Sean Goheen (Host) 00:00:01
Greeting scholars and welcome to Following the Gong, a podcast of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State.
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Following the Gong takes you inside conversations with our Scholar Alumni to hear their story so you can gain career and life advice and expand your professional network. You can hear the true breadth of how Scholar Alumni have gone on to shape the world after they rang the gone and graduated with honors and learn from their experiences so you can use their insights in your own journey. This show is proudly sponsored by the Scholar Alumni Society, a constituent group of the Penn State Alumni Association. I'm your host, Sean Goheen, class of 2011, and college staff member. If this is your first time joining us, welcome. If you're a regular listener, welcome back.
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Sean 00:00:55 Tamara Hambrick class of 2005 is currently the Boeing Enterprise Strategy and Operations Deputy Functional Chief Engineer for Systems engineering. Her previous roles were at Boeing and Northrop Grumman Corporation in systems engineering model-based engineering and engineering leadership. Tamara earned her Bachelor's of Science in Engineering Science with honors from Penn State's College of Engineering in 2005. She has also earned a master's certificate in systems engineering from Johns Hopkins and a graduate certificate in architecture and systems engineering from M I t Tamara Distress, how her time in Penn State influenced her career, including her experience as a birch cheerleader to all things systems engineering and engineering leadership. While great for any scholar, this episode will be particularly of interest for scholars who started at a campus other than University Park are majoring in engineering, looking to engage their industry through professional associations in women in STEM fields. Her full bio and a detailed breakdown of topics discussed are available in the show notes on your podcast app. With that, let's dig into our conversation with Tamara Hambrick following the gong. Joining me here today on following the Gong is Engineering leader and executive Tamara Hambrick. Tamara, thank you so much for joining us here today.
Tamara 00:02:08 Well, thank you for having me, Sean. I'm
Sean 00:02:10 Really looking forward to our conversation about engineering leadership and all the great things you have done at Northrop and at Boeing. But I always like to start at the beginning with your genesis story of how you came to Penn State and eventually the Schreyer Honors College.
Tamara 00:02:24 Oh, wonderful. That was, uh, just by accident in all honesty, growing up in a rural, uh, community in Pennsylvania and around really not much of engineering and more about mechanical systems that my father was working on, whether it was a car or motorcycle. And so, you know, in my early years in high school, the loving math and science, I really had no clue about engineering fields or what colleges and my, you know, calculus teacher in 12th grade was speaking about engineering and I, I was like, well look for colleges, <laugh> and I applied across Pennsylvania 'cause I wanted to be close to home and one of them was Penn State and it was also Drexel and other universities within the Pennsylvania Commonwealth. And so with that I just accidentally like dropped into Penn State and <laugh>. I was very intrigued with all the differing engineering degrees they had, but I, I really had no clue if I wanted to follow mechanical side like my father or electrical or computer science.
Tamara 00:03:33 So I actually came into Penn State in a branch campus at Burkes 'cause it was closest to family. Um, because family is so very dear to me growing up in, uh, an Italian family. And, uh, that's, uh, how I all started. And when I started going to Penn State Burkes, someone approached me after, I think during my second year and asked if I'd be interested in the Honors college. And I had no clue at all honesty about the Honors college back then. And so it was one of my professors who asked me, and then I got a letter and I was like, well, there's no additional work here, <laugh>. I'm already doing my math and science and engineering. Let's sure, let's try it. Um, it really was just how I fall into a lot of my roles in, in saying yes to a new opportunity, a new growth. Um, and that's how it was all, all by accident.
Sean 00:04:21 That's a common theme with a lot of guests on here is just saying yes to opportunities, knowing when to say no if you take on too much, but saying yes to the opportunities that present themselves to you. Now, when you were at Berks, you came in, you, you know, you weren't sure exactly which type of engineering you wanted to do. So how did you go about for maybe for students who find themselves in a similar position right now, maybe they're a first year student and they're trying to determine what type of engineering is for them. How did you go about figuring that out? Oh,
Tamara 00:04:47 That was, that was very interesting. So looking at the curriculum of engineering science and then the other engineering fields, what I was looking at was how I needed to be constantly challenged in differing fields of engineering. And so as I looked at the other fields, it was so very narrowly focused on one domain, whether it was electrical, getting very deep into the electrical world or mechanical dynamics or in aerospace engineering, uh, with its aerospace dynamics classes and software. So what I started noticing is I didn't wanna go deep into one. I wanted to see how they were interconnected and used principles from each engineering field. When I looked at engineering science as a degree, I loved it because it had depth of each field that I could bring together in a final project thesis. And that was a greater why for me. Plus another key reason was really about, I didn't wanna sit at a computer and do, um, software coating all day, or mechanical design or electrical wiring, or I thought I needed to see greater things and be greater than just one field, but be able to speak to them all and see where their value was.
