#GirlCrush: 4 Badass Female Engineers We Want to Be When We Grow Up
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#GirlCrush: 4 Badass Female Engineers We Want to Be When We Grow Up

You know when you meet, read about or Insta-stalk someone and you straight up want to be their best friend? Maybe they post beautiful photos, maybe they do inspirational work or maybe they just seem so darn smart that you know you could learn a thing or two from them. Well, we’re here today to introduce you to a quartet of super inspiring ladies, who are all making a different in the world as scientists and engineers. This is yet another component of our weeklong series with GE, devoted to celebrating the moms, aunts, sisters and friends among us who love to hack and innovate.

For today’s inspiration, we’re excited to share the stories of four female engineers, from General Electric to GoldieBlox. Read on and prepare to get inspired.

JENNIFER COYNE // SYSTEMS ENGINEER AT GE

Based in Erie, Pennsylvania, Jennifer Coyne is one seriously smart cookie. For her, the urge to constantly innovate and improve the world around her is something she was born with.

Tell us your story.

When I was in high school, my science teachers encouraged me to get involved in a few different STEM groups & activities. At first, I got involved as another resume builder for college, but as time went on, I realized I really enjoyed what I was learning and I was actually pretty good at it. I went on to study mechanical engineering at Grove City College after high school. My junior year, I had the chance to study abroad in France with a group of fellow mechanical engineering students, which was an AMAZING experience, but left me completely broke. When I got back to the US, I found out about an opportunity for a co-op position at a local GE Transportation Engine plant, and started my first real engineering job with the Marine & Stationary Engineering Design team there in 2007. I joined the Edison program in 2008 and have worked for GE Transportation on locomotives ever since.

What inspires you? Why do you love to innovate and create?

For me, the desire to innovate, create and design is innate. I remember as a child building forts and inventing contraptions to solve all kinds of problems. Things haven’t changed much; I’m still innovating to solve problems, but now I’m just much more equipped and solving much bigger problems. I also love being inspired by fellow engineers. It’s always my goal to surround myself with the smartest people I can find. We innovate better together.

What’s one piece of advice you’d share with other budding female engineers, innovators and makers?

Be a proactive and continuous learner. Find technical mentors and surround yourself with people who are doing big things… you’ll get inspired to do big things too.

Do you have any other creative hobbies?

I run marathons, played college volleyball (and still play), do triathalons, make wine, garden, travel, ride 4-wheelers and motorcycles, cross-country ski and snowmobile, and fix things in my house!

Anything else you want to tell us?

My faith in God is the most important thing to me. I love to be outside. I love to play with my kid. I love to try to new things.

Jennifer’s favorite picks from The Maker Shop definitely reflects a woman who is both an engineer and a mom. On the left, we’ve got the Toymail WIFI Messaging Toy ($60), basically a modern take on the walkie talkie that lets any number of approved family and friends message your kiddo. On the right, the SKEYE Nano Drone ($49). It’s literally the world’s smallest quadcopter!

DEBBIE STERLING // FOUNDER OF GOLDIEBLOX

Next up, we asked Debbie Sterling, the founder of GoldieBlox, how she got her start. In case you’re not familiar, GoldieBlox is a unique story and construction set that aims to engage young girls and get them creating amazing things. In short, it’s setting them up to be the future engineers and the innovators of our world. Each set follows Goldie, a girl-inventor with a knack for problem-solving, in a new adventure that inspires a building project. Girls ages four to nine will love the beautifully illustrated stories and the versatile building sets, which come with several design ideas.

Why GoldieBlox? Well, when Debbie was in the engineering program at Stanford, she uncovered a shocking fact: Only 13% of engineers worldwide are women. Yikes. She set off to create a construction set from a female perspective that would boost girls’ imaginations, spacial skills and confidence. And ultimately, she hopes that GoldieBlox inspires more women to become engineers. Hear, hear!

Tell us your story.

I actually didn’t even know what engineering was until my high school math teacher suggested I pursue it as a college major, but I ended up graduating from Stanford with a degree in Mechanical Engineering/Product Design. On my graduation day, I was lucky enough to hear Steve Jobs’ commencement speech, and the message “never settle” really resonated with me. After college, I followed a few different paths, from branding the New York Knicks to volunteering in rural India, but never settled until I finally found my true passion: inspiring the next generation of female engineers.

