Jessica Craig with her Washington Hyperloop team mates
When one woman helps another, amazing things can happen. For Jessica Craig, a passion for engineering was sparked by a grade-school teacher and then cultivated with the help of her mentor, educators, and colleagues.
We first met Jessica, an undergraduate student in the University of Washington Mechanical Engineering program, at an event for this year’s Washington Hyperloop project, which WSO2’s Ballerina project co-sponsored. She was a member of the team that built UW’s high-speed travel pod for the 2019 Hyperloop Pod Competition created by SpaceX Founder Elon Musk to help revolutionize transportation.
Photo Credit: Jonathon Burberry
Inspired by her work, we recently interviewed Jessica as part of our Women in Open Source Tech campaign.
How did you first get introduced to engineering?
I was first introduced to engineering in middle school through a dedicated teacher who helped me craft several science fair projects. It was the first time I got to combine my own creativity with real-world problems and understand how education could support me with these projects.
How has your experience been as a woman in the industry?
It is no secret that engineering is male dominated. This fact quickly becomes background noise as everyone in my field shares a similar passion, and we can always connect over our interest in engineering. I don’t ever regret my choice of study and have enjoyed meeting other women in STEM through support groups like WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) and SWE (Society of Women Engineers).
How can the industry improve in getting women more involved?
Exposure at a young age (elementary or middle school) to engineering concepts could help girls get interested in STEM fields early on. Furthermore, providing more female role models in media or the school system can show young girls that it is possible to succeed and be happy in a STEM career.
What would be your advice to another aspiring female engineer?
Seek a mentor or role model. I have been blessed to learn from a mentor, coincidentally a female engineer just a few years older than me. She gave me tips on applying for jobs, balancing school and social life, as well as industry tips for finding a fulfilling job. It is invaluable to have a person to ask all the silly and serious life questions I can think of.
How has your involvement in UW’s WA Hyperloop team given you a leg up?
Washington Hyperloop has given me the chance to work on a very challenging design problem. None of us have an exact solution at the start of the school year. It took hours of brainstorming, teamwork, prototyping, and setbacks to get to our pod finished. All of these areas I can draw upon for use in future interviews, workplaces, and coworker relationships.
What skills will you take away from your experience working on the Hyperloop pod racer with your teammates?
My greatest take away from Hyperloop will be lessons of teamwork. Sharing the design workload was both challenging and rewarding. As a team, we could collectively celebrate our triumphs and commiserate over our setbacks. It gave me the chance to work with people from multiple disciplines and backgrounds. The organizational nightmare of coordinating five-plus sub-teams gave me a glimpse into the reality of large engineering projects that I hope to soon be a part of post-graduation.
For more information about WSO2's Women In Open Source Tech campaign, check out this blog post.