Name: Rachael Bivens
Alma Mater: Old Dominion University
STEM Career Path: Engineer (full-time) and Signal Officer in the United States Army Reserve
Tell us a little bit about you and what inspired you to become interested in system engineering.
What inspired me to become interested in system engineering is that growing up I was always curious about how things work together and I've always enjoyed problem solving. Naturally I feel into a career path that allowed me to exploit those interests.
How has your experience been thus far working at Virginia Space? Walk us through your typical work day.
Virginia Space is an amazing place to work. My experience started with me being the only female engineer and one of two black engineers. Even with being a double minority I was able to lead and grow. A typical workday now consists of me either going to the launchpad to work with technicians real time and walking down my system to recon any issues etc. I also work in the office writing documentation to include preventative maintenance procedures, nonconformance's, and Inspection test repair documents for the water deluge system. Each day I have meetings on new projects that require my system expertise.
Virginia Space is a tiny little company that allows its employees to cross train and take up a variety of roles. Thus far I have been an safety engineer, Pad leader (during launch which is responsible for operations), Thinsat team member (which gave me some project management skills), and an water deluge system engineer. The flexibility is unmatched at Virginia Space. I have also been taking full advantage of the benefits. Most notably the tuition assistance which has allowed me to go back to school for my masters in engineering management and the PTO that allows me to travel often in my free time.
How do you enjoy your weekends?
Most weekends I travel. I have the privilege of having access to resources that allow me to do what I love which is international travel. My goal is to make it to 30 countries/territories before the age of 30. If I am not traveling internationally I am likely in DC or somewhere stateside enjoying brunch. My biggest joy is exploring and trying new things. I also enjoy physical activity such as sports, and working out.
Can you recall the most interesting part of your career thus far?
The most interesting part thus far has been working with the Thinsat program. The Thinsat program has allowed me to not only gain project management skills but also created a pathway for STEM outreach. Virginia Space has partnered to provide schools the opportunity to deploy small satellites. The face to face interactions with the students has been extremely rewarding. I am a strong proponent for representation and its important for me as a double minority to show younger generations that they are capable of the things I am doing and much more.
What has been the best Advice You Have Ever Received?
The best advice I've ever received is try your best in everything that you do. My favorite quote is "I've made up my mind to never let you see the commonness in me" this quote epitomizes that advice. Pure effort will make you stand out in any crowd. It makes the difference, especially when consistent.
There's a need for the representation of Women of Color in STEM to be much more prevalent. In your own words, tell us what we can do to fulfill that need.
Normalize women of color in STEM. This means show them on your platform often. Show people that we exists and the possibilities are endless. Give women of color the mentorship, resources, and connections needed to foster a career in STEM. We need the same advantages given to our white male counterparts which include a sense of community.
Thank You Rachael For Being Such A Great STEMspiration!
Follow Rachael on Instagram: @Slimbivens