February 21, 2019
It’s Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, so we caught up with Royal’s own Sara Zimmerman on what it is like to be an engineer at Royal.
Where did you go to college, and what degree did you receive?
I graduated from Virginia Tech with a bachelors’ in Mechanical Engineering.
Could you provide a brief overview of what you do at Royal?
As a Manufacturing Engineer at Royal, I help to solve recurring production issues. I essentially am part of the first line of defense for our operators when they have problems to solve.
Did you always want to work in aviation?
I started my career working in the nuclear industry, working on government contracts for highly specified, advanced quality systems. I went from the nuclear industry to GE Aviation, where I started my career in aviation by making airplane engine parts, but it was all with metallic parts.
After my husband & I moved to Nebraska to be closer to family, I discovered Royal and was able to utilize my aerospace experience. Working with composites is very different than working with metals, but I like working in aerospace because of the importance of the work. I enjoy making sure that the parts we deliver to our customers are of the highest quality because there are actual people’s lives at stake.
When did you know you wanted to go into engineering?
I’ve always enjoyed doing puzzles and solving problems. When I was a little girl, I would like to take things apart to see how they worked. One time in first grade, the teacher had all of us draw a picture of where you lived. Everybody else in my class drew a picture of the front of their house, but I drew a map. Because that’s where I lived! I’ve always been able to translate from 3D to 2D easily, so that has been helpful with map reading and when reading blueprints.
Math & science have always clicked for me, so I knew that I wanted to go into some sort of technical field. In high school, I was in a drafting class and the teacher had been asked to design a rack to hold the wrestling mats. He got me involved because of my interest in drafting, and that little bit of the design process was very interesting to me. At that point, I knew I wanted to go on to pursue engineering.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Honestly, helping people. There are two things that help me find fulfillment in what I do. Having a positive influence on the people I work with every day, and to have a positive influence on the processes we use. Either to build parts or the business processes we use. Generally, being a problem solver. I strive for excellence in helping our people build parts, and I want to help take the current processes, even if they are working well, to the next level to perform even better.
What motivates or inspires you to work hard?
As a mom raising two young boys, I want them to be proud of the person they see. I want to be a great influence on my kids to work hard in what they do.
Any tips for parents on how to encourage girls to explore engineering?
My dad would always take me with him to work on things, to get my hands dirty and learn how things go together. He spent a lot of time teaching me practical applications, like how cars work or building things. My parents always encouraged me in math and science. They pushed me to be involved in extra activities around school like building Lego cars with motors on them and always pushed me to do my best in my classes.
What advice would you give young girls considering a career as an engineer?
Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t. I am a first-generation college graduate and one of the things that kept me going was to never give up on myself.
What is it like to be a girl in a male-dominated field?
It certainly offers unique challenges. Men and women communicate differently and see the world differently. Whether it’s genetics or our life experiences, we are all unique. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t. I don’t believe it when some people say that engineering is just for boys.
We are all born with different gifts and abilities. Regardless of what people around us, our parents, friends, or teachers say, a career in engineering is possible. It’s hard, but it’s good to understand that it’s ok to be different.
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