We see it more often than you might imagine. A candidate with a richly diverse job history ends up being one of the most successful engineering stars in our world. Meet Tamara Taylor
, middle school teacher, divinity school graduate, adjunct professor, wife and mother. And
prototype build engineer team leader today on assignment at Fiat Chrysler Automotive. We spoke with Tamara following her receiving the STEM Women of Color Technology Rising Star Award.
High school, the ministry, teaching and the pull of math
Tamara is living testament to the adage of: Put yourself in position and good things will happen. She spoke about the decidedly unique path she blazed toward becoming one of our top contract engineers. “My path diverged early from the typical engineer’s career journey. When I received my Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering/Technology, I enrolled in divinity school. It was an important formative stage for me, professionally and spiritually. Then, three months after graduating from divinity school, 9/11 struck. The job market for engineers was terrible. Then, less than a year later, I had an opportunity to work as the technical support in at a local charter school. Within a year, I was teaching middle school math in that same school. It was such a rewarding job, bringing together my passions for teaching and math.”
Tamara continued sharing the story of her amazing career. “One day I received a call from an Aerotek recruiter who worked with engineers. I enjoyed my job teaching middle school math, but I wanted to experience working as an engineer, since that was my field of study. It was a difficult decision, leaving teaching, but one I’ll never regret. When that first assignment ended after three extremely rewarding years, my Aerotek recruiter had two jobs opportunities for me within a week. The job opportunity that I chose as a materials cost savings engineer, lead from a one-year contract into a direct employment position.”
Twins, a Masters & teaching again
Tamara is a vivid portrait of the “still waters run deep” adage. Calming and methodical on the surface, just beneath she is clearly thinking and planning constantly. The fruits of this planning are evident in the next stage of her career.
“My desire to teach and train with excellence led me back to grad school and in the spring of 2011 I received my MA in Educational Technology from the University of Michigan-Flint, the perfect advanced degree combining my two lifelong passions. I guess I like challenges, because I finished that last semester of grad school very pregnant and a month after getting my degree I gave birth to twins.” The following fall, Tamara was teaching math again, but this time as an adjunct professor at Baker College in Flint, Michigan.
Foundations are everything
Tamara said she learned something very early that has stayed with her for life. “Knowledge is built on knowledge. One of the greatest influences in my life was my high school geometry teacher. I recall that an earlier math teacher had actually made me start to dislike math, it wasn’t making sense. But this geometry teacher was different. He broke math down for us, and made it fun. All of a sudden, everything started to fit together, forming a very strong foundation of knowledge in place.”
Once an engineer always an engineer
We asked Tamara how she found her way back to engineering. “Well, I never lost touch with my Aerotek recruiters. I saw an Aerotek engineering opportunity online and in January of 2012 I gave them a call. I sat down with Darren Simpson who set up an interview for me at Fiat Chrysler Automotive (FCA). I was offered the job.” Tamara took that job on assignment at FCA and has been thriving in the role ever since.
“I support the team that builds prototypes used in product testing. Over time I began training other engineers and teams on the process. The way I see it, the work we do makes the vehicles you drive safer. It’s important work, I think it’s actually life-saving work. I love being able to guide and mentor new team players on performing at their best. I try to train team members the way that my high school geometry teacher taught and inspire me. I do my best to break the information down and to make it interesting. They watch me do it, and it helps give them the confidence to know they can do it too.”
Listening to our moms
We wondered if Tamara felt she was finally doing what she was destined to do. “Oh yes, that’s for sure. My mother was very smart. She told me, my sister and my brother from our earliest years that engineering was a career where, if you studied and applied yourself, you could always make a very good living. All three of us became engineers, so I guess my mom was onto something.” A three-time mom herself, and mentor to countless young learners and engineers over the years, we asked Tamara what advice she would give to up-and-coming engineers in the rapidly evolving engineering space. “I would tell them what my mother told me: Always put your best foot forward. Be diligent and be confident and that you really can make a difference in this world.”
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