WiSE Poster Series

Colleen Becker, Rockwell Collins

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What is your educational background?

B.S. Computer Science, Iowa State
B.S. Chemical Engineering, Iowa State
M.B.A. University of Iowa

What field do you work in and what sort of activities do you do in a typical day?

I am an Engineering Manager for a group that designs radios. Every day is different, but here are some examples of what I do:

  • Recruit and interview Software, Electrical, Computer, and Mechanical Engineers.
  • Answer questions and make sure my employees have what they need to do their job.
  • Decide what features our products should have, and which products we should be building for the future.
  • Estimate the cost of new projects.
  • Visit with users and customers to determine how we can make our products better.
  • Figure out what to do when something goes wrong!

What is your favorite part of your career?

I enjoy meeting new people, traveling, and the variety of my assignments.

Who or what experience(s) inspired you?

I had a teacher in high school that taught me that it was OK to be smart and that science can be fun. During my internship, I learned that the work place is very different than the classroom. The world is full of interesting and challenging problems that need to be solved; the trick is finding the ones that are exciting to you.

Why do you think it’s important for women to enter STEM fields?

There are several reasons why it is important for women to enter STEM fields! First, science and engineering are growing fields. Current projections indicate that universities will not graduate enough engineers to meet the demand in industry, so we need to get more people in these fields. Second, women bring a new perspective to industry. If we want products that work for and are appealing to women, then women need to be involved in designing and producing these products. Finally, STEM careers are fun and interesting; women are missing out!

Many women initially pursue STEM careers to make a difference in the world (e.g. make things safer, clean water for everyone, finding a cure for cancer, etc...)  Describe how your current work/career/position/company is making a difference in the world or your industry/field.

I work with communication and navigation products that help people communicate every day. Pilots are able to land their airplanes safely, detect (and avoid) other aircraft in the sky, and communicate with ground crews and other aircraft. Public safety officials such as police and fire fighters can use our equipment to communicate during emergencies. Soldiers can accomplish their missions quickly and return to safety, including helping people after national disasters such as hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and floods.

Was there an educational experience during college (internship, study abroad, research) that impacted your career goals?  

During college, I was a teaching assistant. I discovered that I really like teaching others. I found that teaching and tutoring is a great way to help someone, and I always learned a lot myself through helping others.

What can girls/women do now to prepare for a career in STEM?

Take those math and science classes, and learn how to solve problems. STEM fields are all about solving problems!

Knowing and having experienced all that you have, what is one piece of advice that would have been encouraging or helpful to know when you were in school?

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Grades are important, but it’s more important that you are learning something. Don’t give up after one bad grade. Find a teacher or mentor that you like and ask them for help when you need it!

Learn more about other women featured in the WiSE Poster Series:

photograph of Amy
photograph of Amy
photograph of Mary
photograph of Colleen
photograph of Kim
photograph of Kendra
Mary Rukashaza
Pella Corporation
DeDee Smidt
Principal Financial
Kendra Frazier
Dupont Pioneer

Want more information on finding a STEM career? Check out these links:

For more information contact:

Lora Leigh Chrystal, Director
Program for Women in Science and Engineering
218 Carver Hall
Ames, IA 50011-2060
(515) 294-4317