Jenn Dandrea Spadafora

Current Position: Engineering Manager at The Boeing Company
Jenn Dandrea Spadafora
Highlight The only way to be happy is to do what you are passionate about. I feel that Engineering is the gateway to doing anything. Engineering school is great training for life, even if you don't practice it.
November 19, 2008Her job: Flight Test Engineer, The Boeing Company
Describe what you do in your current work situation? I get to fly on brand new, experimental airplanes to make sure they are safe for public use. I am currently working on the new 787 airplane, which is the first carbon-fiber commercial airplane in the market. Flying in the aircraft, I'm responsible for maintaining a specific center of gravity and fuel burn, and I serve as the cabin safety focal for emergencies.
Why did you choose engineering? I chose engineering because I was always good at math and I really liked it more than writing essays! I also took an auto shop class in high school and I loved the hands on and the mechanics of the class. I realized engineering was perfect! I went to college to study mechanical engineering with the intent to design cars.
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have? I attended Syracuse University for my B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and I'm currently attending Washington State University for my Masters of Science in Engineering Management
What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work? There's a lot of teamwork and interaction with other engineers, factory workers, techs, and managers. You have to be able to adapt quickly to changes. The key part to being a pro at my job, and any really, is knowing what is going on. It's critical in flight testing and manufacturing, to understand what you're working on, what the outcomes are supposed to be, and who to contact when it does not go as planned! As safety focal on the airplane, I'm AED/CPR/First Aid certified and trained to the same standards as flight attends on commercial flights.
What do you like best about being an engineer? The biggest challenge as a new engineer is proving you're capable of doing your job, capable of leading others, and successful working with others. Since it's hard to do this as a new hire, I'm very active in ASME to gain those skills which I bring back to my job, which helps me to advance more quickly. Also, participating in professional societies really helps with time management and networking. My husband is active duty in the military, so I've been in 4 jobs in 4 years in 3 states. I have to prove I am as good as I am to get the next job. It's very tough as a new engineer.
Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of? I was able to create and implement a process improvement while being a manufacturing engineering for heart stent implants. I saved the company money and time. I was awarded at the company, and I had only been there for a year at that point. It was great knowing the process well enough to make an improvement.
What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career? The biggest challenge I've had to deal with is dealing with older generations of engineers. My generation is looking for quick results. I'm always looking for better ways to do things and quick methods, which is not always appreciated by seasoned engineers who are accustomed to their ways.
Please tell us a little about your family. My parents and siblings live in Staten Island, NY along with a majority of my family in Jersey. My husband and I live in Seattle, WA currently. My Husband is an active duty enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard. We also have a pit bull foster dog, Reese.
What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals? Short term, I will be finishing my masters and completing flight testing of the 787.  I plan on still being very active locally and internationally for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). Long Term, I'm hoping to be living back in the NYC area working either on building systems like I have in the past, or for an airline for flight worthiness/maintenance. I am also planning on have a Professional Engineering License (P.E.) by then.
What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices? My parents are a huge influence for me. Even from across the country, I can call them for anything. Both my parents have engineering backgrounds, but my mom doesn't practice. They are both very involved in the community which is where I get that from. My parents understand my career goals and what I need to get there, like with school and trying to push forward in my job. I owe a lot to my parents.
What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering? Engineering is the best thing in the world. You can do whatever you want with it. You can get a B.S. in engineering, and then become a teacher, a lawyer, a designer, a consultant, a manager, or even an Engineer! I've worked in 4 very different fields in engineering: building mechanical systems, creating medical implants, airplane manufacturing, and flight testing. This proves the diversity of the field, and you're almost guaranteed to find something that really fits your needs. The important thing about engineering is that with technology, you will be changing the world and making an impression. That is priceless!
Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book. I love dogs and do a lot with my foster dog from training to running and hiking. I also really love to cook and bake! I want to own a restaurant later in life. I make bead jewelry like earrings and bracelets. I love to shop, remodel in the house, go to sporting games and movies, and travel.