Black History Month is a time to pause and recognize the great achievements and contributions of African Americans, past and present, to the world. To me, it is a time for reaffirmation and encouragement to stay on my path and inspire the next generation to pursue technical careers so we can keep our legacy strong.
How did you land in manufacturing?
I became an engineer because I saw a woman pursuing engineering. I was pursuing a business major but wished to take math classes beyond the business curriculum requirements. Therefore, I enrolled in an advanced math class. I noticed that the math students gathered in a room in the engineering wing after class to do homework and socialize. I started to frequent the area and met a young woman who was pursuing an engineering degree. She expressed how chemical engineering opens the doors to challenging and versatile careers. I told myself that if she can be an engineer, so can I. I switched my major and earned my Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering.What are you most proud of about working in manufacturing? What industry innovations have you been a part of during the pandemic?
I am proud to work on products that are changing the world. I feel privileged to be part of the teams working on engine programs that use the revolutionary Geared Turbofan technology at Pratt and Whitney. This technology reduces the fuel consumption of jet engines by up to 16%, reduces emissions by 50% and noise footprint by 75%.
What is your identity lens? Do you identify first as a woman and then black or black and then as a woman? Why do you think this is?
I identify as a human being with hopes and dreams. My perspective is that as human beings, we will cease to highlight our small differences and focus more on things we have in common. Treating each other equally will be more fruitful instead of using the color of our skin or our gender as barriers.
What has been the most challenging obstacle in your career journey? How did you overcome this obstacle?
I faced the biggest challenge of my career when I became a mother. I love working and growing in my career, however, I felt guilty when I worked late and did not return home on time for dinner. As devasting as Covid 19 has been, it has allowed me to slow down and spend more time with my family. To manage work and family, I lean on my strong support system, set boundaries at work, and ask for help.
My husband is a great father who is part of my support system. We share all the responsibilities related to my daughter. We have a schedule and a routine that help us stay on track. At work, I blocked off time on my calendar for items such as dropping off my daughter at daycare. Finally, I learned to ask for help and I try not to be a superwoman.
Integrating work and family means that priorities and demands will not be the same every day, therefore I try to be flexible and reassure myself that I am doing my best. I am grateful that I have a fulfilling career and a loving family.
How do we get more young African American women to pursue a career in manufacturing?
The journey to a career in the manufacturing industry starts when our children are young. As parents and guardians, we need to create a space where young African Americans can be curious. We should encourage children to take things apart to learn how things work.
Growing up in Togo, my younger brother loved taking radios and toys apart and putting them back together. Family relatives scolded him, but my parents encouraged him to explore. That early curiosity to understand how things work led him to a career as a software engineer. There is power in letting children explore.
It is also important for children to believe that they are smart and can do anything they set their minds to. My husband and I shower my 1.5-year-old daughter with praise on how smart she is. My husband is looking forward to teaching our daughter how engines work. I am looking forward to doing experiments with her and building things together.
Often, young African American women are first-generation students in college and are not aware of the options to pay for college such as grants, scholarships and loans. Immigrant students face additional complexity such as language barriers and they need guidance on the college application process.
In middle and high school, young girls should be exposed to women in manufacturing and learn more about careers in the industry so they can visualize their bright futures. They should work on technical projects and get the foundation required for engineering classes in college.
Careers in the manufacturing industry can be challenging, but the rewards are unparalleled. A degree in engineering opens the door to a lifetime of versatile opportunities.
What is one thing you wish manufacturers did or knew to retain black talent in the industry better?
It is important for manufacturers to be aware of biases and take time to get to know underrepresented employees for the individuals that we are. Guide employees via mentoring programs and offer equal growth opportunities to all. Finally, show your employees that they are valued and ask them what support they need to succeed.