We love hearing back from those who are alumni of both Michigan Tech and Summer Youth Programs. Whether you attended in 2012 or 1985, we want to hear from you! Please share your story with us!
From tomboy attending the Women in Engineering Program (WIE) in the 80s, to presenting as a guest speaker for the 2018 WIE attendees, this energized leader, coach, director and co-author is sure leave a positive impact on everyone she meets. Here is Natalie’s story.
Hometown: I grew up in Mount Pleasant, Michigan which is a university town. My dad was a college professor at Central Michigan University (CMU), so I was familiar with university life and my mom volunteered in schools but stayed at home.
Siblings: I am the oldest of three, with one brother and one sister.
Childhood Hobbies: We always went to CMU games, and my family was very active. We participated in cross country skiing, and I played softball and ran cross country. I also did enjoy reading a lot. In grade school, I always loved reading the biographies about people’s life and adventures, like Amelia Earhart and Teddy Roosevelt.
Favorite subject in School: Math, because it always had right answers. I also liked science. My high school physics professor was one of my favorite teachers. My school also had a vocational training program, so I had the opportunity to take architectural drafting and electrical wiring. I really loved the style of learning by doing.
Role models: My grandfather and I were super close and I could talk to him about anything. He was hands-on and a techy person, and he taught me many things. I was a tomboy growing up and he embraced that and encouraged me to learn. Even at a young age I remember him telling me “I could be anything, have anything, or do anything I wanted.” He really was a great role model for me, and I am not sure I would have been as confident going into engineering without his support.
How did you learn about WIE and why did you attend? My father found out about the Women in Engineering Program and he knew I liked math and science so he encouraged me to attend. I thought why not! I will say I didn’t know how far north it was going to be! I remember that it was a great summer. I went to the program but we also took time to explore the UP. I remember hiking, seeing waterfalls, and it was just a great chance to see the beauty of the UP.
What do you recall about your week at WIE? The whole experience, especially being on a college campus, staying in the dorms, and eating in the dining hall helped me to see what the college experience would be like. I remember being excited to get to know women from other schools with the same interests. It was such a fun and energetic environment and a chance to explore all engineering disciplines and learn in a hands-on way.
College: I attended a 2+2 engineering program with Michigan Tech and Central Michigan University for mechanical engineering. I went to CMU from 1990-92, maybe because the distance from home to Michigan Tech did scare me a bit. The 2+2 program was great. We had about 15-20 people in that program and most transferred to Michigan Tech after the first few years. We took all the pre-engineering courses together so we became close. I recall heading up to Michigan Tech with three others from the program piled into a car, to check out campus.
Once I did get to Michigan Tech and I started classes, I remember wishing I would have come up here for all four years! My favorite memory at Michigan Tech was winter carnival. I remember that one group had a life size search and rescue scene, with an ambulance and all! The atmosphere of that carnival, all the people engineering statues together, building and have fun. I love how this school embraces winter.
What are some milestones or great moments in your career you’d like to share? My first job was at Automotive Perception and a few other Michigan Tech grads were working there too. It was a job where we traveled the country and went into auto plants and installed laser cameras and windshields on cars. What I think is unique about this job is that I am still friends with a lot of the people I worked with and it overall was a unique experience. I also worked with Ford and helped with the hydrogen fuel cell in a car they were unleashing at an auto show in 2001. Then, I went into the energy industry and worked on the California Solar Initiative with the California Public Utilities Commission to help launch that program. It was a huge project and I feel grateful to have been a part of it. I am currently the Director of Smart Grid Initiatives at NextEnery Center, a nonprofit in Detroit.
Michigan Tech did a great job preparing me to be an adaptable and versatile engineer. I went into mechanical engineering but have been able to have flexibility in my roles through that field.
You are the co-author of a book. What is it about and what was that experience like? I am the co-author of “Ignite Your Leadership: Proven Tools for Leaders to Energize Teams, Fuel Momentum, and Accelerate Results.” I always thought it would be fun to write a book and wrote a chapter for this book. In the book, I use engineering terms to showcase how I power myself, the “kW” of leadership – know who you are, what you want, and why you want it. I was also shocked and humbled that the book made the bestseller list in US and Canada.
You came back to Michigan Tech as a guest speaker during the 2018 WIE etiquette dinner. What was that experience like? I really loved it and welcome the opportunity again. It was amazing to come full circle and talk to a group of young women who are learning about engineering programs. They are in a great place with so many paths in front of them. I enjoyed crafting a message talking to them about how an engineering degree is great to get, but even if you don’t pursue that path, you can power your life however you want. I am very fortunate for all the opportunities I have had in life both based off choices and encouragement from others.