Boeing

Nia Jetter

Nia Jetter

Associate Technical Fellow, Spacecraft Autonomy

An Associate Technical Fellow, Nia Jetter has worked at the Boeing Company for 14 years. She began her career in spacecraft autonomy and now supports enterprise technology planning. Nia was inducted into the Boeing Technical Fellowship Program in 2013 and is passionate about helping to shape the future of autonomy analysis and autonomous systems.

What inspired you to pursue a career in engineering?
I didn’t know that I wanted to be an engineer until I was in college, but my parents introduced me to science fiction at an early age and I was fascinated by the possible futures that I read about. Even though I went to an engineering school, I’d always considered myself a scientist who loved problem solving, astronomy and computer programming. Through my internships at NASA Goddard I realized I could combine my interest in autonomy/space and intelligent algorithm development into a career. I always followed my heart, which fortunately led me to a career as an aerospace engineer at Boeing.

What barriers did you face in your educational journey and career?
A significant challenge that I faced at different points has been people telling me something is too hard or I can’t do something. Sometimes, when people say something is too hard or discourage you from trying something, it may seem like they genuinely have your best interests in mind. Just because something is hard for someone else, doesn’t mean that it will be hard for you. The fact of the matter is if you are genuinely passionate about something and willing to put the time into learning or figuring something out, it will not be too hard and you will be happy in your work. So the effort will be worth it. Just make sure that if you’re passionate about a lot of things, you need to learn how to balance! Not everything has to be done at the same time, and if you develop mentees of your own, you will be able to evolve more ideas at a time while helping others grow.

How has Boeing helped you grow your career as an engineer?
Boeing helped me grow my career through the Technical Fellowship program. In 2013, I was inducted into this program as an Associate Technical Fellow. From that point forward, I was part of a network that enabled more people to find me based on my area of expertise. I became even more involved in Technology Planning, and the people that I mentor now span the Boeing Enterprise. I am excited for the future of aerospace engineering as we move toward increasing our autonomous capabilities, which has the potential to reduce cost, increase efficiency, and enable deeper space travel for people.

What advice would you give an African-American woman interested in engineering or starting an engineering career today?

  • Every day, show up and work hard! It does not matter how many degrees you have or where your degrees are from. Know that you deserve to be there as much as anyone else. Don’t be intimidated or be afraid to ask questions to make sure that you understand – that’s the only way that you will learn and grow.
  • Get a mentor – more than one! Find people who will give you honest feedback and help guide your career. It’s good to have someone who knows your skill set and your interests who can throw your name in the hat when opportunities come up that can advance your career.
  • Pick your battles. It’s challenging at times to work in an environment where not a lot of people look like you, or share your experiences. Don’t get me wrong, some battles are worth picking. But at the same time, it helps to consider where other people are coming from and help them to understand where you are coming from. Better communication is hard, no doubt, but everyone wins in the end and it helps pave the way for others in the future.

    Elaine Banks

    Elaine Banks

    Manager, Information Technology Group

    Elaine started in 1987 as the first IT employee hired at a small Boeing subsidiary. Then, she transferred to Boeing Wichita, where she was a programmer for several years before relocating to Seattle. In 2010, she was one of the first five IT professionals to set up an IT presence at the Boeing South Carolina site. In 2014, she accepted an assignment to manage the Information Technology Global Operation management services organization.

    She has received numerous awards, including Women of Color “All Star” and “Future Leaders in Development.” She recently served as President of the Boeing Black Employee Association at Boeing South Carolina.

    What inspired you to pursue a career in engineering?
    First, growing up in a small town – Greenville, Mississippi – I was inspired by local African-American women who paved the way for me. These individuals acquired technical jobs in the late ‘70s with Fortune 500 companies in larger cities. They shared their success via mentorship and inspiring stories.

    My mother also inspired me to pursue a technical degree. She would often witness me assemble portions of the sewing machine or my Easy Bake oven at home and encouraged my technical capabilities. I went to college and was the first in my family to obtain a degree. She would tell me, “You can be anything you want to be: doctor, accountant, computer programmer – the sky is the limit.”