Tamara 00:05:59 And engineering science was that. And that's really why I gravitated towards it. And plus it was an honors degree and I wanted to keep pushing myself for greater, greater excellence in academics. And I thought, eh, might as well try this one and see how it goes. I mean, I don't know if I'll get a, you know, a a job offer. And that was, that was interesting to sell myself, you know, after college or during college to get an internship or even a job. That's the thing about branding, um, that I learned so much from engineering science. Well,
Sean 00:06:30 We'll get into that job search in a minute 'cause spoiler, you obviously did go on and are having a great career. But I do wanna take a quick right turn here. You were involved in campus life, both at Berks and at University Park. And one of the things that jumped out to me on the list of things you were involved with was you were a cheerleader, and I think you might be the first cheerleader from any campus that I've had here on the podcast. So I wanted to ask, what were those experiences like and how did you pull what you learned from those different clubs? Be it the Birch line ambassadors or women in engineering and the cheerleading? How did you pull those into, or how do you continue to pull those into your career leading the things that you do at Boeing? Oh,
Tamara 00:07:08 Wonderful. Um, I've always loved sports, always played them. Growing up cheerleading and lacrosse, I was very adaptable in moving around a lot as I grew up in rural pa, different high schools and middle schools. Uh, and just growing my network. I was very shy growing up, but I knew if I would connect with other people, I would just feel welcomed and really enrolled into just, uh, some accomplishment that brought joy to others and, and that joy was really about, you know, not only cheerleading at Burke's campus, but we were like really the first campus to start saying that we wanted to have like a cross Commonwealth campus kind of competition. And we would go up to main campus and start meeting every other cheerleading team and see how we could grow and, and together as a cheerleading community that really helped with lion ambassadors on the Berks campus for the tours and walking backwards and, and knowing the campus a lot more, but also just the comradery.
Tamara 00:08:08 And we brought, um, male cheerleaders in with us at Berks and that was very interesting because coming from, you know, high school, we did not have male cheerleaders and they were so, so very helpful for us for our competitions up at main campus. So really just seeing the background of, you know, bringing what you love from your sport, from your high school years, your middle school years, and being able to do that still at a branch campus. I wanted to, you know, reach out to them because I didn't stay on the campus. I actually commuted 'cause I still had to work <laugh> on the weekends to help pay, uh, for school. And, um, that's what I was doing with tutoring, um, because tutoring actually helped in being a teaching assistant, uh, the financial support for me, but also seeing the joy when someone could actually learn something in a different way than how our teachers and professors provided it. So really to build a network, um, because I wasn't in a, you know, dorm there. Um, and just now today I, I get back and I see my old Penn State notes and pictures and start connecting with them on LinkedIn. It's very interesting to see how long it's been, almost 20 years <laugh>.
Sean 00:09:16 So one of those experiences, and you alluded to this earlier with kind of the capstone, if you will, in engineering sciences, obviously your honors thesis. So I read your, your title, um, in, in your questionnaire. And I'm gonna be honest, I didn't understand a word of it, so maybe you can enlighten us on what you researched. You
Tamara 00:09:33 Know, that was also fun. I, you know, I didn't know then, but I know now how important it is to do, um, material science work on aluminum alloys for, um, arresting gear for planes when they come onto carriers. Like as I, my career has been in defense the majority of my career, I didn't know that I'd eventually fall into it. And I was doing my thesis on exactly that. If we cryogenically froze aluminum alloys that was on the resting gear of a carrier for the plane, would its strength profile be as great as if it wasn't? And so I was in the lab <laugh> really just like taking these aluminum alloys and testing their, their strength from a wear rate and seeing if that was comparable to the alloy that wasn't frozen. I had no idea all that data set had to be created like by hand.
Tamara 00:10:26 We had no automation in the tools, we didn't have a tool that could run the results for you overnight. You're sitting there in the lab and then you had to come up with your conclusion after your observation. So I learned so much from how much material science feeds into our application of design. Um, and that's why, you know, that degree brings theory with application in such a great way that you get to see a greater picture of a decision, a design decision you make could really impact, uh, lives of your war fighter, uh, for a lot of these systems. Um, so that was what my, if you boiled the thesis down more or less in a lab, just really running wear tests on an aluminum alloy <laugh> to give you some observation on different, you know, material, uh, you know, properties of it.
Sean 00:11:16 So something we sometimes hear from students is they're not going to grad school and, and so they're not excited about the thesis. But I know you, we all talk about your graduate certificates in a little bit, but I have to imagine like your thesis was probably pretty helpful in your day job to start. Is that a, is that a fair judgment?
Tamara 00:11:34 Oh, it was a fair judgment. Uh, i, I really love math and equations and physics writing is not, I would say my strongest suit. So being able to bring an observation to realization with data made me really data focused in now my career, career in that anything I propose or the team proposes it's data-centric and have we run a sampling of tests that have a distribution that can actually provide you a decision that you can make for the greater workforce. And that was what I took away from it. Not naturally, of course going into material science for materials, for composites, for aircraft or, uh, other types of, you know, application of it. It was more or less the analytical thinking through that thesis that helped, uh, with, uh, moving that forward, which was quite interesting that now you, you bring those two together as you question that now, uh, I didn't really tie them that closely, but thank you.
