August 23, 2007Her job: Program Manager/Systems Engineer, SAIC
Why did you choose engineering?
My dad and my older sister were engineers and inspired me. I also loved airplanes when I was young!
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have?
My Bachelor's is from West Virginia University in Aerospace Engineering and my Master's is from Ohio State University in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering.
What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work?
Even though I am a manager of a program that is not technical now, I still use my engineer skills on a regular basis. Logic, systematic thinking, and problem solving are all skills that can be used in nearly anything you do.
What do you like best about being an engineer?
The most fun is solving a problem and seeing the results. It is often hard to work through a problem, but at the end it is satisfying to see it turn out well.
Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of?
After my Master's degree, I joined the Peace Corps and went to Sierra Leone in West Africa. I taught math and Physics at a high school. Joining the Peace Corps was the best decision I ever made. Girls don't always get to go to school in Sierra Leone. But other teachers would talk with the girls and point to me to tell them that they could study and be whatever they wanted to be.
What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career?
When I was in the Peace Corps and they first asked me to teach Physics, I was afraid. I didn't think I knew Physics well at all, even after taking it in school. I thought it was hard. But after I started teaching, the subject seemed much easier for me. Just getting to school was a challenge for me. I was in the first generation in my family to go to college and the first to go to get a Bachelor's directly. (My sisters went back to school later in life.) First I got an Associates degree to save money. Then I transferred to a bigger school. By the time I got my Bachelor's degree, I was lucky enough to be recommended for a program that paid for my Master's degree.
Please tell us a little about your family.
My dad was an engineer even though he didn't have the degree from a school. I always thought he was more practical and knowledgeable then most formally trained engineers. He used to say, "If man made it, I can fix it." And that held true. My mom worked in a hospital for many years. I have five sisters and one is a civil engineer, one is a computer engineer and the other three are in the medical profession. My wonderful and talented husband is a singer.
What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering?
Engineering can open up so many doors and offers so many choices. Some engineers become researchers, experimentalists, designers, builders, project implementers, managers of big projects, among other things. And that does not begin to touch on the different fields of engineering! Keep your mind open and explore what your interests are.