i-Trek Volunteer Karen

Hi Karen, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. Let’s start with you telling us about yourself.

My background includes a bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering, a master’s degree in Business Administration and 15 years’ experience in the aerospace industry. Currently, I am enjoying my time as a stay-at-home mom, with an energetic 9 year old son, as I have the opportunity not only to spend lots of time with my family, but to give back to the community as well.

What is your role on the i-Trek team?

As Project Manager for i-Trek, I assist both the Trek and Fundraising Committees with the planning and coordination of various activities relating to the Treks (Research Projects) for underrepresented students.

Why did you want to contribute to the i-Trek Team?

When I first came across i-Trek, I had recently completed a volunteer assignment with a non-profit organization assisting Central American entrepreneurs. I got excited about i-Trek since I could relate to their mission on a more personal level and I was impressed with their leadership team. Since I was a female student in a male dominated technical school many years ago, I was sure that the support and encouragement provided by i-Trek would be greatly appreciated by many underrepresented students. So, I wanted to help out.

Where do you see i-Trek going in the next 5 years?

I believe that i-Trek will make big advancements over the next 5 years particularly in the number of Trekkers/students that they will be able to support. This will come in part from their ability to improve the sustainability of the organization. As they increase their donor base and improve their communication and association with corporations and professional organizations, the resulting increase in funding will allow them to reach out to more and more students each year.

How did you become interested in STEM?

As a child, my family took a vacation to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and I was fascinated during our tour of the launch facility. I remember thinking, “It would be so cool to work here someday!” That thought stayed with me for years before I decided to attend an engineering school in Florida and major in aerospace.

What single moment/experience helped to shape your current STEM career?

After joining The Boeing Company right out of college, I learned quickly that there were many different opportunities for an engineer to pursue (systems, structures, payloads, etc.). After spending several years in technical design organizations, I made a big decision to switch to Customer Engineering (Account Management). This change allowed me to work directly with the airlines regarding their aircraft purchases and touch upon many different aspects of the manufacturing process. My experiences in this customer focused organization helped me improve my business, communication and planning skills and enabled me to travel the world. This decision at Boeing really shaped my STEM career and led to great opportunities at other aerospace firms as well.

You have been a huge impact in planning the first i-Trek mini Trek. What activity do you think the students will be most excited to participant in?

The agenda for the mini-Trek is packed with learning opportunities and fun events for the students. They are going to have a great week touring campuses and engineering labs, listening to presentations and working with some talented mentors. A big part of the process will be learning about their fellow Trekkers and brainstorming different ideas for their 2016 research project. However, my guess is that they will be most excited to participate in the Boston scavenger hunt. Who doesn’t love a fun game around the city?!

Where do you see yourself (career wise) in the next 10 years?

That’s a tough question. By the time my son completes high school (~9 years), I just might be back in the corporate world full time. Anything’s possible!

What kind of things do you like to do in your free time?

I live in the Seattle area, which is full of great outdoor opportunities. So, every weekend is filled with family adventures, including hiking or skiing in the Cascade Mountains, running or biking on our local trails, or enjoying a neighborhood whiffle ball game. Recently, my son fulfilled his summer 2015 goal by climbing with us up Mount Rainier to Camp Muir at 10,000 feet! Never a dull moment.

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and why?

I travelled a lot when I was working full time, including many, many trips to Europe, a visit to Singapore, a meeting in Mexico City and a couple trips to Sydney. I also spent a couple weeks in Brazil during an international study tour while earning my MBA. A few years later, before my son was born, my husband and I, along with some of our friends, chartered a sailboat on Saint Lucia. What a crazy adventure that was! Today, my occasional family travel consists of hiking trips to Hawaii, which is wonderful. With all our local adventures around the Pacific Northwest, world travelling is not so important to me anymore, but I have to admit a relaxing vacation to Fiji or a hiking trip to New Zealand would be pretty nice!