Employee Spotlight – Patricia Flynn
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am the lead system engineer for a major software program, team lead to a group of high performing engineers, mom of 3 elementary kids who want my help and 1 college student who doesn’t, wife to an amazing software engineer who is also my best friend, volunteer for PTA and youth sports leagues, wine lover, beach and lake aficionado, and multi-tasking expert (haha, all true except sometimes I slip up on the last one!).
I have a BS and MS in Electrical Engineering from University of Southern California (GO TROJANS!!) and a Postgraduate Diploma in Business from University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. I was born and raised in California. My husband and I moved to the United Kingdom for 7 years then found our way to Lansdowne, VA where I will happily live for the rest of my life… or at least until the beach house is an option.
As a senior systems engineer at Northstrat, what is your daily routine like? Or is there one?
We try to keep a fairly low key rhythm of weekly meetings but lately it seems like the week is flying by and the daily routine is out. The pace is picking up on our program so every day can bring something new. Meetings with customers, design discussions for upcoming baselines, interface technical exchanges with industry partners all happen on a daily basis.
What aspect of your job do you enjoy most?
My absolutely favorite aspect is seeing a design finish development and get used by operations. I love getting first hand feedback on our product from our end users, seeing our vision realized and then watching a user explore flexibility in the system and evolve a capability. The best part about operators is that they are predictably unpredictable! As a system engineer you have to design in flexibility and allow a multitude of CONOPS.
What do you enjoy most about working for Northstrat?
Strong leadership that focuses on delivering solutions for customers. Small company that understands the importance of individuals and their families. My kids are as invested in Northstrat as I am, they look forward every year to the Northstrat events and seeing our president “Mr. Rick”.
What made you decide to become an engineer?
As a high school student I received a college recruiting flyer telling me if I like math and science I should consider engineering. My father (an accountant!) said electrical is the hardest. Everyone said the classes are only filled with boys. What can I say – I like a challenge! I started off with EE 101, designed my first circuit, and loved it ever since.
Did/do you have a mentor? Tell us about that person.
In my experience mentors are informal and usually don’t know that you are modeling your behavior after them. I’ve had a small number, 1 woman and 2 men. All three are excellent at focusing on what is important. There are so many things that can get in the way of delivering a good product to a customer: processes, policies, bad design choices, obstacles both real and imagined. My mentors taught me that the key is to ask the questions that help you navigate the obstacles and keep your eye on the end goal of making the mission successful.
Any advice for young girls who want to pursue STEM?
It is easy to feel intimidated in the STEM field. At first glance it appears everyone is smarter than you. I felt this way in high school math classes, college classes, at my first job, and in every new program I have worked. Confidence to ask questions and continuously learn is so important. It is okay not to know all the answers – trust me, the boys don’t always know all the answers! I’m a strong believer that the only dumb question is the one you don’t ask. Speak up, let your voice be heard, and contribute to the conversation – you may be the one who helps lead the team to best solution.