Celebrating our Teammates: Textron Systems Engineers Honored with BEYA STEM Awards
Each year, the Black Engineer of the Year Award (BEYA) STEM Conference honors the work of engineers and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals in their industries. This year, we are proud to share that three Textron Systems teammates have been honored with 2021 Modern-Day Technology Leader awards.
Gene is a Software Developer supporting the Remote Products team. He obtained his undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering and master’s degree in Software Engineering in just seven years through an accelerated program offered by his university. A Textron Systems employee for over five years, Gene currently works on the One System® Remote Video Terminal (OSRVT™) Software team - in which he has been integral to the success of the program.
As a test engineer, Arnold continues to grow his skills and education in engineering. Arnold grew up in a community that recognized the power of education in fighting poverty, and after completing his secondary education in Kenya, he moved to the United States to study aeronautical/aerospace engineering. Since joining Textron Systems eight years ago, he has supported various teams across the business and moved into roles of increasing responsibility. He is currently pursuing his master’s degree in Systems Engineering from Johns Hopkins University.
Kiamsha, Systems Engineering Lead for Development for Remote Products, joined Textron Systems in 2018. Leveraging her long-time interest in engineering, she completed her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Kiamsha works on the OSRVT product and leads the Change Control Board, which reviews Problem Change Reports regarding development and/or requirements.
What inspired you to pursue a career in engineering?
GENE: My interest started when I was a kid. Anytime I got a toy, I would immediately take it apart and figure out how to put it back together. As I grew up, I got into computers, which led me to pursue computer engineering as an undergraduate and eventually my master’s degree in software engineering.
ARNOLD: I grew up in Nairobi, Kenya near Wilson Airport, and I would always watch the planes land and take off – leading me to envision myself as a pilot or maintainer. From a young age, I had family and teachers who encouraged me to pursue aerospace engineering or my pilot’s license. These career paths interested me because I’ve always been curious about how things work.
KIAMSHA: When I was a kid, I wanted to work for a toy company because I loved building things; but by the time I got to middle school, I wanted to work on cars or motorcycles. My mom is the one who pointed out to me that I could be the one designing those things, so I applied to a Magnet school for engineering in high school.
How has working at Textron Systems fostered your growth as a STEM professional?
GENE: I’ve always loved getting to use and test new technologies, which is something I get to do a lot in my current role. There is also so much training and mentorship from seasoned professionals available to engineers through Textron Systems, so we’re able to learn and grow.
ARNOLD: Textron Systems has a great educational assistance program that helps anyone advance their educational ambitions, as well as internal classes you can take to learn new things. Since we work on the cutting edge of so many different industries, I feel I’m constantly growing as a professional. Engineering is a mentally challenging field; I get to utilize the acumen and skills I learned in school, and the challenge of working in such a fast-paced career inspires me. Textron Systems provides the kind of work that allows us to take ownership; I never feel like another cog in the machine.
KIAMSHA: I’ve been given leadership opportunities that I’ve never had before. When I started here, I was dropped into some leadership roles right off the bat which prepared me for the opportunity to become the lead of my team this year. Because of this, I’ve developed so many leadership skills and I actively use them each day. I’m driven by the fact that I get to put my stamp on something. I continuously get to experience how different things are made, and I get to be part of that conversation of how the design should go.
What does being selected as a 2021 BEYA STEM Award Winner mean to you?
GENE: It means I’m doing something right. Not only that, but my leadership is noticing that I’m doing something right as well. That’s a great feeling.
ARNOLD: It’s validation for all the work I’ve put in. To have a formal recognition of this work means I’ve made it; I’m not just performing, I’m thriving. The fact that this award caters to an underrepresented group in society makes it very gratifying, and I’m grateful the industry is trying to highlight these groups. It’s very encouraging, and I’m happy to be part of it.
KIAMSHA: It gives me confidence in the work I do. I definitely think it’s true that you are your own worst critic. So, winning this award has shown me that I am a good engineer, despite the areas I still feel like I need to improve in.
What advice would you give to those still in school interested in pursuing a career in STEM?
GENE: Never give up, even if you’re struggling in a particular subject. I’d also pass along one of the best pieces of advice I ever got: fake it ‘til you make it. Even if you aren’t the best student, you should do what a good student does. Sit at the front of the classroom, engage with teachers – eventually you’ll get to the place you want to be. Persevering is worth it.
ARNOLD: STEM is a mentally stimulating field – it challenges your logic, your people skills, your teamwork, and more. Because of this, it enables you to make contributions to the world and to better humanity. I think the most appealing aspect of careers in STEM is that you have the ability to make a positive impact on society.
KIAMSHA: Participate in every experience that’s available to you. Even if you have just an inkling of an interest in something, you should get involved. I participated in an architecture contest in high school (a field I had almost no interest in), and it ended up being one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, despite the fact that it wasn’t the field I wanted to pursue a career in. You never know what you can get from something.
How will this award further empower you to continue to grow as an engineer and as a leader?
GENE: I view this award as a motivator. Not a lot of my actual work is visible, but this award shows me that my leaders are noticing what I do which means a lot to me. It’s a major driving force to always do the best I can, because even when you think no one is watching, there’s always somebody taking notice. You want to be able to be proud of your work, and I definitely am.
ARNOLD: I don’t do things for personal gratification, but it’s nice to be recognized. It shows me that I’m on the right path and gives me the confidence to keep going. I’m involved in various projects where I have young engineers looking up to me. Now I can tell them that it is possible to succeed, and there are always people rooting for you and making note of all the work you’re doing. It’s helped remind me that there’s good things in the future for myself and for my teammates.
KIAMSHA: It has definitely boosted my confidence. Even just the day I received the email that I had been selected, I could tell there was an internal shift in me. I feel like I have something to bring to the table, and it’s nice to be reminded that other people think I can do it, too. It’s reminded me to give myself a bit of a break and allows me to say to myself “I’m a good engineer, and I’m a good leader.”
Please join us in congratulating Gene, Arnold and Kiamsha on their outstanding achievements! They will be recognized in February during the 2021 BEYA STEM Virtual Conference.