Guest speaker Heather Dionne talked about her experiences as an engineer with The Boeing Co. at St. George’s recent Brown Bag Lunch event on Jan. 19.
Approximately 30 students and faculty members attended the event, which was sponsored by the Science Department and held in the Academic Center, where Dionne talked about her high school interest in math and science and how it helped her get to where she is today.
“In high school, [I was] heavily interested in math and science. It was just interesting to me. I found it to fit my natural talents and so I made sure I that I took advanced math and advanced science classes,” Dionne said to students. “I know you guys have that opportunity here. I encourage you to take advantage of that. What that did for me was it allowed me to go into more advanced math classes in college.
Dionne highlighted how important the skills students pick up in high school are such as time management and studying and also encouraged students to pursue internships early on to explore their desired career paths.
Dionne holds two degrees in mechanical engineering – a bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati and a master’s degree from Duke University. She has worked with Boeing for over 30 years as a structural or systems engineer on multiple programs at the company’s Huntsville, Alabama, location, primarily in the space exploration and missile defense business sectors.
Her assignments at Boeing have taken her to Japan to review space payloads, Maui to identify improvements for an Air Force observatory operation, New Mexico for development of laser energy systems, and Texas for mission operations on Space Shuttle missions.
Dionne is currently on the technical staff of one of Boeing’s chief engineers and said she does a lot of teaching and coaching with other employees to work on details in problem areas.
“I end up where there are problems, helping figure out what those solutions are, or helping the team that needs to go solve them figure that out and put the plan together on how they’re going to actually close those open items,” said Dionne.
The Brown Bag Lunch was organized with the help of St. George’s Assistant Athletic Trainer and Assistant Director of Music Wendy Drysdale, who’s Dionne’s sister, to give students a chance to talk to a woman in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) field.
More women are going into careers in STEM as younger generations enter the workforce and the population changes over time, according to Dionne.“Definitely within government as well as aerospace, [there’s] an emphasis on trying to get a better demographic or diverse workforce,” said Dionne. “An appreciation of, not just women, but diversity comes in many shapes and colors. Bringing different ideas to the table, different modes of how we work, how we communicate, how we solve the problems. There are many different correct answers to a lot of problems and so there typically isn’t one right answer, one right way to get there.”