As part of our continuing effort to playfully challenge stereotypes and inspire young women to consider careers in science, technology, engineering, math, and health, we present Jennifer! Jennifer was a star pro-cheerleader for the Tennessee Titans. Now, she’s an automotive engineer Manager at Nissan and currently enrolled in Vanderbilt University’s Executive MBA Program. She’s got a great message to share. (Updated December 4, 2013)
S.C.: When did you first became interested in engineering?
Can you recall who inspired you?
Jennifer: My Father. I remember sitting at home with my dad as he worked on anything and everything that was broken. He had an itch to fix. He worked on cars, electronics, instruments, you name it. I thought he was the smartest person in the world. I eventually developed a desire to be like him, a “problem solver.” And, really, that’s what engineers are! I should add that my father didn’t just solve mechanical or electrical problems. He also fixed our familial problems, and, quite frankly, we had plenty.
S.C.: What type of engineer are you?
Jennifer: Manufacturing (Mechanical). I am currently a manager in Process Engineering.
S.C.: What turned you on to this particular field?
Jennifer: I have a crazy interest in physics and heat transfer.
S.C.: We’ll get back to that in a moment! Which team(s) did you cheer for and when?
Jennifer: Tennessee Titans –NFL – 2001-2006; Nashville Kats – Arena – 2003-2006; Nashville Predators – Hockey – 2007-2009
S.C.: Do you find that your looks (or being a former cheerleader) helped or hindered your studies or professional experiences? (Were you taken seriously?)
Jennifer: Both. Initially, I was not taken seriously and the bar was set pretty low. Once I proved my competency and desire to achieve, I gained respect from my colleagues and superiors. On the flip side, my former hobby also proved to be an ice-breaker during many initial professional encounters. See, everyone loves the home team and everyone wants to talk to someone who they feel has the “in” or behind the scenes “top secret” info!
S.C.: Tell me a little about your favorite courses you took to prepare for your work. Let’s get back to the heat transfer!
Jennifer: I LOVE physics and the study of dynamics. I excelled in these courses, but I have to say I favored thermodynamics (shout out to Dr. Decatur Rodgers!). He not only wanted to produce great technical engineers, but also, what he called “life” engineers. His wisdom reminded me of my father, I suppose.
S.C.: Can you describe a “typical day” at work?
Jennifer: I wish I could, but you never know what to expect in the automotive industry. I have had responsibilities from root-causing current production process concerns, to studying new model part additions and modifications that have yet to go into production.
S.C. I have no idea what that all means but I’m glad you do. Here’s a key question: Do you have any advice for middle or high school girls who might feel torn between following one dream (cheerleading or dancing) associated with beauty and following another (science/engineering/medicine) usually associated with, well, geeks? 🙂
Jennifer: Never feel torn. Learn the value of time management and you will understand that ALL of your goals are within reach. Time management really is about balance. So is your own identity. You are not defined by one adjective. You love to dance? Then be a dancer. You love to cheer? Then be a cheerleader. You also love science? Then be a scientist or at the very least, embrace that passion, too. If you love them all…DO THEM ALL! And, seriously, girls, let’s be real. Guys love cute geeks! J
S.C.: At the risk of getting a little corny here, is there other advice you would give your former 12-year-old self, now that you have the benefit of hindsight?
Jennifer: Absolutely. Don’t look back or place blame on other people or situations for why you aren’t happy, etc. Never listen to “never,” be kind, love all, and stay focused and committed. Bottom line is that integrity will take you further than you can possibly imagine right now. Don’t give up on your dreams.
S.C.: Best cheerleading experience?
Jennifer: Easy: 1. My entire experience as the 2007 Tennessee Titans Pro Bowl cheerleader 2. Getting the opportunity to tour Hawaii, Japan, Guam, and Korea as a cheerleader for the troops.
S.C.: Best engineering-related experience?
Jennifer: Funny you should ask that. Just recently, the vice president of manufacturing at my plant mentioned me during her speech at the Southern Automotive Women’s Forum. That was incredible for me.
S.C.: Cool! Anything you’d like to add that you want our readers to know?
Jennifer: Yes, and I know this might not resonate with all of your readers, but, I know my faith in God has brought me to where I am now. I owe it all to Him! I have dedicated my life to serving God and my community and loving others. Shout out to the Leukemia Lymphoma Society and Judah Generation Dance team. Love you guys!!!
Note from S.C.: Jennifer and nine other Science Cheerleaders will be performing in Washington, D.C. Oct 23-24 as part of the U.S.A. Science and Engineering Festival. Come meet them as they inspire young women to consider careers in science, technology, engineering, math, and health! Here’s more info.