Sean 00:12:35 Absolutely. Now, earlier you mentioned, you know, if you're in say mechanical engineering or computer science or in the other pure disciplines, if you will, in engineering, you know, employers are pretty clear like this is what you're, you're looking for, but engineering science, you kind of have to take a little bit more of an active approach in how you're explaining that to employers for internships and jobs. So can you, can you talk about how you did that and how you got those first roles in your career?
Tamara 00:13:00 So I would say in my first roles in my early career, I was really assessing reliability maintainability and system safety and human factors on the designs. And when I started looking at CAD drawings and graphics to electrical schematics and two D drawings, I started really noticing that the depth of the school degree in engineering science would provide me the depth to assess, you know, the electrical world or the mechanical world for dynamics and strength. And then that provided me some really insightful knowledge on, I'm really more of analyzing the design for improving its performance for either the war fighter to maintain it or the reliability of it for its lifespan or the safety, uh, aspect of it. So with that, you know, with my early career, it was really about analytical depth into each type of engineering design that I could bring, you know, to the forefront for these other engineers in the other fields.
Tamara 00:14:04 And that was very key in, in proving to me that I could bring all of the differing disciplines together. And that I didn't know at the time was called systems engineering, uh, <laugh> because I didn't know about that until four years into my engineering early career. That systems engineering was a discipline, um, because Penn State did not have that and it, and it wasn't, let's say, communicated that really those are the system thinkers of, uh, that type of world. So it kind of opened up to me like, wow, you know, we could grow systems engineering in, you know, out of college from their domain and, and get that systems thinking perspective.
Sean 00:14:44 So for those of us who aren't engineers, can you define what you mean by systems engineering? Oh,
Tamara 00:14:50 I love systems engineering. I would say systems engineering is really the formalized techniques and methods to bring intra and interdisciplinary engineering together to assess the impacts of the whole and all of the elements that make up performance, functionality, interface and integration. Whether it's a platform in the sky or in space or under sea, it is really assessing how it operates in its performance and why it operates by its functions. So systems engineers really do think greater than the parts. It's more of the whole, and, and that really brings forward more of a data-centric view from each engineering field to see how it impacts for let's say the overall, what the war fighter or customer sees. And what they sometimes see is what they touch or with their eyes from a gooey. And that is very intriguing to me to see how systems engineering can be that, let's say broker liaison, collaborator, leader across engineering fields.
Sean 00:15:55 Awesome. Well, I just learned something and so if <laugh>, you didn't know that either, listener, hopefully, you know, maybe you did if you clicked on this one 'cause you were interested in what Tamara had to say, but if you didn't, hopefully you learned something too, you know, so you talked about your early career and I wanted to ask, so you began climbing the ladder, you were initially at Northrop Grumman mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, which is a major defense contractor. And we've had a past guest, uh, Tom Bon Saint who currently works there. If you wanna go back and listen to that episode when you're done listening to this one. But I wanna ask, so how did you, you know, shift from kind of the hands-on work that you were doing to more of the leadership roles that you started to take? Talk us through that, especially as a woman in eng in an engineering setting, I think that would be really helpful for students to hear. Yeah,
Tamara 00:16:39 Of course. When I was engineering the design for performance enhancements for many of the specialty areas, I started noticing that I had a keen for planning the efforts, a keen for seeing where people had skills that could execute and build the products that I was, I was building, that I could lead and mentor them and how we can execute it and put together a cost and schedule for it. And I, I just saw that as a gap. And when I see gaps, I just wanna step right into them and fill it up and learn myself from other leaders. And, and so with that, in my early career, five years in, I was noticing that I could actually lead a team and fill that gap and put together a vision and strategy on how we could execute, let's say, human systems integration for a program that was just eye-opening to me that one of the key disciplines, or let's say areas that I didn't learn in college was all of that. How to actually plan a project, do cost and schedule, um, lead a team, mentor a team. And that is where I just was so very excited to grow in that area. And that's how I then transitioned from engineering the design to being the lead and collaborator with all other engineers to build a integrated product team and then move forward. Now, I was still an engineer, individual contributor, and then I would transition over into, you know, leadership in that way as a technical lead engineer.
Sean 00:18:13 So you talked about, you know, there's skills that you come out of Penn State with, but then you obviously need to continue enhancing your skills well, past being a student. And, you know, some of those may be formal, some of those maybe informal. Can you talk about how you continued to learn, whether it was new engineering technologies or, I hate this phrase, but the soft skills, the leadership and the, the managing people that you need for these types of leadership roles?
Tamara 00:18:38 Oh, yes, of course. Especially, you know, as I transitioned from my early career into my mid-career as a leader, there were new techniques and modeling languages that were coming into the forefront. And as I was rolling into becoming a system architect on a platform, I wanted to hear about how I could take what I did in the analysis world into architecture. And that was a modeling language called systems modeling language, uh, that drove up, uh, into compliance into a Department of defense architecture framework, which is doda. And I was not familiar with that language and that framework. So I wanted to bring together people and vendors to teach us on that framework and bring individuals to say how, what are our best practices and lessons learned. So even in my early career when I didn't know about a technique, I would bring individuals from the outside that had the experience so I could learn and apply it with the team.
