As a child, I wasn't particularly drawn to math or science, and no one in my family had a background in engineering. But my father had a passion for flight – he held a private pilot's license and took my twin sister and me to many military museums and air shows throughout our childhood. That's where my deep admiration for the aerospace industry began.
At 13 years old, I was inspired by TV specials about the women who became machinists during World War II. I thought, “if they can use those big, scary-looking machines, why can't I?" so I signed up to take a woodshop and metal elective course in school. We first learned how to machine wood objects using a band saw and a belt sander, which helped us build confidence in using our hands. One day, our teacher asked for volunteers to learn sand casting and welding. My friend and I bravely jumped at the chance to be the first to try. We were terrified to use the instruments – a kiln, arc welder and mig welder – but we were also excited for the opportunity. Our teacher ensured that we had enough instruction and confidence to properly and safely use the tools. I found the experience incredibly empowering, as I learned to overcome those initial fears.
During my senior year of high school, I took a weekend career planning course at the local junior college, which involved taking job aptitude tests to determine what careers may fit my interests. Every test result recommended I seek out mechanical engineering as a career path. Initially, I had no idea what mechanical engineering was – I thought it was related to working on cars! After high school, I decided to pursue a degree in accounting instead, which ultimately did not work out. After contemplating my next move, I remembered my aptitude test results. I also recalled my great experience in woodshop and my dad's passion for flying. Because of this, I decided to give mechanical engineering a shot.
My first engineering courses at CSU Sacramento were very basic, fundamental math and science classes, but the material “clicked" and I fell in love with the practice. I felt inspired by two of my female engineering professors, as their styles of problem-solving resonated with me. I graduated with honors and received my bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering. I went on to earn my master's in Aeronautical and Mechanical Engineering from UC Davis.
Many young girls out there might not think they would ever have an interest in mechanical engineering, and I was one of them.
There are a lot of stereotypes around the profession, but I've learned what it really takes to be an engineer: you must be persistent in finding solutions to problems, as well as have creativity and flexibility with your approach to every challenge.
I am 7 years into my career in the aerospace industry – the past 1.5 years of those have been with L3Harris – and I'm still passionate and energized by my work. I've tackled some challenging projects, and I'm proud to be part of the L3Harris engineering team. I hope to encourage girls to explore careers in STEM, as there are so many of us with an aptitude for engineering, which we may not be aware of. With education, empowerment and support, we can include more women in engineering and accelerate innovation.