemistry, astronomy, biology, physics, computer programming, electronics, etc. Read magazines, books, or web sites about science, technology, computer programs, or machines that seem exciting to you. Machines can be anything from cars to cell phones to airplanes to X-ray systems, etc. You'll need a solid background in math to do engineering. If you wanted to create a 3D computer graphics program of a spaceship, you have to know how to calculate where to draw the spaceship nose and tail and all the parts in between, even as the spaceship zooms away, makes a sharp turn and zooms back overhead. I think this kind of stuff is pretty exciting. Sometimes I have to solve difficult problems, but I feel proud when I am successful. And engineers work in teams, so if you get stuck, someone will help you with ideas on how to get started again. Anyway, take the math classes. See if you can meet some adult engineers who seem to have interesting engineer jobs, jobs that you think you'd like. Your parents could help. If you don't live near any places where engineers work, you might have to settle for email and photos. It's nice to know real live engineers. There are lots and lots of different engineering jobs, so it is good to know a lot about what kind of different jobs and companies there are out there, so that when you graduate as an engineer, you can pick a good employer and a job that is rewarding to you. I work for Boeing in the flight simulation department. This is a huge computer program that can be used with the pilot controls and displays to simulate a real airplane. It looks like someone cut the nose with the pilot cockpit off of an airplane and stuck it in a room. You can look through the windows and see a projected scene of the airport or mountains or wherever you happen to be. All the controls, like the wheel and throttle, are real. It's like a giant video game. We have real pilots come and fly the simulator, and the engineers and pilots keep making improvements. The real airplane parts do the same thing as the simulated computer parts, so we can tell when it's ready to fly for the first time. I work on the 787 Dreamliner program. We are very excited and looking forward to the Dreamliner's first flight! I hope that helps you get started. Explore the world (through classes, reading, people) to find examples of who you want to be, then work hard to get what you want! Good luck, Alex! Laurie Ervin