What inspires you? Why do you love to innovate and create?

Getting letters, photos and videos from girls using GoldieBlox is seriously the best parts of my day.

What’s one piece of advice you’d share with other budding female engineers, innovators and makers?

Go way outside of your comfort zone…it will be worth it! And always remember to pause, reflect and celebrate successes through even the most hectic work days.

We asked Debbie to shop our special collection with GE, dubbed The Maker Shop. Not surprisingly, all of her picks involve a dose of engineering! Going clockwise starting at the top left: Konstruktor DIY Camera ($39); Drop Smart Kitchen Scale ($100); AgIC Circuit Marker Starter Kit ($25); and the Othermill 3D Cutting Machine ($2,199).

JOHANNA SHAW // ELECTRICAL ENGINEER AT GE

Next, we’ll hear from Johanna Shaw, an Electrical Engineer at GE in Clearwater, Florida. Read on to see how a budding pediatrician turned into an electrical engineer, thanks to a broken set of Christmas lights!

Tell us your story.

I studied electronics, computer electronics and electrical engineering in school. Initially I was seeking to be a pediatrician, but life had other plans for me.

I turned to engineering when someone asked “what do you like to do?” I responded with “I want to know how stuff works.” He asked for an example and I mentioned Christmas lights, and how one bulb going out couldn’t possibly cause all the other bulbs to stop working as well, and in that moment I learned the difference between a series and parallel circuit and my journey in electrical engineering started there.

I had no real reference to how broad electrical engineering was, but I had the privilege to start out in a power plant, which I simply adored. Everything was larger than life. I remember getting to assist with replacing a capacitor in a very tight and awkwardly placed setup. At the time I was one of two of the smallest people there, so they allowed me to climb in the duct to help remove the old capacitor and I learned to tape some very large high-voltage wiring. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced, and had me grinning from ear to ear. It was those types of experiences that kept me hungry to experience more in the field. From there I moved on a to a panel shop, which at first was a bit disappointing as it was so different from the power plant. My perspective changed a bit though, when I realized what the panels we built controlled. I was fortunate to work on a few panels for a space mountain at Disney, some for units used to cool airplanes as they are waiting to complete their next hop, and an electrical package for an automated car wash. Also, looking for something new and interesting, I transitioned to my current position, where I am fortunate to design instrument transformers. Since we do a lot of customizations, it seems there’s a new challenge daily.

What inspires you? Why do you love to innovate and create?

The constant inner urge for change inspires me. I find when I begin to become complacent is when I start to really journey out on some awesome paths. This applies to both work and home. I desire to be challenged, and when you finally reap what you sow… my, my, my, it’s so fulfilling. Then when you surround yourself with people that function the same way, it’s utterly amazing. Also, I can not forget I have littles eyes constantly watching me, so this too inspires me to continually aspire to do bigger and better things, as I want him to know that’s exactly what he can do as he starts to leave his mark on the world.

What’s one piece of advice you’d share with other budding female engineers, innovators and makers?

Don’t shy away for an opportunity to learn and grow, even if you have the perception you might fail. It’s just the influence of fear holding you back and you will not embrace your greatness by standing in its shadow.

Do you have any other creative hobbies?

I love to sing and dance. I love music overall — it’s really food for the soul in any situation. I have a good friend that I do some killer karaoke with — it makes me feel like a superstar in my own right! When I am not belting out a tune or learning the newest dance moves from my son, I am usually keeping up on my fitness, or spending time with family and friends. Life is truly about the sum of your experiences, so I move to create as many new ones as possible.

In The Maker Shop, Johanna has her eye on the iSkelter Classic Station ($30), a great way to keep her ever-changing workspace organized. And for home, she’s all about this Smartphone Projector ($27) that literally lets you project movies from your smartphone onto any blank wall. So cool!

