Science Cheerleader Hilary here to bring you an update on New England Patriots Cheerleader Jenna! You might remember Jenna from her rookie year or second year interviews, and now we’re back for more. We can’t get enough of this amazing cheerleading engineer, now a 3rdyear veteran with the Patriots!
What turned you on to STEM and when?
When I was younger I attended a Junior Patriots Cheerleading clinic. During lunch, each Patriots Cheerleader introduced herself and one cheerleader in particular stood out to me. She discussed her career in engineering, how rewarding it was to make an impact on the world, and how she balanced life as an engineer and cheerleader. Ever since that moment, engineering was in the back of my mind and a career I could see myself pursuing. I wanted to make an impact too, but I thought this meant healthcare, which wasn’t for me, and teaching, which was one of my interests. When I had to choose a major in college, engineering came to mind. I enjoyed my high school engineering class and thought it would be a great way to challenge myself while keeping my options open. Engineering was one of the most challenging majors offered at my college. It encompassed many different fields and it incorporated my two favorite subjects: math and science. I thought it was the perfect option for me and I was right.
Why did you try out to be a cheerleader?
Being a dancer and cheerleader since I could walk, it was always my ultimate dream to cheer on the sideline for my favorite football team. I love everything that the Patriots Cheerleading program embodies; from the organization, to community involvement, and cheering on the Patriots. After my first season on the team, I continued to audition because I realized how being a Patriots Cheerleader positively impacts the community and especially young women, the empowering environment you are surrounded in as a Patriots Cheerleader, and I realized how much this experience challenges you to continuously improve to become your best self. My teammates are some of the most driven, supportive, and inspiring people I know.
Please describe what you do in your science career on a daily basis.
As an electrical engineer for a power company in Boston, there are many different tasks I am responsible for, the majority of which I complete from my cubicle. One of my goals is to figure out a way to supply customers with electricity. This includes meeting the customer at a job site and designing electrical sketches to indicate what work needs to be completed. Another task is to make sure the grid is operating efficiently and reliably. Because everyone wants power 24/7 for 365 days a year, it puts a lot of pressure on the power company to make sure the grid is constantly improving, and customers get power back ASAP whenever there is a power outage. During extreme weather conditions (like the Nor’easters the Boston area faces each year), I work endless hours to help restore power to customers by diagnosing issues and developing restoration plans.
What does it mean for you to be practicing in STEM?
The need and expectation for power continues to grow as the world becomes more dependent on it. My job plays a huge role in making sure a customer has power and that power is reliable. I am constantly looking for ways to improve our circuit design, analyzing equipment successes/failures, and designing how a customer is connected to the grid. I enjoy my daily tasks such as problem solving and making an impact on the power industry. My experience in engineering has given me a desire to inspire young women to go after their dreams and pursue a STEM career if that’s what they want, and to not get discouraged if they are the only female in class like I was. I hope to see more young women pursuing interest in STEM careers!
How do the qualities that make you a great cheerleader benefit you in your STEM career?
Qualities that I’ve learned as a cheerleader are being a team player, determination, self-discipline, confidence, and time management. Interacting on a team is a necessity for success because you need to work well with others if you want to grow and improve. Without determination and self-discipline, I would not have become an NFL cheerleader or an engineer due to some roadblocks I’ve faced. These qualities also gave me the confidence and willpower to continue a STEM career when many people doubted me. My time management skills were mainly developed during my undergraduate years when I had to juggle competitive cheerleading and my engineering coursework. My time management has continued to develop now that I am a full-time engineer while pursuing my Master’s degree part-time and being an NFL cheerleader. Also, being on the Patriots Cheerleading squad has strengthened my communication skills by interacting with the community. The involvement in volunteerism has been an eye-opening experience that has shaped me into a more appreciative, compassionate person. These qualities I’ve learned as a cheerleader have not only helped in my engineering career, but in my day-to-day life as well.
There are stereotypes about cheerleaders in our society that make it seem unlikely that a cheerleader could be an engineer. Obviously, these stereotypes are untrue, and you are a great example of that. How do you feel about breaking down negative stereotypes about cheerleaders or being a woman in a STEM field?
Many people who know me as an engineer are surprised to find out I am cheerleader and vice versa. STEM careers and cheerleading are typically thought to be two entirely separate worlds. I’ve faced many situations where I had to work harder than others to gain respect and prove my intelligence. Some situations hindered my confidence, but the overall experience has made me more determined and work harder. Any STEM career is an impressive field that takes a lot of hard work and analytical thinking, whereas cheerleaders are often stereotyped without these qualities. One’sphysical abilities and interests should not be used as an indicator of intelligence, however. If anything, participation in sports demonstrates talent, dedication, work ethic, and passion. I am very passionate about breaking not only the “cheerleader” stereotype but the “women in STEM” stereotype as well, and being an advocate for young women who never thought about pursuing a STEM career. Breaking down negatives stereotypes breaks down barriers so everyone can follow their passion. It took a lot of determination to continue both of my passions.
Best cheerleading experience?
How do I choose just one? My experience as a Patriots Cheerleader has been extremely rewarding each time I wear the uniform. From standing alongside hundreds of survivors during our Crucial Catch games, to feeling the energy of the stadium when the Patriots run out of the tunnel, to experiencing the rain of red, white, and blue confetti, to singing along with “Living On a Prayer” with Bon Jovi in the stadium, dancing with Martellus Bennett after an AFC championship win, and the list goes on. A highlight of my career would be cheering the Patriots on to victory during Superbowl LI. That entire season in general was surreal and it was my rookie season! Some of my favorite experiences also include being able to make someone’s day and seeing the huge smile on a child’s face. During my time in Houston for Superbowl LI, I had the opportunity to play with children at a science museum (with the Science Cheerleaders!) and visit children at the Texas Children’s Hospital.
Best STEM-related experience?
One of my favorite science experiences would be participating in my niece’s STEM fair. When she asked if I’d like to go with her and I agreed, I’m not sure who was more excited. We had so much fun with all the experiments. It was heartening to see all the children in the room so enthusiastic, especially my niece and her interest in STEM.
What advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
I would tell my 12-year-old self to not stress, stay determined, and to not let anyone interfere with your confidence or dreams. While growing up, the small stuff would stress me out and I would make decisions based on other people’s opinions. I wish I could have told myself that thinking differently is not a bad thing and that everyone pictures success and happiness differently.
What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
Besides being an electrical engineer and Patriots Cheerleader, one thing people find surprising about me is that I love to wake surf. Wake surfing is still unfamiliar to most people and I learned a few years ago. It’s one of my favorite summer activities!