Rachel Weeks: Breaking STEM Stereotypes

Where do you work and your role title?
United Launch Alliance –
Systems Test Engineer for Payloads Team

Get To Know Me
Favourite ice-cream flavour: Blueberry Cheesecake!

What is the interesting / challenging part of your work?

I love getting to dress up in clean room garments at work! We wear these outfits to prevent contamination on the space vehicle. I always think it makes me look like a giant marshmallow!

What attracted you to choose a STEM field? How do you find navigating your career path as a woman in tech?

Growing up in Orlando I was always able to see the shuttle launches from my backyard. This is what initially sparked my love for space and science fiction. In middle school and high school, I excelled in calculus and physics and didn’t want these skills to go to waste. I wanted to use this knowledge to try and discover the unknown.

Although sometimes challenging, being a woman in tech is empowering as well. I work in a very male dominated field, which can be very intimidating – but I love being able to show everyone how cool, calm, and collected women in this field can be!

What is your biggest achievement that you are most proud of?

So far my biggest career achievement was being able to lead my first mission as an engineer in charge. Being tasked with this mission showed that my manager trusted me to get the job done and with the help of my coworkers, the mission went by smoothly.

Who are your mentors or role models that helped you either directly or indirectly?

I think my favourite woman in STEM role model would be Hedy Lamarr, an Austrian-American actress who co-invented frequency hopping. Although she was not credited for her inventions until after her death, I think she stands as a strong symbol that you can be feminine and still be interested in STEM. You can be both beauty and brains!

How do you think women can be game-changers in time of crisis?

Although I have only been working full-time for a couple of years, I have noticed that women bring another level of organisation and clarity in moments of crisis. The women on my team are always on top of it and know exactly what to do when something goes wrong.

What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader? Are there any technology resources that you would recommend?

One of my passions is introducing young women to STEM and encouraging them to pursue these fields if they want to! I am currently the Chief Marketing Officer for Reinvented Magazine, the nation’s first print magazine for girls in STEM by girls in STEM, and I think this has given me a chance to grow as a leader.

Don’t be afraid to go online and look for free resources that will teach you new skills, even if they are not relevant to your studies.

It’s your day off. What do you do to relax?

I love to read, play tennis and video games as well as binge watch shows on Netflix!

What advice would you give to your 21 year old self?

Earning my B.S. in Aerospace Engineering wasn’t a walk in the park, and I was constantly telling myself that I wasn’t smart enough to achieve my dreams. I wish I could look back at my college self and tell her to keep her head up, and to never question how truly capable she is.

What makes you RARE?

I think engineers have always been assigned the stereotype of being nerdy, socially awkward, and quiet. As an engineer, I think I am RARE because I am a strong woman who isn’t afraid to say what she thinks!

Want to know more about Rachel? Connect with her on LinkedIn