    What barriers did you face in your educational journey and career?
    The biggest barrier in my educational journey was the transition from a small, predominantly African-American high school to a large diverse college (Mississippi State University). I quickly learned the benefit of networking across cultures to complete college work. I utilized this diversity learning at Boeing.

    How has Boeing helped you grow your career as an engineer?
    Boeing moved a portion of the KC-135 wing modification work to Greenville, my hometown, in the 1980s. I started with a Boeing subsidiary there in 1987. It was a small operation with a need to expand desktop computing, and I was the IT department!

    Boeing helped my career growth by providing challenging and new technical opportunities in various program initiatives like the IT aspects of the 787 program. I worked configuration and technical issues with our international partners.

    I have been fortunate to meet many great people who provided mentoring in key topics like “work-life balance” and career development. I am especially excited by the future initiatives around implementing and growing our Data Analytic capabilities.

    How do Boeing’s diversity and inclusion efforts help engineers who are women and people of color?
    For the past two years, I was fortunate to serve as the president of the Boeing Black Employee Resource Group. In that role, we were successful in local events promoting higher education, community involvement and cultural awareness. I learned that a small set of people can make a huge difference by being role models to students, and by doing our part in the community for many diverse groups including women and people of color. During the two years, I was exposed to our African American culture regarding the historic Tuskegee Airmen, Urban league initiatives, local Historically Black Colleges and local community needs.

    What advice would you give an African-American woman interested in engineering or starting an engineering career today?
    The advice I would provide is to have a career development plan for the first 5-10 years. The plan should include steps to obtain either a technical fellow or management path, a diverse set of career mentors, and a goal for obtaining master’s and doctoral degrees. And finally, be comfortable with your own leadership style and find jobs that embrace that style. I would not advise trying to be like any leader you admire, because if it is not authentic people will eventually find out.

      Gena Lovett

      Gena Lovett

      Vice President of Operations, Defense, Space & Security

      With more than 20 years of leadership experience in manufacturing and operations, Gena Lovett is Vice President of Operations for Defense, Space & Security. She also serves as deputy leader of the Boeing Operations Leadership Team (BOLT). She spent the previous 15 years in progressively demanding manufacturing roles. She has a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from Ohio State University and a master’s in international business from Baker College’s Center for Graduate Studies.

      What inspired you to work in the manufacturing and industrial field?
      Manufacturing enabled me to indulge my penchant for the unconventional. Manufacturing operations thrives best when we adhere to disciplined processes. I continue to be fascinated by the journey I had to take to help teams achieve the desired discipline.

      What barriers did you face in your educational journey and career?
      None related to my education that were not self-imposed. I had to learn how to study effectively. With my career, I have come to accept that my credentials and years of experience mean nothing when walking into a new assignment. I always have to demonstrate my value, whereas my male counterparts are readily accepted because there is the view that they would not have the role if not qualified.

      How has Boeing helped you grow your career?
      Being hired to lead a large organization with such an important mission says a great deal about Boeing’s confidence in me and their commitment to hiring the best talent. What excites me about the future of the aerospace and engineering industry, believe it or not, is the increased competition from the most unlikely places. This forces us to constantly up our game by harnessing the best talent, refining the best solutions, and being very focused about our intent to win.

      What advice would you give an African-American woman interested in engineering or starting an engineering career today?
      Be sure it is something you love. Pursue this first. Then set about honing your craft and skills. Competence breeds confidence.

        Nebiat Abraha

        Nebiat Abraha

        IT International Regional Engagement Specialist, Canada and Latin America

        After graduating from The University of Washington, Nebiat started at Boeing in 2013. She now works within IT International, specifically the Business Partners team. She is the Regional Engagement Specialist for Canada and Latin America.

        What inspired you to pursue a career in engineering?
        I’ve always been interested in how technology interacts with people and how to tailor it to best fit human needs and interests. The more I learned about how to use engineering principles to design and create solutions that focused on people interaction, the more I recognized that this was the perfect way for me to make a difference in society. So, when I started at the University of Washington, I knew that Human Centered Design and Engineering was what I wanted to pursue.