Tamara 00:19:33 And then, you know, later in my career, I started learning about other, you know, like degrees that were coming out because there wasn't a certificate for systems engineering. And so Johns Hopkins had a wonderful systems engineering certificate and master's program, and that's when I started realizing that systems engineering is a real thing. And I was that thinker, but I didn't know how to apply the principles of systems engineering from industry. And that's where it brought me into how do I become more of a technical manager, an architect, someone who can assess performance, perform validation and verification and certification, all the other areas. I didn't get to touch as an early engineer and assess and, and do. So I was like, well, I'm, I'm pretty young out of college. I didn't go get my graduate degree right away. And it's okay, you don't need to get it right away. You can learn as you go because your career will change and you'll be interested in different things. So as they come up, you just be uncomfortable, be comfortable with being uncomfortable and trying new things. I mean, it's so very fun. Engineering can be fun. Again, if you just go out there and, and talk to others that have that experience and let them know you wanna learn from them, I think
Sean 00:20:45 That's great advice and probably true for any industry too. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, go out there and learn from others who are just as excited as you are who can share knowledge. Now, I, I do want to, this is not one of the questions I had in my, in <laugh> my sheet here, but just outta curiosity for maybe those who may also not know. So you keep talking about architecture and being an architect and obviously that has a different meaning in an engineering setting and the systems engineering and the kind of things that you're doing with aircraft or submarines or, or spacecraft or, or anything. So can you define what you mean by that in this context? Yes,
Tamara 00:21:20 Of course. So systems architecture, um, is really bringing parts functional performance interface parts together into, let's say, logical groupings to see how they interact and affect each other. And so in that sense, systems architecting is modularizing functionality. And then, and then going into how do I allocate that to an electrical piece, like either a circuit card or an F P G A and then does that really need a mechanical, structural piece with a back plane to execute it? So systems engineering thinks above the engineering fields before applying it to say, if I wanted to functionally like communicate air to ground, what functions do I need within the air segment or the ground segment and what kind of human interface and interplay do I need? So really systems architecting, if you think about it, is not really the physical things that you touch like an aircraft or a gooey, right, or something at the keyboard you think abstractly up as like some amorphic like, like conceptual thing of, oh, well that functionality could live anywhere, we don't know yet.
Tamara 00:22:32 All I know is that I need a mission processor, I need a receiving, you know, signal or exciting the signals, or I need some communications engine or payload processor. So you just need certain functionality to execute your mission, whatever mission that may be. And systems architecting is bringing all of those functionality parts and performance of those parts together to realize what is the main sets of use cases and goals and capabilities that my war fighter and customer need. So it's really that type of thinker that isn't saying, well, I need a box here, I need a comms device here, I need, you know, this other, you know, payload, a radar, E O I R here. Like we all come from touching what we see every day and we wanna say those are the parts that need to go into the house or into the aircraft, but maybe it doesn't need to go that way anymore or be built that way. So it really grounds us into more innovation as a systems engineer. Doesn't always have to be the way it's been for three decades or four decades. You don't have to create the same type of, you know, cell phone like we did back in the day. Right. That's where I think systems engineering with the system architecture helps.
Sean 00:23:46 So to use your analogy of a house, it's more of how do you make the house a home?
Tamara 00:23:50 Oh yeah.
Sean 00:23:51 Is that a, is that fair to, that
Tamara 00:23:52 Is the
Sean 00:23:53 Dumb it down for us. <laugh>, us non-engineers.
Tamara 00:23:56 Yeah. It's kind of like caring about like the workflow of the home, kind of like, you know, you're not gonna like all of a sudden be like, oh, well I'm gonna, you know, put the piping and electrical here, but what's the use of it? Why, why do you need it? Like what is your, your conditions for having it there? Will it operate in the workflow of your home, you know, for you as a person right now, you're bringing the human element into it, into the discussion more about what they need and why they need it versus saying, well, I could just put it here and there and like, right. I could just plop it right there. So it's quite a different way of thinking.
Sean 00:24:27 And speaking of different ways of thinking, you shared what you're currently doing in your role at the time of recording at Boeing and tying back to, you said you really like data more than writing, and so this kind of seems to fit right up your interest ally. So no surprises what you're doing. Can you talk about, and again, you know, you're, you're speaking as yourself, but, and you're not gonna give away trade secrets or anything, but can you talk about what kind of, uh, general efforts you are leading right now?
