Name: Whitney Hill
From film school to a fatigue lab: Whitney Hill’s journey to an aerospace career
Fun fact: Whitney was pursuing a degree in film studies before deciding to make the change and become an engineer.
Flying over Hawaii
What is your favorite part of your job?
Finding a project that seems impossible, and making it possible. I love investigating options and challenging obstacles for projects which were thought to have been too technically difficult or expensive to justify.
How do you think people perceive engineering as a career and do you think those perceptions reflect reality?
Before I decided to become an engineer, I remember it seemed like engineers were always depicted as someone in a hard hat with a clip board standing next to a bridge or building. Engineering is so much more than that!
As an engineer, you have the choice to find a job in many different environments other than a construction site. You can work in a lab as a chemical engineer, or a factory as a manufacturing engineer, or split your time between the lab and being on the field for failure analysis as a mechanical engineer.
There are so many things you can do as an engineer, and so many subjects within engineering which are very interesting. You don’t have to limit yourself to doing just one thing your whole life.
What advice do you have for women pursuing careers in engineering/manufacturing?
Find your voice.
In a study by Katherine Baldiga Coffman, it was discovered that females are less likely to make a guess if they are uncertain about something. Don’t let this tendency silence you in a group setting.
I struggle with it often, but I’ve found ways to make sure I’m heard, and I look for opportunities to present my own technical information when I can.
What is the coolest experience you’ve had (or project you’ve been a part of) while working at Boeing?
I took a tour of the Boeing fatigue lab when I was an intern. They have an actual 787 airplane hooked up to machinery that’s pushing and pulling, pressurizing and depressurizing the airplane to simulate thousands of flight cycles.
Whitney working on a project
They simulate a range of flights from an easy “puddle jumper” flight from Seattle to San Francisco, to a flight in severe conditions like a thunder storm. During that tour I learned how rigorous our tests really are, and it makes me feel good about flying in a Boeing airplane.
Whitney indoor skydiving in Washington
What advice do you have for high school students who aren’t sure what they want to do for a career?
Changing your mind about your career is expected because you change so much as a person during your first few years in college. If you’re still undecided, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to find the “perfect” career to stick to.
Since you’re bound to change your mind anyway, mitigate the impact of changing your mind by choosing something that is in the center of a few different careers that you’re considering. Then try to plan your coursework to be as flexible as possible in the first couple years.
This story is a part of SME’s #MFGis campaign.
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