        What barriers did you face in your educational journey and career?
        I learned quite a few lessons my first year in college, but one in particular stayed relevant throughout my educational journey. I reached out to a college guidance counselor to help plan my class schedule so I could apply to the college of engineering the following spring. Once I told the counselor the type of degree I was interested in, she tried to steer me in another direction and encouraged me to enroll in non-technical classes. That day I learned that not everyone will believe in your dreams or goals as much as you, but it should not deter you or affect your self-confidence. Walking out of that meeting, I was even more determined to reach my goal of graduating with an engineering degree.

        How has Boeing helped you grow your career as an engineer?
        Boeing provides great resources like the Learning Together Program tuition support, on-demand learning for individual professional and technical development, training seminars and webcasts, and mentors that contribute to my continued education. I’m excited to be a part of Boeing when there is an increased push to develop innovative technologies such as robotics, factory automation and virtual reality. Boeing is paving the way for a whole new generation of aerospace engineering solutions.

        What advice would you give an African-American woman interested in engineering or starting an engineering career today?
        As a college student, I was an active member of the UW NSBE chapter. We organized study sessions, mentorship programs, resume workshops and practice interviews. Over the years NSBE has helped me develop a strong network that provides support, mentorship and guidance. I would encourage anyone interested in engineering to surround themselves with a community like that.

          Carolyn Nichols

          Carolyn Nichols

          Director, V-22 Osprey Tiltrotor Sustainment

          Carolyn started at The Boeing Company in 1986 as a Radar Systems Engineer on the F-15 Strike Eagle program. Today, she is Director of V-22 Osprey Tiltrotor Sustainment for Boeing’s Global Services & Support business. In this role, she leads a team that supports the V-22 Osprey fleet and users worldwide.

          What inspired you to pursue a career in engineering?
          I’ve always had great curiosity of how things worked, particularly mechanical and electrical machinery. My uncle was an amateur ham radio hobbyist. As a young child, I shadowed him and watched as he continuously upgraded his equipment and even learned to operate the equipment myself. In school, I excelled in mathematics and found opportunities to participate in engineering projects. I was part of a student engineering team at Howard University that constructed and operated the school’s television station, WHUT-TV, which continues to provide public broadcast programming to the Washington, D.C., area. These experiences were instrumental in launching my career in engineering.

          What barriers did you face in your educational journey and career?
          I was raised by a single mother, and that gave me significant financial constraints. We did not have enough money for college. But, I was determined to become an engineer and enrolled in a two-year community college where I earned an Associated Degree in Engineering Technology. I worked part-time at Motorola to save money to attend Howard University where I obtained my Electrical Engineering degree.

          When I started with Boeing over 30 years ago, I was one of the first minority women working in the radar lab and it was challenging to break through the established relationships of my co-workers. They had worked together for many years and knew each other very well. My supervisor, who was Asian American, took me under his wing and encouraged me to be proactive. I worked through those barriers by asserting myself, being eager to contribute and eager to learn. I became great friends and colleagues with those folks, and I still reach out to them for technical and professional advice.

          What excites you about the future of the aerospace engineering and your future in the field?
          The breadth of Boeing has provided me tremendous opportunities to grow and advance my career. There are endless avenues to explore across platforms and services, technology and innovation. I’ve worked with customers around the world and military leaders who are flying and excited about the products we build. In addition, each opportunity has benefited the next. While I no longer work in engineering, I apply the discipline every day as a program director leading aircraft engineers.

          How do Boeing’s diversity and inclusion efforts help engineers who are women and people of color?
          Boeing’s support for engineers who are women and people of color starts at the top. The highest levels of corporate leadership are committed to supporting the development and achievements of engineering talent. For the past four years, I have served as Boeing’s executive sponsor for the Women of Color in STEM Conference. I work with leaders across the Boeing enterprise in identifying women of color engineering talent and nominate them for the national awards, competing with other women in the technology industry. The company has had more than 150 winners since 2013, including Engineer of the Year, Top Information Technologist of the Year, and awards for engineering career achievements. In addition, we use the conference to address talent development, skill development, and teach women how to champion themselves in their career.

