Photo Credit - Heidi Elyse Photography
Booz Allen Hamilton
And - Consultant
Every single class you take can help you in your STEM career - they all add perspectives that will enable you to succeed.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
I develop engineering cost estimates for the cleanup of contaminated environmental sites. I also help financial managers understand the basis of engineering costs, which ensures transparency for us taxpayers.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS FIELD?
In college, I struggled in engineering, so I pivoted to communication; it was easier for me, and I loved social science research. In my early working years I made so little money that I taught myself to fix everything; after overhauling a motorcycle I realized I had more than enough ability to finish the engineering degree I had started. I went back to school; after my first semester, I was contacted for an engineering internship at my (now current) company. They needed an engineer with strong communication skills. I never intended to go into the environmental field, but it turned out to be the perfect field for me. I do a lot of work at the intersection of technical and non-technical-- like teaching estimating courses-- because I have a knack for explaining technical concepts to non-technical stakeholders.
HOW DO/DID YOU TACKLE OBSTACLES?
I am a firm believer in owning your story and using it as a way to inspire others or help them relate to you. I don't shy away from making mistakes because they teach you so much and add so much color to your life. My approach is to admit something is hard and ask for help-- most of the time someone thanks me for being willing to speak up! It's true that you're never the only person with a question to ask.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT & THINK, "I WISH YOUNGER ME WOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS WAS POSSIBLE?"
I wish that the younger me knew that it was okay to ask for help. I was a gifted student and never struggled in high school; when I got to college, I had no study skills. Everything was hard, and I assumed that meant it wasn't for me. I had no idea how to ask for help or how to seek a teacher who could explain things in a way that I could understand. I wasn't really a consumer in my undergraduate education; later, when I went back for my engineering degree, I was relentless with my professors. I really held them accountable for teaching me thoroughly-- I even complained when they would end class early or cancel a Friday class! (Sorry, former classmates!)
WHY DO YOU LOVE WORKING IN STEM?
I love the problem solving process, and I particularly love the gritty middle part where everyone butts heads trying to churn out a solution. It really does require different perspectives to solve a problem, so I love knowing that current efforts to diversify STEM are actively helping us solve problems.
BEST ADVICE FOR NEXT GENERATION?
My advice is to understand that your STEM education isn't going to teach you all the knowledge you need for your career. You are going to learn how to think, how to solve problems, how to iterate, how to eliminate ideas, and how to weigh options against a variety of factors. Every single class you take can help you in your STEM career-- English, theater, art, history, home etc., physics, chemistry-- they all add perspectives that will enable you to succeed. Don't look at any of your classes as throwaways-- be thankful you get to learn something new from each one of them.
Roosevelt's "Man in the Arena" speech is my all-time favorite. I love the image of this man, marred in dust but trying again and again to succeed, and becoming a better person for it. I was almost killed in an automobile accident when I was 16. I have battled a lot of health issues since then, including being hearing impaired. That man in the arena is me 100%, but I have benefitted so much from the struggle.