What It's Like to Be a Female Aerospace Engineer
October 24, 2017
When it comes to aerospace, engineers design aircraft, satellites and spacecraft and so much more.
At Honeywell, we are inspired by many female engineers and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) recently honored two of them.
Terri Taylor, Senior Staff Engineer
Engineer for: 35 years
Award: Resnik Challenger Medal
Why engineering: I was inspired to become an engineer more than 30 years ago, thanks to science fiction novels. Works by Heinlein and Asimov talked about space travel, making engineering sound very appealing to me at a time when girls typically studied typing and shorthand, not science and math.
What is your job:
Space exploration is not possible without an Attitude Control System (ACS) to steer, stabilize and point the spacecraft. Bearings that perform flawlessly year after year after year are the heart of the ACS. I am the innovator of spin bearing technology, which doubles the life of satellites and deep space missions.
What did you do to earn thisaward?
I furthered the development and application of spin-bearing technology that steer, stabilize, and point a spacecraft. This contribution to space has helped provide reliable, longer-lived spacecraft, and impacted satellites such as WorldView (images for Google Earth), GOES (meteorology) and more.
What hurdles have youencountered in your professional career?
When I started my first engineering job in 1982, I walked into a roomful of men who “had seen everything” and there was still a bit of “a man could raise a family on the salary they pay you” thinking. They were nice men and I learned a lot from them, but until I had the courage to stand up and say “enough, my opinion matters and is just as valid as yours” I was a second-class engineer.
What advice do you give toyoung engineers?
In my experience, no one starts their day saying “I am going to do great things” &endash; it is the uncompromising demand for high quality, the hard work and the refusal to accept failure that, upon reflection, measure a job well done. You will never be remembered for getting into trouble, you will be remembered for how you got out of it.
Terri Taylor with Jonna Gerken, SWE President
Jennifer Reich, Aerodynamics Analysis
Jennifer ispointing to the exhaust of the AGT1500 engine.
Engineer for: 16 years
Award: Emerging Leader Award
Why engineering: I really liked math and science and I wanted a good job where I could utilize those skills and make a good living. And my mom really encouraged me. In high school I went to an engineering day camp and that really nailed it for me.
What is your job: I help solve complex problems in the design and development of valve and engine products on airplanes, helicopters, tanks, and missiles.
What did you do to win this award?
This award recognizes female engineers who have demonstrated outstanding technical excellence resulting in significant accomplishments. For me, that was my expertise in aerodynamic analysis using computational fluid dynamic tools to solve complex problems, and for encouraging the next generation of women to excel in engineering.
What hurdles have you encountered in your professional career?
The biggest hurdle I have faced is recognizing what “having it all” really means. I have learned that I can't have it all &endash; at least not all the time. And that is ok. Sometimes one area of life needs more attention than others, and which area that is will change. I have learned when it is better to say “no” even if I really want to say “yes.” Finding the balance, though, helps me find acceptance that I am doing my best and gives me pride in accomplishments that are achieved.
What are the biggest challenges for female engineers?
There aren't always a lot of women to socialize with when you are an engineer, but everyone still has family, pets, house projects, hobbies and vacations. So I always try to find common ground with any co-worker.
Sandia Lab Colleagues
Sandia National Laboratories, which is operated by Honeywell, also has three engineers who won awards from SWE.