Black History Month: Highlighting African-American Engineers, Pt. 1

Meet and learn more about two SWEsters in the SWE's African American Affinity Group: Shanequah Brison and Nikia Brown.

In celebration of Black History Month, SWE will be highlighting African American women engineers and entrepreneurs in a series of blog posts.

Meet and learn more about two SWEsters in the African American Affinity Group: Shanequah Brison and Nikia Brown.


Shanequah Brison

Shanequah Brison_Black History Month

Tell us about your background: Where are you from? 

  1. Hometown: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  2. Currently Reside: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  3. Colleges:
    1. Langston University – Bachelor of Science Computer Science Minor Mathematics
    2. Keller Graduate School of Management – Masters of Science Information Systems Management
  4. Work History:
    1. Worked at The Hertz Corporation from 2006-2012 Information Analyst and later a Data Analyst Fraud Auditor
    2. Started working for The Boeing Company in 2012 as an Information Technology Engineer and now I’m currently a B-1 Defensive Systems Engineer
  5. Hobbies: Listening to music, shopping, watching Netflix, and traveling

What attracted you to the world of engineering/STEM?

A family friend and former librarian of Langston University and Oklahoma State University, Mr. Ronald Keys introduced me to computers when I was a young girl. His family had a computer in their home and all I wanted to do was play solitaire and Tetris, but he always gave me a literature about how computers are the future, and he was right about that. Therefore, he is the reason why I majored in Computer Science. I’m so glad that God put his family in my life, but I’m especially grateful that he never stopped giving me those computer literatures. Every since high school I’ve enjoyed this STEM journey.

What does being from the African Diaspora or an ally mean to you?

To me it means we are unique and are very special. We have gifts and talents that just come naturally because it’s embedded in our DNA.

How have you navigated your career as a woman of color?

I’ve had a few mentors to help me navigate my career and I still have mentors who are helping me navigate my career. Mentors have challenged me and provide wisdom and helped me celebrate all my accomplishments. They have encouraged me when I was down or hard on myself. They saw things in me that I didn’t see in myself.

Have you experienced any challenges or discrimination because of your race or gender? How have you surmounted them?

Yes, I have faced challenges because of my age, race, and gender. Being a young African American Female in a predominately white males career field has many challenges. But through prayer and a support system I have been able to surmount them. I have to encourage myself daily and remind myself that I’m just as intelligent as they are and I’m going to make a difference. I’m going to work hard, sit at the table, ask questions, seek opportunities to grow, volunteer to work on new projects, even volunteer to lend a helping hand.

Provide some positive experiences and successes you have accomplished working/schooling through STEM?

I have had the opportunity to get into the aircraft that I support. When the software that I helped write the requirements, review and/or wrote the cases, and analysis the data is loaded on that jet gives me a sense of pride of the work that I have performed. To see the aircraft right in front of me, to climb up the stairs to get into the aircraft and seat in the seat of the operator and press various buttons of the software that I helped developed gives me great joy. To receive feedback from the operators that they like various functionalities that were implemented makes my job worthwhile.

What advice would you offer to girls or young women who are interested in STEM?

I would tell them to pursue STEM, there are various women in STEM today who are paving the way for them. If you can imagine it you can create it. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something because you are a female. Roll your sleeves up and show them what you are capable of doing. Let your work speak for you. A degree and a career in STEM are so rewarding, its nothing like seeing the end product of what you have been working on.

Did you have any mentors or role models who helped paved the way and/or shaped your educational/professional career path?

Yes, I have mentors and role models who have helped shaped my educational/professional career path. My mentors and role models have held me accountable and given me a greater outlook on my future. I didn’t always like the “stretch” assignments that they gave me, but those assignments have shaped my educational and professional career path. They encourage me to take a stand, sit at the table, ask questions, and to speak with confidence. They also encouraged me to never back down from a challenging assignment.

How can we prepare for opportunities and advocate for ourselves as women of color in the workplace?

