For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to work at NASA. When it was time to apply to college I researched which degrees Mission Control Specialists had (that was my dream job at the time-besides astronaut, of course!) and most were engineers so that’s what I wanted to study.
How did you get a job at NASA?
I applied through the Pathways Intern Program and completed internships throughout undergrad and grad school. NASA hires a majority of civil servants (a.k.a. government employees) through this program. Opportunities open about twice a year and can be found here: http://www.intern.nasa.gov.
Note: I do not have any control over or say in the hiring process and will not respond to questions regarding hiring information which can be obtained on the website mentioned above.
Is NASA your first job?
NASA is my first full-time engineering job. My first co-op was with GE Aviation in Cincinnati, Ohio. Prior to my first co-op at NASA, I completed a second co-op with GE at their Flight Test Operation in Victorville, CA. I also interned on Capitol Hill with the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
What’s your best response when people say, “but you don’t look like an engineer?!”
I have yet to come up with a good response to this question (in part because I was always taught to be “polite”) but I always try to stay true to who I am and show through hard work that I’m worthy of being where I am.
What’s the biggest personal benefit to a career in STEM?
To me, one of the coolest things about STEM is that you can work in almost any field you want and have the opportunity to lead projects that have the potential to move our world forward and positively impact people’s lives. I’m a very big picture person so I wanted a job where I could actually interact with the hardware I was working with everyday. This is, in part, why I chose to go into the aviation/operations side of engineering for my first job.
How real is the fact that women have less opportunities in engineering fields?
I don’t think females have less opportunities! For me personally, the times I’ve felt limited or discouraged were only when I allowed negative comments from others to get to me. There will always be someone who wants to dull your shine because they feel insecure due to your success. Stop and remind yourself that it is not your job to change in order to fix someone’s insecurities. Believe deeply in yourself and prove that you belong to be where you are!
Can you share a time you needed to leave your comfort zone to reach a career goal?
I moved from North Dakota to New York for undergrad knowing absolutely no one. It was terrifying to leave everything I knew behind, but I convinced myself only good things could come from putting myself in that uncomfortable situation. I was right!
Do you use information learned in college on a daily basis?
Some of the basics, definitely. I use CAD software almost daily and some Statics and Mechanics, etc. for structural analysis. I utilize the problem solving skills I learned in grad school at Georgia Tech too. It’s important to be able to work well in a team, but to also have the confidence in your abilities to be independent and seek out your own answers.
What is the most challenging part of your career? Most rewarding?
Most challenging: having the confidence to speak intelligently about technical matters.
Most rewarding: Solving a problem I’m tasked with using what I learned in grad school.
Are you a member of any professional societies?
Yes! I belong to ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers), AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics), and SWE (Society of Women Engineers).