NANCY WANG // DATA SCIENTIST AT GLOW

And last, we’ll hear from Nancy Wang, a Data Scientist at Glow. At Brit + Co, we’ve been obsessed with Glow since the beginning. It’s an app that lets you sync up and track your cycle, whether you’re trying to conceive or just want to be more in tune with your period and health. Not only does it help you understand your bod, but it has already helped over 50,000 women get pregnant. Read on to learn about Nancy’s journey:

Tell us your story.

I started graduate school at Stanford studying biochemistry when the Human Genome Project was nearly complete. My research involved running high-throughput experiments that generated massive amounts of data. It didn’t take long for me to realize that making sense of the data required some knowledge of statistics, so I started taking courses in the statistics department and gradually developed a passion for the subject. I loved the pure elegance of statistical theory. Statistics gave me a new perspective on things that are stochastic in nature and made me appreciate the existence of an orderly mechanism behind what might appear random. From there, conversations with my professors gave me the confidence I needed to take the risk and pursue a new career in statistics. So after completing my masters in biochemistry and statistics, I switched programs to pursue a PhD in biostatistics at Berkeley.

After graduate school, I took on a series of data science roles at companies including Paypal and Netflix. I’m now at Glow, which I was particularly drawn to because of the data science nature of the company, but also because I know the work we’re doing is relevant to women’s health and focused on improving people’s’ wellbeing. I’m thrilled to be working at a company that is making a meaningful contribution to people’s everyday lives. We have the potential to advance scientific discoveries in the field of women’s health and fertility – it’s a truly unique team to be a part of.

What inspires you? Why do you love to innovate and create?

Curiosity. I find it so much fun when you’re trying to discover something, to understand the truth behind what you observe. And ultimately, I love trying to create something new out of whatever knowledge I’ve discovered. Working at Glow gives me the opportunity to be creative in how we tackle big problems and, ultimately, uncover new discoveries in women’s health.

What’s one piece of advice you’d share with other budding female engineers, innovators and makers?

It is crucially important to find a good fit early on in your career. Once you have found it, everything else will follow naturally. While it was hard to decide to change my career focus from biology to statistics, it was the right decision since it was my true fit. And everything since then really has happened pretty naturally.

Do you have any other creative hobbies?

I took a sewing class in high school and developed a hobby from it. Over the years I’ve found it to be not only a good way of expressing personal styles but also a very practical skill. When we bought our home a few years ago, I could not find any quality drapery that was long enough to cover the windows in our living room. I also did not want to pay ten thousand dollars for a custom drapery service. So I took out the sewing machine and made all the drapery in our home. When I have some time, I would love to make some costumes/dress-up clothes for my daughter!

Anything else you want to tell us?

Personally, I love watching my daughter grow and develop. I’m amazed by how much she’s grown just over the first 1 1/2 years of her life; she’s always surprising me with how much she’s learning!

Nancy’s item of choice in The Maker Shop is the one, the only, the Bluetooth Selfie Stick ($35)! Gotta love those selfies, especially with your kiddos.

Now that you’ve heard four more inspiring stories, we want to enable you to unleash your inner engineer. In addition to curating The Maker Shop (in the B+C Shop), GE and Brit + Co are offering TWO amazing free classes to all you moms out there. With every purchase, you’ll receive a code to redeem our LED Electronics 101 E-Class (taught by our founder, Brit Morin) for FREE! To redeem your free LED Electronics class, look for an email from Brit + Co shortly after you make your purchase — everything you need to to know will be in your inbox.

We’ve also teamed up with Girl Develop It to gift you $100 towards a coding or tech class as well. The Girl Develop It classes are in person, and available in 50 cities across the country — so it should be no prob to find one close to you! How awesome is that? To redeem this class, simply register here using the code GDI4Moms. (Note: The Girl Develop It class offer is only available to the first 150 customers who redeem their gift code. So don’t delay!!)

It’s all about bringing out mom’s inner tinkerer, maker and engineer. These classes are meant to serve as stepping stones for women to invent world-changing products. We’re in a new era of building, and what it means to make is constantly being redefined. It’s up to us to learn these skills to change the world.

We want to hear from you, too! Use hashtag #MyMomMakes on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and tag @britandco and @generalelectric to share your stories.

This post is a collaboration with GE.