Shelby, a soon-to-be graduating Senior Engineering student at the University of Pennsylvania and GREEN Ambassador, traveled with us to Iceland last Spring. Since then, she has landed some pretty amazing internship and job opportunities: a 2014 summer internship with SpaceX and a job offer from Boeing upon graduation. We heard through the grapevine that Shelby was asked about her experience with The GREEN Program during her interview with SpaceX… we had to know more.
So, tell me a bit about yourself! What’s an average day in the life of Shelby like?
After hearing how much time I spend in the engineering quad a day, my life may seem fairly boring. This year, an average day consists of me rolling out of bed into the gym with just enough time to make it to class after. I attend a lecture or two on Feedback Controls or Mechanical Vibrations (when I’m feeling ambitious and convince myself to go), then I get to work on my senior design project! I am also involved in teaching a fabrication class on campus, so I spend a lot of time in the machine shop working with students.
What made you want to go into Engineering?
A lot of things drew me to engineering. In high school, I was really motivated in my math courses by great teachers and that pushed me toward a technical degree. As a senior, I was working at a research centre at Mississippi State University, and by working with passionate engineering students on the technology they were developing, I saw how hands-on an engineering degree could be.
What about this industry are you passionate about? What excites you?
For me, mechanical engineering lets me push the limits. In the fields that I choose to work within, specifically space exploration, I see challenges all of the time that haven’t been taken on yet. I think the idea of knowing I can be trained to think technically and then apply that mindset to problems that are unanswered makes my work feel really significant.
How do you feel as a female going into the STEM field?
I try to avoid thinking about it “as a female”. Once I became a mechanical engineering student, I started thinking of myself as just that, not giving it an advantage or a disadvantage as a girl. I think there are obvious biases for girls in tech at younger ages because the generations teaching tend to assume girls to be interested in other things, but there are so many initiatives in the government and media to overcome that I anticipate the problem disappearing pretty quickly.
You participated on our Iceland program last spring. Tell a bit about your experience!
Iceland was absolutely crazy. I’ve been international before, but I’ve never had the opportunity to go to a foreign country and experience it so genuinely. We went straight into the heart of the country, and we were led by people who have lived in Iceland all of their lives. The program was such a fun mix of adventure and education, and the people I met on the trip were so fantastic!
What is (or are) some of the most valuable knowledge or experiences you gained during your time with GREEN, and how has that affected you post-program?
For me, the biggest lesson was realizing how being abroad gets you out of your comfort zone. And with that, it means you’re pushing yourself to do things that maybe you didn’t expect yourself to do. I think for me, going abroad has really taught me how to push my own limits in order to accomplish bigger goals, and I can apply that to my life in a lot of ways. Whether I’m trying a new team sport or going into a job interview, I try to remember that I can use that vulnerability to push me harder.
This passed summer, you interned with SpaceX (which is amazing!) We heard that The GREEN Program came up during your interviewing process, too. What prompted them to ask about GREEN? How did all of that come about?
A lot of Penn students are aware of SpaceX through their on campus recruiting, so as a freshman I learned about the work they were doing when they came to campus. From that point, I was always trying to get picked up! I was able to speak about my GREEN experience during the interview process to explain how working on a very interdisciplinary team can be challenging and rewarding. For me, during an interview I tend to lead the conversation with experiences that I want to talk about given the examples I have in mind. As advice for people who want to use GREEN professionally, after you’ve experienced the program think about how it challenged you in ways that you haven’t seen before and try to spin that in your favor!
Your 1-year anniversary of your GREEN adventure just happened! Can you believe it?!
No! It’s crazy that it’s been a year. With this years spring break happening, it’s official. I’ve just been to Costa Rica with friends over break, and I couldn’t help to think about my Iceland trip in comparison. I definitely miss GREEN!
Are you still in touch with the students from your program?
Yes, actually. Even after a year I still speak with quite a few of them. We have a Facebook page that’s active with jokes from our trip, news about each other, and people meeting up in different cities. It’s cool to know that a single week of being together has led to lasting friends!
Post-summer, what have you been up to? How is your final year at UPenn going?
Yeah, school is going great! Looking at my transcript and seeing how many courses I’ve taken over the last three years actually gives me a larger sense of accomplishment than I imagined. This year has been filled with challenges, but has also given me the time to really look back and see how much I’ve grown! I’m excited to start my next chapter, but I’m very grateful to have had this time here at Penn.
So, you’re graduating AND you’ve received an offer for a position with Boeing. What’s the deal?
Yes, I’ll be graduating mid-May! And then moving to Los Angeles to work for Boeing’s Satellite division! Coming from Mississippi, currently living on the East Coast, and now moving to the West Coast I will finally see which is truly the best! Basically, my program is for recently graduated engineers, and it allows me to work in about five departments within three years to find the best fit for me.
Between now and then, what’s on your agenda? If you’re leaving the city, are there any last adventures and things in Philly you need to check off the to-do list?
There are always more things to do in Philly! Right now, I am hitting the food truck scene really hard. Venturing into Drexel territory to find new spots and trying to take advantage of the amazing food Philly has everywhere. I’m also taking about two months off this summer, and to be honest, my plans change daily for what I’ll be doing. My friend and I have made plans ranging from a West Coast road trip to flying to Indonesia or even living in Iceland for a while. I have no idea what I will decide to do, so I’ll send news back at the end of the summer!