First you have to know who you are and where you want to go. You have to create your own career path. You can’t depend on anyone to get you to where you want to go. So, we have to learn how to speak with confidence and let people know what you want and where you want to go. Do your research and network with people who are currently serving in roles that you inspire to be in one day. Have candid conversations with your leads, supervisors, and/or managers. They are there to help you and if you don’t feel as though they care find someone who does. Take Charge!!!!

You are involved in ERGs, professional associations and other D&I forums in the community. Why is that important to you and why should everyone be involved in championing inclusion?

Participation in ERGs, professional associations, and other D&I forums are important because you have the opportunity to learn new things. They teach you to think outside the box and to hear different opinions. You can gain knowledge and various resources. They help you to dig deeper and gain various perspectives. You also gain wisdom and appreciation for what you have. Involvement helps you to become a better you.


Nikia Brown

Nikia Brown_Black History Month

Tell us about your background: Where are you from? 

I received a BS in Industrial Engineering degree in 2011 from Michigan State University with a concentration in Supply Chain Management. She also has her Green Belt & Black Belt Six Sigma certifications and is a Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP). In 2012, I began working full-time in the Supply Chain Rotational Program and rotating through various locations including Michigan, Texas, and Louisiana.

In my free time, I like to check-off various events, restaurants, activities, museums, etc., from a Houston “Adventure List” I created once I moved to Texas.

What attracted you to the world of engineering/STEM?

From grade school through high school, I was always interested in Math & Science. I also enjoyed creating things with my mind and hands. I entered into college as a Finance major, which I really wasn’t as excited about but fit under my math interest. A professor mentioned that there was a “dual” major in the College of Engineering which merged the Business & Engineering that I should research. After talking to several students, as well as my brother which at the time was majoring in Mechanical Engineering, I was excited about the various opportunities. I switched over within 7 weeks into my freshman year and didn’t turn back.

What does being from the African Diaspora or an ally mean to you?

Diversity. History. Culture. Strength. Being within a melting pot of traditions, customs, arts, beliefs, and societies is fascinating. I love being a part of so many different, beautiful people.

How have you navigated your career as a woman of color?

Networking with seasoned individuals to understand how to work with and around others has been one of the most rewarding experiences. When I started, a mentor told me to build a team of “Board Members” to use as a foundation as I grow in my career. I also ensured to never waver against my boundaries and values.

Have you experienced any challenges or discrimination because of your race or gender? How have you surmounted them?

I have experienced challenges throughout my career being a double-minority. I could also add that in many of the challenges I being younger than most in a lot of the groups I worked in added another layer. I ensured to always work with my mentors and network to support me and sometimes move mountains when I couldn’t.

Provide some positive experiences and successes you have accomplished working/schooling through STEM?

I’ve volunteered and supported various events and initiatives in STEM from science fairs, career fairs, and local organizations supporting minority students. The Global African Affinity Network (GAAN) at my company has assisted in making a lot of connections that I’ve built upon for continuing the push for STEM in underprivileged schools/programs.

What advice would you offer to girls or young women who are interested in STEM?

Do not let anyone steer you away from your passion and purpose. Ensure to learn and build on your personal values as this is what keeps you going. Network as much as you can. Find a mentor whether at school, work, or from a conference.

Did you have any mentors or role models who helped paved the way and/or shaped your educational/professional career path?

I have various mentors for various reasons, and I have a sponsor. The mentors I have worked with over the years all have some significance to help me whether it’s in a group/function I’m interested in, an organization I volunteer for, someone to help vent to, etc. The same way I have different friends for various needs, I have the same for mentors.

How can we prepare for opportunities and advocate for ourselves as women of color in the workplace?

Go above and beyond whenever you can and do not be afraid to speak up on things you do not feel are right. Find ways to build on your skill-set and tool box as well as be vocal for what you would like your career to look like. Network with individuals in the area you are interested in and make friends along the way.

You are involved in ERGs, professional associations and other D&I forums in the community. Why is that important to you and why should everyone be involved in championing inclusion?

Diversity is being in the room; Inclusion is being asked to dance. It is great when everyone is treated equally and can experience success. No one should feel excluded or an outcast. Being apart of several organizations and ERGs allows for learning and acceptance of all.


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