Tag: Women in Engineering

Meet Nathalie Osborn: SYP and Michigan Tech Alumna

Nathalie Osborn ’95

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.


Words of Wisdom from a WIE Alumna

We recently received a surprise message from a Women in Engineering (WIE) alumna, Margaret O’Neil, who attended one of our first years of this program. In her message, she recalled coming to the program at a young age and how it solidified her decision to become an automotive engineer. We just had to know more about her career and life; here is more of her story.

WIE Alumna, Margaret O’Neill

Question: Where are you from? How far did you have to travel to attend WIE?

Answer: At the time I traveled from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (which is near Detroit) to attend the camp.  

Q: You said in your email that WIE solidified your decision to pursue automotive engineering. What do you remember from that week?

A: I remember being excited about being able to test and feel materials, the hands-on aspects to working with things and beginning to understand how they work—Playing around with the pieces and learning as I went.

I always liked playing around and learning how things worked, and I was good at it. Growing up, I was the youngest of seven kids, with my older siblings mostly moved out of the house. So if things broke or didn’t work in the house, I ended up being the one to fix it. Not sure how I figured it out, but I even fixed the lawn mower once. I attribute my path to the WIE program, as it was my real first chance to try engineering out.  

Q: What about automotive engineering hooked you? What do you love most about your field?

A: When I first went to Marquette University [in Milwaukee, WI], it was to become biomedical engineer— I wanted to work with ergonomics.  I wasn’t good at 3D side of it, but electronics I understood, like how things moved and flowed.

For example: when looking at a car, I explained it just like a big body. Being able to see electrons and how they move and systems go together was the best thing about going into automotive.  

Q: Did you take any special classes or steps in high school to prepare?

A: I did, I took five semesters of biology, chemistry class, and all the math I could, except for calculus (not sure why!). I remember I didn’t need that many credits my senior year and had a job doing cancer research at Marygrove College for a few hours a day.

I also worked at a gas station pumping gas and had a job parking cars. Whatever there was to do with cars, I guess I was there.

Q: Do you have any role models or mentors?

A: I struggle to find one in my life, but perhaps my mother. She ran the household while my father worked at Ford Motor Company and she kept us all going. Also my brother, as he always had a car in the driveway and was rebuilding them and let me watch. When I graduated, only 4 out of 186 girls in my high school class were planning to go into engineering. Now, I do a lot of speaking about females and non traditional careers and encouraging them into automotive in career tech and other schools.

Q: What surprised you the most about about your field and career over the years?

A: I rolled well with the technology changes over the years, and even started my own computer company building hardware, software and networks. I basically design projects and others execute them.  I also have completed lots of training over the years.

Q: Any other words of wisdom you want shared with future engineers?

A: Don’t go into something just for money, or prestige: really see yourself doing it for 50 years. If you have fun when working, it won’t seem like a job. That’s why I haven’t retired!