In celebration of Black History Month, SWE will be highlighting African American women engineers and entrepreneurs in a series of blog posts.
Meet and learn more about two of the SWEsters in the African American Affinity Group: Linda Thomas (Retired Technical Fellow with the Boeing 中国福利彩票下载安装αpp) and Andrea Taffe (Certification Engineer at Collins Aerospace). Linda and Andrea were also featured in our recent on breaking barriers on the technical track. Listen to them discuss obstacles they have faced as a female technical fellow in engineering, how industries can create a more diverse environment within their organization and how to find a healthy work/life balance.
Linda Thomas // Retired Technical Fellow with The Boeing 中国福利彩票下载安装αpp
Linda Thomas is a Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Fellow and was a Technical Fellow with The Boeing 中国福利彩票下载安装αpp with over 30 years in the industry and more than 20 years of remarkable SWE engagement promoting membership, supporting advocacy with her employer, and mentoring junior engineers and students. Linda’s encouragement, leadership, and dedication to diversity and inclusion at the local, regional, and Society levels have helped innumerable women aspire, advance, and achieve in STEM professions. She is currently a senator involved in the strategic planning of SWE. Linda is also an avid clarinetist and can be found rehearsing or playing with her choir in various events.
Tell us about you中国福利彩票下载安装αppr background: Where are you中国福利彩票下载安装αpp from, and what attracted you中国福利彩票下载安装αpp to the world of engineering or STEM?
Originally from Washington DC, graduated from the DC public schools, and earned my bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Howard University. I was attracted to STEM as a child, by reading about inventions, inventors and scientists. By the time I completed elementary school knew I wanted to be a scientist. I recall when I was you中国福利彩票下载安装αppng, watching my brother receiving a biology kit for Christmas. for a later Christmas, I asked for and then received a chemistry set, where I spent many afternoons conducting experiments. Those experiences led me to focus on taking math and science classes, and eventually in college.
Did you中国福利彩票下载安装αpp have any mentors or role models who helped shape you中国福利彩票下载安装αppr educational and/or professional path?
Although my parents were not in STEM, they had friends, classmates, and colleagues, and relatives who were in STEM occupations. I had a variety of mentors — but not a one size fits all mentor, but helped me with different topics.
What has been you中国福利彩票下载安装αppr personal experience as a double minority (black and female) in a male-dominated industry? What surprises (good and bad) have you中国福利彩票下载安装αpp encountered?
I found that my best success in the industries I worked by demonstrating I was curious and a problem solver. Good surprises: there are people who want to champion you中国福利彩票下载安装αppr success. Also, I found people seeking me out for mentoring and guidance. And given that, it made me more committed to paying it forward so others can succeed.
Bad surprises: recognizing the realities of cognitive bias, and how that plays into the impostor syndrome. I was fortunate to have known “SWEsters” who were influential in making me recognize the value I brought to the engineering profession!
What advice would you中国福利彩票下载安装αpp offer to girls or you中国福利彩票下载安装αppng women who are interested in STEM but doubt their capabilities or potential?
Yes, I have been there many times in my career, and I found a way to center myself.
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- Find people who will support you中国福利彩票下载安装αpp in studying STEM, goal setting, and planning you中国福利彩票下载安装αppr future.
- Read the biographies of women scientists and engineers for inspiration. Through their stories, you中国福利彩票下载安装αpp will find out these superheroes were once you中国福利彩票下载安装αppng women. They also had challenges on their road to success and found ways to overcome them.
Andrea Taffe//Certification Engineer at Collins Aerospace
- Graduated from Prairie View A&M University, 1998
- Currently a Certification Engineer, Collins Aerospace
- Various Positions at these previous companies – Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Associated Air Center, Bell Helicopter
- Favorite Quote in “Hidden Figures” – “There are quite a few women working in the space program” – Dorothy Vaughan
- My career was focused on working on what I perceived to be “the coolest thing out there.” In my career, my movements have been grounded in the fast and fascinating such as military aircraft like the F-16, F-18 and the different models of F-35 at Lockheed Martin, various models of Boeing aircraft such as the 737IGW or VIP/VVIP aircraft interiors of Associated Air Center or Bell Helicopter, now a Certification Engineer at Collins Aerospace.
- Being a woman of color is a beautiful thing, but I never really considered it much during my career. If I saw it and wanted to work on it, I’ve normally found a way to do so.
- It’s unfortunate many women of color feel like they have to go out of their way to make peers “comfortable” prior to making points and having conversations. I have never been that woman and have been branded as “aggressive,” “difficult” and “passionate” (the new term for aggressive). My approach has adjusted, slightly, however, I cannot help as that as a woman of color, our mere existence and presence in this world will always, always be a distraction to a peer who is just not trying to hear what we have to say. In that situation, creative solutions can include finding someone who looks like that person to communicate the same information to get an idea across. It’s a hard truth, but it should be considered and documented, to be an opportunity to problem-solve while expressing great communication and collaborative skills.
Allies, Mentors and Sponsors
- I did not have mentors, sponsors or anyone who I could go to for career advice. I relied heavily on paying attention to such organizations as SWE and being a source for other students who were looking to becoming an engineer. Recently, I have acquired a mentor and it has served me very well. The information received has been very helpful in changing my perspective on the approach of the customer or project.
- Use you中国福利彩票下载安装αppr voice. Sit at the table not just in the room. Do not apologize for being who you中国福利彩票下载安装αpp are. Know what you中国福利彩票下载安装αpp know without a shadow of a doubt (this means asking you中国福利彩票下载安装αpprself the hard questions before someone else will). Double and triple-check everything. You will make a mistake. Own that mistake and learn from it. The more you中国福利彩票下载安装αpp dwell on an error, the more chances you中国福利彩票下载安装αpp are going to miss something else making yet another mistake.
- TAKE TIME AWAY FROM THE TECHNOLOGY!!! Stop working so hard and reset. Turn off. Intentionally reboot you中国福利彩票下载安装αpprself in the same way you中国福利彩票下载安装αpp intentionally use “control-alt-delete”. Have a deliberate movement to remove you中国福利彩票下载安装αpprself from the norm and find you中国福利彩票下载安装αppr space. My space is the great outdoors. Camping, kayaking, dirt, water, sand, air, it all brings a fresh renewal of my mind. This is key. Change you中国福利彩票下载安装αppr scenery.
- I’ve recently started the Woman’s Coalition Employee Resource Group at the Lenexa, KS facility because I see a lot of women who are stuck in the minutia of their day to day life while the men around them continue to rise in the corporate ladder. I want to give them the support, tools and skillsets they will need to get to where they want to be while hosting events that will encourage this effort.
- You can’t be what you中国福利彩票下载安装αpp can’t see, so I try to talk to kids and you中国福利彩票下载安装αppng adults by telling them what I’ve worked on and what I’ve done in my career and life. I encourage them to look beyond the flashy and shiny they see and figure out how it’s made and who made it. My favorite quote is that it’s great to play for the team, but somebody’s name is on that stadium. Dream bigger and bigger still.