Recently whilst visiting my parents, my Mom pulled out a stack of my elementary school memory books she had kept. When flipping through the first grade book, we came across a page that said “My favorite sudject is math cuss I lick to figurr things.” Spelling was never my strong suit, but math and science were always subjects that I loved and excelled at. I remember when my Mom got me pink and purple Legos for Christmas one year. She had to special order them from a catalogue because I wanted to build a pink castle so badly; something I could show my brothers was mine and not theirs, so she went to great lengths to make it happen.
My parents always encouraged our interests, especially if they felt they were educational or could help our development. My Dad is an electrical engineer and as I got older we would often stay up past my bedtime while he would explain to me how different things worked, such as satellite communications because I idolized Geordi LeFourge on Star Trek: the Next Generation.
As I got older it was clear that I was fairly mechanically inclined and had a real knack for applying math to real life, but it never occurred to me that I could be an engineer. All the engineers I met in real life – growing up with a Dad who designed and tested control systems on jets – or saw on TV were men, so I wanted to become a math teacher. I wanted to be able to use math every day and didn’t realize there were other ways to do this.
In seventh grade I went to a Girl Scout program at the University of Texas at Arlington where a young woman majoring in engineering chaperoned us around the campus. I took four different courses that day; two on forensic anthropology and another two on bridge building. The first bridge building class was a lecture titled “Between a Rock and a Hard Place: the Difference Between Concrete and Cement”. l actually attended the exact same lecture from the same woman two years later at another program. The second course was a hands on bridge building contest. At the end of the day our chaperone took me aside and told me she thought I could be a really good engineer someday.
Because of that single comment, I enrolled in a science and engineering camp the next summer and began taking engineering design courses in high school. My Mom had also told me she believed I should go into engineering, but I always thought she was just saying I reminded her of my Dad. Seeing women engineers that day at UTA opened my eyes to a career I had never considered.
I started working with Proserv the fall after I completed college at Texas A&M. Today I work in the software subsea controls in Houston. I’ve been offshore more times than I can count and I am responsible for a wide range of tasks, from helping to design controls systems, testing equipment and software, through to commissioning our equipment offshore and later providing support for the life of our equipment. I enjoy the fact that every day presents a different challenge and that I get to see the design process from the beginning to when it is used offshore. The lessons we learn from interacting with the equipment offshore allow us to create a more user-friendly interface and a better product overall.
It’s very important for all of us to remember the people that have influenced us and to give back to the next generation, highlighting exactly what they can do. A friend and I recently had the opportunity to work with a Girl Scout troop to teach them about coding. It seems that girls today are much more aware of STEM careers than I ever was at their age and so are eager to learn to code and design which is exciting.