          What advice would you give an African-American woman interested in engineering or starting an engineering career today?
          Don’t be afraid and never give up on your dreams. Keep learning to become the subject matter expert in your team and with customers. Commit yourself to a lifetime of learning and honing your skills through mentors. Don’t be afraid of taking tough assignments, even if it requires relocating to another Boeing site or outside the U.S. Map the steps to achieving your dreams and set goals along the way. The path and your steps may need to be altered based on the challenges you may face, but never give-up.

            Sydney Hamilton

            Nia Jetter

            Structural Design Engineer

            Sydney Hamilton started her career at Boeing in January 2014 as a Structural Design Engineer. She also serves as the President of Boeing Black Employees Association – SoCal Design Center Chapter and is the Skills-Based Volunteering Focal on SoCal Volunteer Council. She received the 2016 Technology Rising Star Award at the Women of Color STEM Conference.

            What inspired you to pursue a career in engineering?
            I love learning how to make things work. When I was younger, I was either taking something apart to rebuild it or devising a plan on how I could fly like an airplane. I would stand outside with my feet together, a blanket tied to my neck and my arms straight out. Once in the proper ready position, I would try to take off! Although, I have never successfully taken off from my backyard, I pursued a career in engineering at the Boeing Company that has enabled me to soar toward my childhood dream.

            What barriers did you face in your educational journey and career?
            I had a professor sit me down my senior year of high school and ask me what I wanted to major in when I got to college. Excitingly, I told him I would be pursuing my life-long dream of becoming an engineer. He immediately responded, “Isn’t that going to be a little tough for someone like you? Maybe you should pursue something easier like English.” Initially, his comment crushed me. Luckily, I had a mentor who reminded me that I rarely take the path of least resistance, so why start now? If not for her, I may have let someone else’s negativity shape my future.

            How has Boeing helped you grow your career as an engineer?
            Boeing is filled with career-growth opportunities. I had supportive managers who encourage me to go after my stretch goals, pursue leadership roles, and give back to my community. I am grateful that my managers and my leads trusted a fresh-out-of-college new hire with as much responsibility as they did. I am excited about the future at Boeing because I am the future. We are entering the second century of innovation – what better time to make impactful changes and shape the future of the aerospace industry than now?

            How do Boeing’s diversity and inclusion efforts help engineers who are women and people of color?
            The most supportive group in my career has been the Boeing Black Employees Association. I think of it as the NSBE of Boeing. Many of the members have cheered for me, advised me and consistently encouraged me since my first day. No company is excluded from the challenges in diversity, but it is encouraging to see the positive changes at Boeing. Diversity is embraced and recognized as a benefit. The diversity of people, thoughts and ideas are at the core of developing new groundbreaking innovations.

            What advice would you give an African-American woman interested in engineering or starting an engineering career today?

            • Network. Find new opportunities to expand your network and develop your personal board of directors.
            • Know Your Facts. Always be well-prepared and factual; no one can dispute the facts.
            • Own YOUR Career. There are enough people in the world to tell you that you cannot do something or will not be able to accomplish your dreams. There is no need for you to be one of them. Believe in you even when no one else does – it is your future to determine, not theirs.

              Candice Smith

              Candice Smith

              Director, Global Engineering & External Technical Affiliations

              As an electrical engineer at Boeing, Candice Smith has worked on many challenging projects from integrating the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing system into the aft seat of an F/A-18 fighter jet to architecting a controller that could control autonomous and manned air/ground vehicles.

              What inspired you to become an engineer / pursue engineering as a profession?
              I was planning to join the USAF after graduating high school, when one of my teachers asked me why I hadn’t considered college and engineering as an option. I was inspired to continue this pursuit because I found I enjoyed learning the fundamentals of science, math, and electrical engineering. I’m inspired every day to remain an engineer because of the amazing people I work with and what we’ve accomplish together at Boeing and within the community.

              What barriers did you face in your journey to becoming an engineer or in your career?
              One roadblock that stands out is when the only female professor in the electrical engineering department told me that I would not become an engineer. I overcame that negativity by staying true to myself, working extra hard to do well in my studies, learning from my mistakes, and participating in extracurricular activities in the academic and social community.

              In my professional career, I’ve had peers who questioned my technical abilities and the quality of my work. But I’ve succeeded through the support of other peers, trust of managers, wisdom of mentors, and encouragement from a village of friends with whom I could be genuine.