Tamara 00:24:55 Yes, of course. So my current role is the deputy functional chief engineer for digital and systems engineering for Boeing. And what I'm doing and what we are doing right now is connecting various different digital models. Um, so like I said before, now it's all in the data, right? And the data of any digital model that you create, um, and how do we connect them and where's the, the data then transitions into information, right? You add some information to it about who the user is, what attributes you need, and then you add some knowledge is knowledge is more of the user experience with it and how I've used it on this application or that application. So it's really bringing digital models together in not a sense of totally integrating them into a monolithic thing. It's really federated in the sense now they're each unique and in their uniqueness, they have such key data elements that trace to each other and that can help with creating a product.
Tamara 00:25:51 So an aircraft product, it can do it for, you know, even a navigation system on the aircraft and how can you digitally represent that data for your product and also the services, right? Sustainment out in the field. There's data with all of our products, commercial or even defense products that we have around the world. So how do we bring that and digital data and then help inform a digital twin, right? That digital twin, right, is bringing together real, real hardware and software and informing what your virtual prototype is. And so you can help improve the structural design, the thermal design, the mesh design, the functional performance. Uh, and so with that, you know, we are really creating a digital thread framework here at Boeing, and we're leading the way and innovation of how to use knowledge and visualize that for the user. Or an engineer can ask a question, you know, where does this data reside and how can I see it and expose it and access it and interrogate it?
Tamara 00:26:56 How can I use it because we have these search engines, but how do we search, right? We always ask a question of our best friend <laugh> or someone that's in the next cube or the next office. So it'd be great for us to move that forward with, you know, transforming how we do the business and, and when we transform the business of how we do it, then we transform what comes to the forefront of the data and what questions we ask and can it intelligently put it together for us. That is what is so very intriguing now that bringing data from my, my early career into like at the such the forefront and I am just really focused on bringing that to just every engineer.
Sean 00:27:40 Well, I'm sure that's very exciting for all of the engineers and you can't see, uh, Tamara's face right now, but she's been glowing talking about this <laugh> just like the biggest smile. So you can tell she was deking out a bit and I didn't understand all of it, but it sounds incredible. Uh, and I can get the helping people do their job better part, I think that translates across industry. And for scholars who, you know, are excited by this kind of thing, what can they be doing now as students or early in their career if say they're a young alum to set themselves up for this kind of career work. Hmm,
Tamara 00:28:12 That's great. I, you know, and then co C 20, uh, 35 Vision, which is a wonderful booklet about engineering solutions for the better world that is out there for all engineers that could really search for any schreyer scholar or someone just intrigued about systems engineering. There are some key new, let's say, skills and systems engineering that is coming to the forefront. And those skills are really centered around data science, data science for really looking at, you know, what is the representation, digital representation of data, how can we bring algorithms and analytics to the forefront and the mathematics that we've all learned near and dear that have governing principles in our designs. How do we do that for data, right? So data science would be the first foremost, if there are some programs or some courses to take to be a part of that world, that is the demand in this new world is being able to assess, analyze, extract, visualize data from differing fields of engineering or manufacturing supply chain and showing that knowledge to others, that is where I would say where we need to move forward with, you know, adding to our current curriculums in each of our engineering fields.
Tamara 00:29:32 Because before we were relying on the tools, but not every tool has widgets to help us visualize the data or the backend schema of a tool and why we did what we did, right? We're just assuming it knows best for it, it to run an analysis we want it to do. But you'll see engineers always create their own little tool to bring the data out and visualize it in a way that's meaningful, meaningful for them. So that is what I would recommend to get into this world. There's much in user experience vi virtualization that brings that to the forefront as well. And maybe there's some courses, some robotics do that, some computing, um, computer science might be some of those skills and courses could be brought into other engineering fields, but those are just some key areas that I, I do sense as where it's going to really be a dynamic change for the future of engineering. Well,
Sean 00:30:23 You heard it here first, so if you're listening, take advantage of that really stellar advice right there. And one thing that probably will transcend any kind of, you know, digital transformation and, and all these things is being part of a larger community in your industry. So how do you stay engaged with the engineering community, both at Boeing and also outside of Boeing with other engineers?
Tamara 00:30:46 Oh, wonderful question. So it was about like a decade ago when I started engaging with the object management group, O M G, uh, through standards. They released standards, uh, specifically on different areas, but what I was focused on was systems modeling language and unified architecture framework. And then from that experience talking to industry about not just applying it to defense systems, but transportation and healthcare, I started getting exposed to other industries that were using those standards and how they were using it and being involved in a standards body to help increase its validity and its rigorous execution was just eye-opening because you're so focused in your own world with your own industry, your own job. And when you come out and you breathe and you realize there's more to what you're working on and you can give back, it's so much more fulfilling. So really, standards bodies is one area.
Tamara 00:31:47 Another area that I'm actively involved in is in csi, international Council of Systems Engineering. We have a formalized working group there, and with that it's called the Digital Engineering Information Exchange Working Group. And so with that is directly on the statement of how do we create digital views and viewpoints for the users? And that could be someone who's requested the view or someone who's building the view. And that working group brings a plethora of industries together to really move forward with what would be a new guidebook for digital engineering and also what other standard definitions and taxonomies do we need at this world. Um, because we all have our different definition of what a part means, um, and so why don't we come together and, and as an interesting move that forward. So in my current role that is, I am still the deputy chair there.
