November 3, 2016Her job: Software Engineer, Software Engineering Directorate
Describe what you do in your current work situation?
Currently I serve as a Software Engineering Lead at the Software Engineering Directorate on Redstone Arsenal Military Base for two government programs. I provide support to our customers and help develop working relationships with them in order to formulate proactive solutions for current and future needs. I am able to coordinate with industry, users and other government entities to define requirements, develop capability assessments, and review schedule and performance matrices.
Why did you choose engineering?
When I was in high school I wanted to major in math, but I really did not know that much about engineering. I attended college majoring in math but when I graduated I could not find a job that was interesting to me. I started looking into several different fields and realized that I could become an engineer. I always thought that engineers were older white males and that I would never fit in. While working during the summer with one of my mentors, who was a black female engineer, I realized that there was some excitement in actually becoming an engineer.
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have?
Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics, Computer Science, minor (1999) - Alabama A&M University
Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering (2005) - University of Alabama in Huntsville
Masters of Management in Information Systems (2007) - Florida Institute of Technology
What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work?
At the Software Engineering Directorate (SED) I am able to work with all types of engineers. Everyone at SED is not a computer software engineer therefore we get to learn different things from different people. There are test labs at SED were we test missiles by having flight simulations within the labs. Actually sitting inside a Hummer like our soldiers do, and making sure that the missiles we send them are going to fire correctly, or the airplane that they fly are going to detect what they are looking for is great! Outside of my daily job my organization understands the value of helping others by doing community outreach. I have participated in reading to schools, giving career talks, judging science fairs and giving speeches during Black History Month.
What do you like best about being an engineer?
The thing that I like most about being an engineer is knowing that the work that I do on a daily basis is helping our soldiers. There are several different types of engineers and we all play a different part when trying to come together on a major task. An engineer learns how to multitask within their job in order to be successful.
Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of?
I am proud of so much within my career. First, I'm proud of my education because no matter what I was faced with within my life I still continued on to obtain three degrees. Also, with all the programs that I have worked I have always put in 100% effort. I always try to gain knowledge from the different programs that I have worked so that I can take that with me as I have progressed over the years.
What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career?
Throughout my career I have been faced with many challenges. I wanted a family early and because of that I had to try to balance family and career realizing no one was looking for excuses...the work had to be done. Also as a black female in a predominantly white male field it has been hard breaking through different stereotypes such as I don't know as much as they do. I have had to prove my knowledge more times than I can count; however, I keep going and just get stronger on the way. I have learned to speak up when I need to and other times it is best to let your actions speak louder than your words.
Please tell us a little about your family.
I am a single parent of two beautiful young and active girls. I have one daughter that attends high school and the other middle school. My oldest daughter has enjoyed playing the piano, playing soccer, cheer leading and participating in scholarship pageants. My youngest has enjoyed playing piano and currently plays travel softball. I live near my parents which both help out to raise my daughters and I'm thankful for that everyday. We all attend church where my daughters sing in the choir and are in the Passage Ministry to learn more about what God wants from them as young people. My daughters keep me going but I wouldn't trade this for anything.
What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals?
As being the past local chapter president of the National Society of Black Engineers one of my long term goals is to inspire young girls to achieve their goals no matter what obstacles come their way and remember to keep God first in everything that they do. I enjoy mentoring young ladies to teach them how important Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) can be. Short term goals right now for me is to help out my daughters achieve what they want because my oldest will soon be headed to college and I want her to be successful in everything that she does. Career wise I feel that God has me where he wants me to be right now. I just continue to pray that he allows me to provide for my daughters and so far he has done that so I couldn't ask for anything more until he feels that I need it.
What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices?
My parents have had a great influence on my life choices. They have taught me to always believe in myself and to never allow anyone to tell me I can't do something. They instilled in me at an early age that gender didn't matter, hard work and prayer means more. As a matter of fact, when I called my mom to tell her that I completed requirements for my master's degree her response was "Congratulations, now when were you going to get started on your doctorate?" She always knew that I could do it and wants me to know that I should never give up. My dad retired with the government with 41 years of civil service and all I remember is all the people that had positive things to say about the legacy that he was leaving and that is what I want to do.
What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering?
As young woman we have to realize that we can't be afraid. Everything that I have done in my life would have been impossible without acknowledgment of God as my savior, director and sustainer. I tell all young women and men, especially African-American, to not be afraid to try or to ask. There is nothing wrong with getting help from someone because they did not get where they are by themselves. If it was going to be easy then everyone would major in it, you will have rough times but just keep your head up and keep praying and you will be just fine.
Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book.
Outside of work I enjoy spending time with my daughters. They bring so much joy to me away from everything that goes on at work because I look at their lives and think back on how simple they have things right now and think about when I was their age thinking life was hard. We love to travel to sport events and go on vacations! I am also an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. where we do numerous activities within the community and I work with our middle school girls to teach them about different topics. I have been a member of various organizations such as the National Council of Negro Women and past treasurer and president National Society of Black Engineers. I was also the recipient of the "You Go Girl" Award from the Sui Generis Civic/Social Club and Delta Sigma Theta Inc. Honoree for Academic Excellence and the Engineer of the Year Nominee.