              How has Boeing helped you grow your career as an engineer?
              The people of Boeing have helped me by presenting some of the most challenging problems, and valuing my contribution to the team’s success. I’m so excited for what the future holds because even our wild thoughts and inventions can be realized and it no longer take years to dream, design, develop, produce, and deploy – it’s takes a fraction of that. It is truly an exciting time to be or become and engineer!

              What advice would you give an African-American woman interested in engineering or starting an engineering career today?
              I would tell them to get started. Get started in your pursuit and stick with it. There is an incredible community of diverse women in STEM and supporters of women in STEM who have done great things, will do great things, and is willing to reach back to champion their success. Get started, the best time is now!

                Tamara Green

                Tamara Green

                Tooling Manager, Space Launch Systems

                Tamara joined Boeing in 2006 and is currently the Tooling Manager on the SLS (Space Launch System). She has also been a Process Engineer, Hardware Manager and Tool Engineering Manager in the IRC before moving to work in the SLS program. She was honored as a Technology Rising Star at the 2015 Women of Color Technology Awards Conference.

                What inspired you to pursue a career in engineering?
                My father inspired me. He taught various STEM courses such as Mechanical Drafting, Power Mechanics and Industrial Arts for over 30 years and was very good at creating all kinds of things. If you could imagine it, he could make it. Growing up, I always followed behind my father and was very interested in learning how things worked. I would constantly ask my father questions and he would always have an answer. When I graduated from high school there was no doubt I would go into the same field. My grandfather, father and uncle all have the same undergraduate degrees in industrial technology. Obtaining my undergraduate degree inspired me to go even higher and obtain my Master’s in Manufacturing Engineering. To this day, I like to take things apart and put them back together and I am a self-proclaimed “Do It Yourself” Queen.

                What barriers did you face in your educational journey and career?
                It’s no secret that Engineering and STEM fields are underrepresented by women. Being a woman and an African American woman I felt I had to work harder to prove myself. I also felt that I have to prove what I knew and that I could do just as much or more than any male in the room. When I first arrived at Boeing, I would be the only female in meetings and it brought back a lot of memories of wondering if I was going to get singled out and get asked a ton of questions just to see how much I knew. I would spend hours studying and researching various topics to be prepared for classroom discussions and meetings I had to attend. However, I never let those times intimidate me. It just made me want to work harder and be the best I could be. I am proof that hard work rewards. I have had many titles throughout my 10 years with Boeing and am now a first-line manager with the company and always working to get to the next level.

                How has Boeing helped you grow your career as an engineer?
                Boeing definitely helped me as an Engineer. I met a lot of great people throughout my career at Boeing that I wouldn’t have met outside of work. I tell my friends I went to a small HBCU, Alcorn State University, and I get to work with people from Ivy League schools and people from around the world. I have taken advantage of Boeing’s Learning program and Ed Wells program to take courses to keep me in tune with the forever changing world of technology. I always felt that Boeing has the necessary tools to help any engineer, you just have to want it and pursue it. It’s so exciting to be part of history working on the Space Launch System. Not everyone can say they got the chance to help build a rocket that will go to Mars. There are so many great ideas on how to make things bigger and better and I am excited at the possibilities to change aerospace and the way people travel around the world.

                How do Boeing’s diversity and inclusion efforts help engineers who are women and people of color?
                Without Boeing’s relationships with outside organizations, I wouldn’t be working for Boeing today. Ten years ago, I was working for a construction subcontractor for FEMA helping those affected by Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. The job was winding down and I flew to Pittsburgh to attend the NSBE conference. I stayed in a friend’s hotel room and attended Boeing’s open house that night in the hotel with resume in hand to talk with managers about the possibility of me getting a position as an engineer. After a successful discussion with a hiring manager I was invited to an interview the next morning and the rest is history.

                What advice would you give an African-American woman interested in engineering or starting an engineering career today?
                Never give up. If you want it, you can have it but nothing will fall in your lap. It doesn’t matter where you are from or the circumstances. You have to want it bad enough to get it. The possibilities are endless when you set your mind to the goal you want to obtain.

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