Tamara 00:32:38 I'm also Boeing's and, and COC company, uh, leader. So what is our strategy for getting more systems engineers certified in systems engineering? But not only that, but learning that there's a community that is building out technical publications. And so those best practices and lessons learned are being documented out there. Maybe not so digitally, they're still paper, so they're digitized. But that's where I'm thinking, you know, engagement as we all grow in our career, like reach out and you know, just be in there and listen and you could grab a nugget and use it on your program, your project, your company. But constantly being engaged to learn more is just, uh, really fulfilling.
Sean 00:33:19 I had to chuckle a little bit when you said that you're, some of these things are ending up on paper, like I'm picturing like holograms and <laugh>, you know, like Tony Stark doing stuff and, and then you're, some of these things end up just getting printed on paper. Love it. They
Tamara 00:33:31 Do. They still do. They still do.
Sean 00:33:33 So kind of pivoting a little bit again, kind of outside, you know, how have you found balance between your personal and professional lives? As, you know, you're a senior leader at this major company that is a global presence, and then you're also a leader in your family and you've had to move around the country for your career. So how do you balance those things? What advice do you have for students as they maybe think ahead or for young alumni who are starting to experience this?
Tamara 00:33:57 Yes. One, one area that I would always state is have a partner in life that supports your career ambitions. Like my husband Charles does. Someone who can see that the fulfillment you drive into really needs a support entity at home with the family, uh, and really pushes for you to experience going to conferences, traveling the world, and really speaking to what your truth is for learning and bringing others together for engineering. I mean, that is one of my first and foremost whether it is, you know, a family member that helps you or best friend or a spouse or partner or someone that's there for you because that is what you'll need is that foundation to always fall back on when it doesn't always go right. Or maybe you're traveling every week and you're not there for tucking the children in or you know, going to your friend's birthday party or your family is like retirement.
Tamara 00:35:02 Just an under someone who can truly understand. That's the first and foremost. I think second is with that support entity being so like open-minded and not scared, like, uh, moving, you know, from myself, I was in Maryland for 13 years, then moved to California for a year, then Utah for two years, <laugh> now in Pennsylvania. I mean, not being afraid that a new area could provide so much more for you in the sense of food, people, community, um, just exploration, right? It's very hard to move to a new place and not know anyone trust, you know, it's hard even when you have a family, like who's your neighbor's gonna be? Like who are you gonna hang out with on the weekends? But just do you do what you enjoy and other people will be around and enjoy the same things. So be be okay with being scared. It's actually create exhilarating to be afraid, um, because you never know what will happen for you not to you. Right?
Sean 00:36:00 I think that's a very insightful way to to phrase that there. I really like that <laugh>.
Tamara 00:36:04 You're
Sean 00:36:05 Welcome. Now we're kind of pivoting to the back part of our conversation and I think it's been well established at this point that I'm not an engineer and some of the things you've said have definitely gone over my head, but I'm here to, you know, be the voice of our students and alumni asking you these questions. So I did my best. But are there any questions about engineering work or leadership that I should have asked but didn't know to, um, or maybe phrased a different way? What's a question that you often get from maybe your entry level employees or students that I didn't think to ask that would be helpful to answer here?
Tamara 00:36:36 I do get asked how do you, how do you get, how do you feel heard at work, right? As a woman in engineering, right? And I go through many stories and you know, one story, you know, at at a previous company, you know, I was presenting in front of, uh, it was a critical design review. I was a I P T integrated product team leader. You know, I was only five years in, I was scared. I was rehearsing, you know what I was gonna say to the team <laugh>. And, and you know, I said this statement about how the war fighter, you know, is included into the designing of the system, right? They are a, a part of the system. They are in an external entity and someone raised their hand in this 400 person auditorium and they said, you know, do engineers listen to you?
Tamara 00:37:22 And I was taken back right at first like, oh, what kind of question was that? Right? But I came back with like, I'm just a smaller master guns, of course they're gonna listen to me. I, you know, I was informing them that the master gunnery sergeant I was working with on that program, right? He had this confidence in a room. And so I had all, all the auditorium left. And, and I knew at that moment if you can build a sense of confidence in yourself in any meeting, in any call, and know in your feelings of your, your inner self that you are stating what is true. And no one else could quiet that voice of confidence or that voice of reason and go forward with trying to make them laugh. Because what they were asking, maybe they didn't know they had biases in, in what their question was.
Tamara 00:38:10 And now you're trying to teach them in a more, uh, different type of way. And so in that sense, when, when I get asked as a leader, like how do you come to a meeting with the voice of confidence that you have? Well, I had to go through and and learn through w working with other engineers and, and different genders that that spoke to me differently. And so I just, I guess I just grew up in this field over 20 years, you know, in 18 years, yeah, 18 years now that just stating your confidence, you know, position and always staying true to that. I think that was would be a question that women in engineering, uh, have asked me before. And I've always said, you know, I can be your ally and support you and give me a call. I can come to the meeting, you know, and I will, you know, talk about the position that you hold in the sense of your position of words, right? And kind of bolster that and, and start speaking for you and advocating. So I think that's one of the key things. We don't know that we have allies in the back that, that can help advocate and be there next to you.
