Right out of college, I started working for Hercules Aerospace, where my father worked and both my brother and sister did internships—all of us engineers. Early in my career there, someone came up to me and said, “Oh, its another Walker” (my maiden name). Being the youngest in a family of engineers and having a very strong support system in place, the comment pushed me to make a name for myself. I didn’t want to just be “George’s daughter,” despite being proud of that.
You have to work very hard and stretch yourself. Never give up and never ever think you can’t do it. It is very important to be intellectually curious. One of the things that I truly enjoy is learning something new. If you challenge yourself and work with others who have been through similar situations, you can get over any hurdles.
In my career, I moved from very technical mechanical design work to program management—running the International Space Station program—and ultimately to running a global division of a multi-industry, multi-national company. Moving from an analytical/design perspective to the challenges you face when you actually have to build and market something taught me that you shouldn’t be focused in one narrow area. You have to be able to understand all areas of a particular business and understand how they relate to the bigger picture.
Be skilled at what you do best, deliver results, broaden your thinking, be committed to making a difference and follow your dreams. Those are attributes that will pull you through tough times and ultimately make you successful. These traits will also attract other people who want to work with you. You will only be as good as your ability to integrate ideas and experience from others around you to create a better solution.