Thought Leadership

Who inspired YOU to be an engineer?

2020 Thought Leaders

Nancy Seleski
Director, Supply Chain Services & Quality
My father graduated with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Montana State University in 1956. I graduated with the same degree in 1986. So, for certain, my father inspired me to be an engineer. I was good in math and science, and I wanted to have a career where I could maximize the use of those skills and earn a good living. I didn't necessarily have a good idea of what a chemical engineer did going into it, but I was also able to work during college days summers at the aluminum refining plant where my father worked. It allowed me to be introduced to a manufacturing environment and see first hand what engineers did. It was fascinating to me. There is no doubt that I chose the right career for me.
Innovative technology for a changing world.
Tom Walski
Bentley Fellow
I grew up in a coal mining town in Appalachia. I could see around me all sorts of environmental problems such as strip mining, deforestation, acid mine drainage, raw sewage in streams, sulfurous air quality, poor drinking water quality and erosion. With my math undergraduate degree and interest in the environment, I felt that being an environmental engineer would be a way to help make the world better. I would never run out of challenges. I didn’t actually meet an engineer until I showed up for graduate school at Vanderbilt University. My professors there were inspirational and led me into a rewarding career.
Bentley provides global engineering software solutions.
Dr. John Tracy
Chief Technology Officer
I became interested in aerospace when I was very young. When I was about 5 years old, my dad gave me a model of a plane called the X-15. It was a rocket plane developed by North American Aviation (which later became part of Boeing), where he worked, and NASA. The X-15 was only 50 feet long and had a 22-foot wingspan, but it could fly at hypersonic speeds at over 300,000 feet altitudes. The flights it made helped pave the way for manned spaceflight. I couldn’t believe that this plane with such small wings could do so much. I had this X-15 model hanging over my bed by threads, and I would stare at it every night when I went to sleep. And I know there are a lot of people here at Boeing who fell asleep every night staring at airplanes hanging from their ceiling. We have a passion for aerospace and engineering, and we're inspired by our creations because they still evoke a sense of awe within us - just like when we were kids. As children, we were all sketching new airplanes that could go faster, farther or higher. Today, as engineers, we're turning those visions into new wonders of technology and innovation.
Boeing is the world's largest aerospace company.
Sara Ortwein
My path as an engineer was forged by my passion and commitment to make a difference in the world…a real, tangible difference to contribute to solutions that make the world a better place—for all. Every day, since my career began as a drilling engineer in 1980, I am inspired by my colleagues and our mission to meet the ever rising global demand for energy. As an engineer I get to work on some of the toughest challenges in the world, and so my commitment to my profession and my colleagues is unwavering. Programs like ‘Introduce a Girl to Engineering,’ which is designed to create excitement and interest in math and science among middle school girls, are a wonderful first step in sparking that passion for our young women. Women looking for more opportunity in the workforce and a career that allows them to truly make a difference need to look no further than careers related to STEM– science, technology, engineering and math. My own career as an engineer at ExxonMobil is just one example of what you can do with a strong STEM background. Engineers do indeed make a world of difference
Together, we can inspire the next generation of engineers.
Dr. Timothy Unruh
I started in college struggling in a life-sciences major, just going through the motions. After my first semester, I observed my best friend Don, who was studying engineering, becoming more engaged in his studies. I decided, what was good for Don, was good for me, and I became an engineer! The change proved to be a good one, and as I grew familiar with the electrical engineering staff at Wichita State University, they too encouraged and inspired me to become the engineer I am today. I look back and have no regrets, my engineering studies have proven useful not just in technical expertise, but also in management, leadership, marketing and presentation – frankly, the choice for engineering, for me, was one of the most important decisions of my life. Thanks, Don! #inspired2engineer
DOE/FEMP provides energy management leadership to the nation
Glenn Gilkey
Executive Vice President, Human Resources & Administration
From an early age I was interested in science and mechanics. Taking things apart and trying to figure out how they worked was a passion for me and a frustration to my father, who often had to fix what I had taken apart. That may be why my parents gave me so many chemistry and erector sets. I grew up watching the early days of manned space flight, and marveled at these machines that could take people into space. When I learned that engineers take science, math and physics and put it to practical use to make the world better, I knew that this was the career for me. My father owned his own company, selling heating and air conditioning systems to commercial building contractors in El Paso, Texas. I got my start helping my father bid and work construction jobs. My last summer at the University of Texas I interned with DuPont in Orange, Texas. While it was a great opportunity to work for a great company, that is when I decided I wanted to work for the companies that build these large plants rather than running them. That is how I found a great career with Fluor. To this day, when I see the enormous projects that Fluor designs and constructs, I feel the same excitement and awe that I did as a young boy.
Leading engineering construction company.
Gene Fraser
Vice President Programs, Quality and Engineering
I was fortunate to have three significant moments which led me to engineering. First, as a "C" student, I was surprised to find myself in an advanced, Algebra class in 8th grade. The leadership at my parochial school must have seen a glimmer of light. The class was taught by a very dedicated woman, Ms. Herring. She worked a second job in retail sales near my home to make ends meet. Ms. Herring found I could solve problems in my head. The class was my first "A" in math. Algebra of course, is one of the basics for engineering. My second moment of good fortune was having Sister Joan for science in high school. She made science exciting, helping me see that I could do well in hard subjects. Late in our senior year we learned the remarkable truth about Sister Joan, when she began using her first and last name. It was Joan Marconi, a direct descendant of Guglielmo Marconi, the Nobel Prize-winning electrical engineer and inventor, known for his pioneering work on long-distance radio transmission and for his development of Marconi's law and a radio telegraph system. We now understood the source of Sister Joan's passion for science and her ability to share with others. The third moment of inspiration was in my first year at a junior college. This is when I learned how my budding passion for chemistry could be used to create grand systems. I learned about the exciting field of chemical engineering from my mechanical drawing professor Al Arrand, who introduced me to other chemical engineering students. Because of Al Arrand, and the breadth of chemical engineering applications, I have had a rewarding career as a Marine, a test pilot, and now as an engineering executive at Northrop Grumman.
Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company.
Sada Iyer
Manager, Cost Leadership

My parents inspired me to be an engineer. My uncle was an engineer and often told me stories of the different countries he traveled to while working on Petrochemical projects. My parents knew that I was very interested in science and in travelling the world. So they used that as a hook to get me interested in engineering. Their mantra was, “Enjoy seeing the world and actually make some money doing that”. From the seventh grade onwards, I would participate in Science fairs and Engineering exhibitions to cultivate and deepen my knowledge of engineering. Building “big” things always fascinated me and a Shell Petrochemical plant that was close to where we lived in India always impressed me with its size and noiseless operations. I have a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering which provides me with the balance that I have always sought – pursuing my passion for science and travelling the world building “big” things. Meet Shell Engineers and discover who inspired them!  

Shell is a global group of energy & petrochemical companies.