Sean 00:39:12 That is very good and important thing that you talked about there. And obviously I'm a man I wouldn't have even thought to ask that. So thank you for, for answering that question that way. You're welcome. Now we're gonna go to the last third, the, these are the questions I asked everybody. If you're a regular listener, so thank you. If you are, what would you say is your biggest success to date? This is your chance to brag a little bit.
Tamara 00:39:33 I would say professional success would definitely be when I positioned to create an organization in my previous company to be called model-based systems engineering. Because in systems engineering, we all want all a systems engineers to perform model-based systems engineering, which is a method to systems engineering, more of a formalized technique, uh, using modeling languages. And so it's kind of very intriguing that, you know, the mindset is, well, we all should be, but we all aren't doing that and we need to build the skill. So how can we marry a new skill of model-based with systems engineering that has been executing in the technical domain for decades? And bring those two together to say that is systems engineering of the future. So the success there was really about creating a functional organization to grow leaders in model-based systems engineering. And some of those leaders I've known have grown into great leaders at other companies at SS A I C I know many of those team members now that we were all learning together and leading together, they now are leading on their own.
Tamara 00:40:41 I just see so much of them as like we were at the forefront of starting something when we were at Northrop Grumman together and seeing them prosper. It is just like a, it is just so fulfilling, like a motherhead in the sense of, wow, look at them, spread their wings and go and lead others and mentor others and make new innovations. And so professionally, like I still reach out to them to this day and just, I'm just so proud of their accomplishments wherever they may land and just makes me very proud. So that, that's definitely one key success, I would say. And professionally, of course, personally, it's, it's really about just, I can't believe I have children in this career. And so my success is able now to see the, the joy that I can bring at home for them. Not just for me and for my job, but for them and, and be the mom for them by crafting and having fun and dance parties. I mean, I, I mean I just seen my little mini mes run around. It's wonderful. <laugh>.
Sean 00:41:42 That's hilarious. And I keep seeing this. There's like a Minecraft toy in the background. Oh, you
Tamara 00:41:48 Love Minecraft so much.
Sean 00:41:50 I do. Uh, Tamara, I wanna give you a cha. Oh my gosh, <laugh>, she's holding up a Minecraft, some kind of stuffed toy, something. I'm not, I'm just a hair too old to know Minecraft. But, uh, we did, um, I do wanna give you a chance. There was a, a little anecdote you had left in the questionnaire. So a bonus success here related to Penn State Homecoming. Oh
Tamara 00:42:12 Yeah. Thanks for reminding me. I was like, wonder, like you saw my think and I'm like, what was I, yes. So Penn State homecoming and I still have the sweatshirt. Like I made all my Penn State stuff into a quilt. So all my old like homecoming t-shirts, sweatshirts, bar tours, <laugh> into this quote. And so I had to remind myself what year was that <laugh>? And it was 2003. I'm like, wow. 20 years, 20 years ago, homecoming, 20 years ago I was part of society Women engineers up in main campus and Tau Epsilon bi, we, we come together right? With a, a fraternity to work on a float. And the float idea was the Jetsons. So I've never done this before, right? That's my first year up at Penn State, Maine. I came from a Berks campus. I'm like, what is this stuff? What is, what is homecoming? And it was like, what
Sean 00:43:00 Is this chicken wire stuff? <laugh>
Tamara 00:43:02 Chicken wire and this paper mache thingy that hurts your hands. 'cause you keep poking it in the holes constantly. And it was just, I had no idea. I was like, nah, like we're not gonna win. Like it's Jetsons. Like, so we were all the characters of the Jetsons and roaming around the float, what, you know, going down, I don't even know what street it was, <laugh>, I don't what street were they? I don't know where they go now. But that was a, that was a great like feeling of like, wow, even the smallest things with all of these individuals could build this beautiful float. And we won a homecoming. I was like, no, look at all these beautiful, like I had, I was just always like, like not a good self-talk back then. And then I realized, you know, as I grew up I was like, you need to bring better self-talk. And like, hey, you could win. You could actually win this whole thing. So it was a wonderful experience of at Penn State to, to be a part of homecoming and, and winning that for the float.
Sean 00:43:55 All these different pieces and people coming together to build something. It's not like that didn't foreshadow your career at all. I think that was a very positive omen for you, for you there <laugh>. So on the flip side though, I would do wanna ask, 'cause I ask everybody, can you tell us about a transformational learning moment or a mistake that you made throughout your career and what more importantly, like what you took from that that could be beneficial for scholars to also learn from? Yeah,
Tamara 00:44:18 Definitely. I mean when, when I was at my previous company I was, I was so, I was so adamant about how to do systems engineering, especially model based systems engineering because of the experience I had for, you know, 15 years or so on and so forth before that. And I got so stuck with knowing the how that I forgot to allow others to lead and others to think through what their knew how was. And there's like no course to help you with transitioning from an engineering doing and how mindset to a relaxed like, well here is the what and the why and when go and fly and do the how. Right? And so that was a learning moment for me to really step back now, you know, within Boeing to really be like, here is the vision here is there is our strategy, this is when we need to get this accomplished.
