In the Field: Yolanda Roberston

The phrase “STEM career” is a vague term that actually represents an exciting array of jobs. For STEM month, we at Girl Scouts of Central Maryland would like to introduce you to several women who work in STEM fields. They will tell you in their own words why STEM careers are the best!


 

Yolanda RobertsonYolanda Robertson
Fellow Software Quality Engineer for Northrop Grumman Corporation
Education History: Bachelor of Science in Information Systems, Morgan State University

What do you do?
I provide oversight of the day-to-day activities and tasks of the Software Engineers to ensure the engineers are following the processes and procedures established by Northrop Grumman. I provide oversight of day-to-day Software activities to create and audit plan and to create the document used to track whether or not the audits are performed as planned. I gather facts and information from meetings and activities that I attend as a means to gain objective evidence for the monthly process audits that I conduct.

How did you know that this is what you wanted to do?
I had no clue what I wanted to do when I  graduated from college.  My cousin who was working at Westinghouse (was purchased by Northrop Grumman in 1996) when I graduated spoke to her boss about bringing me in for an interview. Her boss agreed but I did not interview with him. I interviewed with one of the supervisors who worked for him. This supervisor told me that my degree was not technical enough and suggested that I apply for a Westinghouse internship or to go into the professional development program (PDP program). I was crushed and of course I told my cousin what the supervisor said to me. My cousin was very angry. The next day she went to her bosses office and expressed her concern with the way I had been handled during the interview and insisted that I be given another chance.  I was granted a second interview with a different supervisor who asked to me to do a bubble sort on his chalk board to prove I could code/program. I performed the bubble sort, he questioned my methods but when I explained it to him, he shook his head, reared back in his chair with a slight smile on his face and agreed that it could be done my way.  A few weeks later I received an offer in the mail. My starting salary was less than $30,000.00 a year. It was more than I was making, college educated and unemployed and it was paying more than the management training job I had been offered, so I took the job at Westinghouse.

What is a typical day like at your job?
Hectic and crazy. The day starts off a little slow reading emails to catch up on the conversations and activities from the night before and earlier that day.  About an hour into my day of reviewing documents in preparation of upcoming Factory Acceptance Test Events, people start coming into my cubicle asking if I can witness a test that I am not prepared to witness. Of course, they don’t want me to witness the test for which I am reviewing the documentation. A typical day is full of meetings that I often don’t attend because I am putting out the days fire drills and panic tasks/assignments that have to get completed today or the sky will fall. Curious enough the task was extremely important but it is being handed to me the day it is due. This is a typical day for an Engineer.

What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is the people. I am a people person and I like to socialize and fellowship with others. The travel is a plus aslo. I traveled overseas to Europe (Oslo, Norway) 3 times. I’ve travelled to Arizona, California, New York, and Connecticut, as part of my job to witness testing and to perform audits. Northrop Grumman opened a new office in Italy, tis year so I am hoping to be able to travel there also.

What is the most surprising thing that you have discovered about your field?
The most surprising thing I’ve discovered about my field is that it is still very male dominated here at Northrop Grumman. I’ve also discovered that it does not allow growth and development into program quality roles unless a person purposely seeks out the avenues to other adventures such as program quality.

What did you have to learn in order to do what you do?
I had to learn how to perform effective audits.  Auditing for compliance issues or verification that processes are being followed is tedious work and if an auditor does not pay attention to the smallest details, that auditor could miss something that might cause a serious issue at a later time. Northrop Grumman is a Defense Center and the product we build can be the difference between life and death for a pilot or a soldier on the ground. Quality Engineers must take every facet of their jobs seriously and take courses such as the Certified Software Quality Engineer, offered by American Society for Quality (ASQ) to perfect their skills of auditing and compliance oversight.

What is one piece of advice you would give to girls about careers in STEM?
My advice to girls about careers in STEM is, Don’t let fear rule your life. Don’t think that STEM careers are about Math and Science only. Do your homework and explore all of the STEM career choices. Believe in yourself because in the beginning of any great feat you may be the only one who does. Network and build a support system full of people who will encourage you, challenge you and defend you, when necessary.

What is something girls should know about STEM?
Something girls should know about STEM is that STEM is for everyone and anyone who has a passion for you name it. The sky is the limit when it comes to careers in STEM. Girls should remind themselves if they try a STEM career and don’t like it, they can do something different.

Were you a Girl Scout?
No

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