When I was in middle school, I was always good with math and science. My mother encouraged me to consider engineering among some other career choices. Engineering was at the forefront because I was strong in math. I became intrigued with engineering and I read somewhere that engineers apply the principles of math and science to develop solutions to problems. I really liked the idea of being able to improve things and make someone’s life easier. Right around high school, I started looking into what courses I needed to take. By 11th grade, I started dual enrollment, where I took college courses while in high school. During this program, I took a business course and became intrigued with business as well. When I got to college, an advisor told me that since I liked business and engineering, I should consider industrial engineering.
I got my bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering at the University of South Florida. As an undergraduate, I was a part of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and SWE. I didn’t get to complete any internships at that time because I was working part-time to help pay for school. Instead, I tried to make the most out of the projects and assignments in my classes. For example, I got to work with a local Burger King and my team had to simulate a lunchtime rush hour. This project aimed to improve the flow of work, figure out how many staff members they needed, and reduce any bottlenecks in the process. These projects helped me with the start of my career path even though I deviated from an engineering career later.
As an undergraduate student, being an engineering manager was one of the furthest things from my mind. My interest in engineering management came a bit later. Working in education directly after getting my undergraduate degree showed me that management might suit me well. I taught high school math and some engineering courses through the Project Lead the Way Program. I was already working as a math and engineering instructor for local public schools and I was also an advisor for engineering students at Miami Dade College. My boss, who had his degree in engineering management, was the person who nudged me to consider getting an advanced degree.
The biggest difference between industrial engineering and engineering management is the focus on project management. Engineering management also combines both worlds of business and engineering and a lot of the coursework is the same between the two. There are some similarities with industrial engineering in that they both study process improvement and focus on how we can use engineering to make things better for businesses. My master’s program had a concentration in logistics, and I wanted to pursue this field because I lived in South Florida. Shortly after getting my master’s in engineering management at Florida International University, I enrolled in a Doctor of Engineering program in engineering management at George Washington University.
Now, I work with the United States Postal Service (USPS) because of my interest in logistics. I’m currently an operations industrial engineer with the USPS. I love that I get to work on various projects and that there is never a dull moment. This is a good and a bad thing, as there’s no downtime but it can also be fun and exciting. I enjoy solving problems and not having to do the same task day in and day out. I work in a plant, so I am always looking for different ways to improve our workflow. Since packages are a growing industry, we are looking to expand our package sorting machine. I get to work on the plans for that expansion. I have to figure out whether we need to move our machines, how that impacts the layout of the plant, how that impacts the flow of the mail traffic, how that impacts the distance workers have to travel, and many other factors to consider.
Many engineers do not start off wanting to do engineering management because most programs for engineering management are at the graduate level. Since engineering management is so broad, individuals are more likely to first choose an engineering discipline, and then go into Engineering Management after they get some experience under their belt. I would advise girls to find what it is that they are most passionate about and then align themself with that type of engineering field. Second, keep up with your coursework. If engineering is truly something that you want to do, keep up with your math and science courses, which are going to be critical. Third, if you have the opportunity, take engineering elective courses at your high school so you have some exposure. If you are particularly interested in engineering management, try to do some research on schools you would like to attend with engineering management programs. Some of these programs are accelerated (like the one I enrolled in) and some of them are online. Lastly, consider where you want to live. This might not be something that you are thinking about in high school, but this decision might change your opinion on the program you want to enroll in.