Tamara 00:45:18 This is why, and these are what our customers and war fighters need. Go forward and figure the how I'll be here to help remove roadblocks and help support and advocate. You know, I can provide somehow from my experience if you ask if you want that advice. So it's been such a learning moment for me. Even at home, I'm trying to be more like, oh, that's how you do the dishes or that's how you fold the laundry. Okay, that's what you do, right? So I've tried to transition into that being so I guess micromanagement in that way of like, it has to be in this order, like to bake a pie or you know, things of that nature or this is how you have to do a digital model, right? No, really you don't have to do it that way. You can at least you can all come together and eventually have a pie. Okay. <laugh>,
Sean 00:45:59 Yeah, maybe with the actual pie crust there might be a set way, but a lot of things like it's more important that the laundry's getting done than how it's getting done. That's, I think that's great. You know, you already, you gave a shout out to your husband, but are there any other professors or friends from your days on campus, either at Berks or at University Park that you wanted to give a shout out to?
Tamara 00:46:18 Oh, uh, Dr. Judith Todd, she was our dean for engineering science. Uh, I'm not sure if she's still there. Um, there was a women in engineering program leader, Barbara. I was able to get my internship with Northrop Grumman through there. Dr. Drew TA was great with engineering science. They supported, you know, me because, uh, through many scholarships, right? For paying myself paying through college. And they were just so, just just there all the time. Whenever I had a question, not even financial, just it was really technical questions. And so those, that was definitely very key for me. I think there are others from Penn State Berks that I, you know, I haven't looked back and see, I still have all my notes, so I should probably go look and see. But those were the two that come to my mind.
Sean 00:47:02 Awesome. And I'm sure there's many others and you know, build up that network. Go to your professor's office hours, get to know your club advisors. These are the folks that you'll be, you'll be hopefully remembering their names down the road. Um, but get to know them. Is there any last piece of advice that you would leave students with that hasn't come up already?
Tamara 00:47:20 I would say get advice from many, but advice is just advice. It doesn't dictate your career path. It just provides you nuggets to build your own pathway to what you believe is already innate in yourself and gravitate towards listening and being your authentic self when you hear those words and then you build your own mountain, uh, career, whatever that may be. 'cause someone else's career path was what they had to go through. It doesn't mean it's yours. And if someone, you know, is recommending to take this new opportunity, right, and in your gut, you know it, you need to take it. That's my perspective because I don't question my gut anymore. I just go with it. Uh, so those are the two, right? Taking nuggets from all advice, not every career path is, is equal in the sense, but each nugget that they took and they learned is something you can bring together and create your own mountain of nuggets for your own self. And then, you know, yeah, just really believe in yourself, be authentic to yourself and listen to your gut. It will prove to you that it knows, it knows where you should gravitate towards.
Sean 00:48:25 Excellent. Or to kind of reflect on our conversation, you could pull in some data points and help build your own architecture. I learned something today and I hope you did too, <laugh>. If a scholar wanted to get some additional data points from you to keep this running, what's the best way that they could reach out to connect with you? Definitely
Tamara 00:48:43 Through LinkedIn, uh, would be great. I am a mentor in Line Link as well. Um, so you can reach out there. So I do that, uh, throughout, you know, my, the past few years. I love that. So either of those two venues and I always re respond, uh, and then we can continue from there. Awesome.
Sean 00:49:00 Thank you for that. I appreciate you being a mentor being on here today. And also you talked about, you know, the financial support you received as a student. We didn't even talk about, you're a donor to the college, which we appreciate helping pay it forward to current scholar. So thank you for that. And we're gonna wrap up here with our final question that I asked everybody, so hopefully you got a chance to look at the menu. If you were a flavor of Burke Creamery ice cream, Tamara, which would you be? And most importantly as a scholar alumna, why would you be that flavor?
Tamara 00:49:26 Chocolate marshmallow? Always what I would choose. Why I would choose it chocolate, because it's very decadent. So at times I can be very much decadent in, in all of the work I do and the data I have to analyze, right, marshmallow because sometimes I can be fun and fluffy and have, have fun in engineering or have fun at home and do dance parties at the same time, be structured like chocolate and, and get us, you know, formulated in, you know, what are the logistics of the day or in trips. And so, you know, I really feel like those two coming together is just a synergistic of my life and career and personally. And that's, and that's why
Sean 00:50:06 That is a great way to sum up your experience with an ice cream flavor there. Tamara Hambrick from Boeing Scholar, alumna and engineering executive and leader, thank you so much for joining us and sharing all of your great nuggets of advice here on following the gong.
Tamara 00:50:20 Well, thank you Sean for having me.
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