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Talent Takes Off
The aerospace and defense industry on the upswing, and so is the demand for talent.
After years of declining growth, the aerospace and defense sector is back on track and soaring, according to a recent report by Deloitte. That’s good news for this industry.
What’s even better is that increased revenues bring an increased demand for talent. This, in turn, leads to great opportunities for individuals - especially engineers - who want to carve out a career in this space.
Here, four female engineers whose aerospace and defense careers have taken off share their insight. They also offer advice for achieving success in this rebounding field.
NASA’s Roozeboom Works Well under Pressure
Nettie Roozeboom works under a lot of pressure.
As an aerospace engineer working in NASA’s Ames Research Center Fluid Mechanics Lab in the San Francisco Bay Area, she develops instrumentation deployed in wind tunnels and leads the lab’s pressure-sensitive paint measurement testing. The two, she says, go hand in hand.
“Pressure-sensitive paint,” Roozeboom explains, “is made of special molecules that, when excited by pressure, such as what occurs during wind tunnel testing, glow brighter or dimmer.
Pressure readings are traditionally taken using pressure taps, little plastic tubes strung through a model’s interior to its surface via a small hole in key places. The difficulty with this approach, notes the engineer, is the readings are static and limited.
In contrast pressure-sensitive paint provides engineers and designers with a more holistic view of how pressure is distributed across a vehicle’s entire surface as it moves through the air so they can understand the loads it experiences at given wind tunnel conditions.
Roozeboom first arrived at Washington, DC-based NASA as a summer intern before her senior year of college. That experience “made all the difference in my life,” she says.
“I love NASA’s mission. Its goal is to make life better here on earth,” says Roozeboom, who went on to earn her master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford (CA) University.
“I also love the risks you’re able to take working for an agency like NASA, working on things like the next generation of aircraft and launch vehicles. It’s fun to be part of that and learn from the rich culture we have here. Exploration is in our DNA.”
Now, says Roozeboom, is an exciting time to be in the aerospace field, but that requires staying educated about what’s happening now - and next.
For instance, earlier this year NASA announced its New Aviation Horizons (NAH) program, which will build five experimental electric propulsion X planes during the next 10 years, with the aim of transforming the American aviation industry. In addition, NASA is developing the capabilities to send a human mission to Mars by the 2030s.
“We’re exploring new frontiers, but a lot of development has to happen first, which is creating new job opportunities,” she notes.
To help make that happen, in part, Roozeboom encourages young woman engineers to help pay it forward.
“It’s so important to give back,” she says, “and that can be looked at in two ways. First, find a mentor, someone you identify with. It’s doesn’t have to be formal, but you’ll know when you meet [that person]. And don’t stop there. Find someone to be a mentor to and give back.”
She continues: “We as humans have a tendency to compare and be competitive. I would really encourage students to be more collaborative and compassionate with other young women in classrooms. Seek them out and work through the material together. Help one another. I wish I would’ve done more of that when I was in undergrad and graduate school. When we work together, we can do great things.”
Log onto nasajobs.nasa.gov to view NASA career opportunities. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Google+.
NASA at a Glance
NASA’s Washington, DC headquarters provides overall guidance and direction to the agency, under the leadership of the administrator. Ten field centers and a variety of installations conduct the day-to-day work, in laboratories, on air fields, in wind tunnels and in control rooms. Its four mission directorates are aeronautics, human exploration and operations, science and space technology.
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