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Working in aerospace, a woman's perspective

By: Donna M
In honor of AGI's 25th anniversary year and Women's History Month, I was asked to share my reflections on how the company has progressed over the past quarter-century, and what working in a still male-dominated field has been like. I joined AGI in 1990 when it was still in its infancy as its very first sales rep. Looking back, I am amazed and impressed at the continued technical advancements of AGI technology. The first STK version sold in 1990 was a single panel, black and white GUI—we had no color, much less 3D! You entered orbital elements, time and basic sensor data and got a flat map with ground tracks and sensor beams. And the funny thing is, it was revolutionary at that time! Nobody had that. We sold it for $1,995. When PC hardware and 3D graphics, which were previously only available on $25,000+ workstations, started to become a reality, we secured funding to develop our own 3D STK version. It was released in 1994 and ran on a Sardent graphics computer the size of a refrigerator. Blue water, green Earth and a dot (no models) with sensor beams flying around – at 30 frames per second. Hardware and software at the time were both incredibly expensive. No one had color monitors or color printers. To make a color print it was $5 per page using a very expensive printer ($10-$20K). When Paul Graziani said we were moving from UNIX and SGI to PC and Windows, I thought he was crazy and that it would never work. Fast forward to today and you can run a $1,500 PC and the software costs $5K and has thousands of features and constraints. And since 2012, we've been offering our 3D, definitely one of our prized STK capabilities, for free. When I started in the industry 30+ years ago, I remember going to my very first aerospace conference with about 500 people. There were literally five women in the room (including me). I went to a similar conference recently, and there were 25-30 women out of 500 people. I have to ask myself, why haven’t more women moved into engineering? The stats show that women are still vastly underrepresented in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)-related jobs. This all of course leads me to think about the history of women at AGI. I have enjoyed an exciting career at AGI and never felt the 5-500 feeling that I did at the conferences. I have had the pleasure of working closely with many outstanding women with aerospace degrees and passion (you go, Rocket Girl!!). I have watched some of these women work STEM outreach programs such as the Federation of Galaxy Explorers and the annual Girls Exploring Tomorrow’s Technology (GETT) event. We at AGI will continue to work hard to reach out to young people to encourage them to explore STEM careers! The more Estes rockets we can build and fire, the better!
Posted: 3/31/2014 1:44:24 PM