Don’t be afraid of big changes as it relates to your career. Success calls for discomfort.”
Who is Jirah Taylor?
My name is Jirah Taylor, I’m 22 years old, and I recently graduated from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. I’m originally from Gary, Indiana and I’m now currently residing in the Bay Area.
“I am a pioneer”
Bachelor’s Degree in Aeronautical Engineering Technology
2019 School of Aviation and Transportation Technology Outstanding Senior of the Year, 2019 Charles O. McGaughey Leadership Award, 2019 Emerging Leaders and Boiler Mentor Professional Impact Award
How did you choose to pursue this field?
I was always working with my hands and trying to figure out how to fix things around the house as well as thinking of new ways to do challenging tasks at a very young age. When I arrived at Purdue University, I knew I wanted to do something that was interesting, I didn’t hear too much about (something that wasn’t typical), and where there was room for growth after college so that’s why I chose my major. That is what led me to Aerospace.
Who was your inspiration or role model that guided you to this field?
My grandmother played a huge role in me being where I am today. I think it’s important to listen to the women who came before us and take what we can from those conversations. She used to work at the Steel Mill where she was the only Black woman working there at the time. Because of the lack of opportunities for Black women when she was working, she really encouraged me to pursue this field and to stick with it.
Did you always have the desire to work in this field? If not, what was your intended field? Why did you change careers?
I always excelled in my math and science classes so I figured that meant that I would become an engineer. However, I didn’t actually know what area I would go into until college because my decision to go into aerospace was pretty spontaneous.
What do you love most about your job?
I love the endless opportunities that surround me and I love working with such an amazing group of people. I learn something new every day. I also love the flexibility. Being a Black woman in the Space field is incredibly exciting because I constantly think about how many things are out there for me to accomplish. Unfortunately, we were not always able to step into fields like this. Because of that, it gives me room to pave the way and achieve goals that were previously unreachable. I have the opportunity to show little Black girls that they can do this too.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your job or career?
Being able to network with established people/seasoned professionals to help me learn how to take my career to the next level.
What things would you change about your job?
What has been the most difficult or disappointing aspect of your job?
I would say moving across the country. I had to adapt to a new environment and it took me out of my comfort zone. It was very exciting as well as intimidating.
How have you combated the stigma of being a “woman of color” in STEM?
Before coming in, I actually thought it would be very challenging and I would constantly be doubted but that hasn’t been my experience at all. Once I was able to meet my team and everyone else around me, they made me feel welcomed like I was actually a part of the team. I’m grateful because I know my job experience isn’t everyone else’s. However, when I was in college, I constantly had to repeat myself and work harder to show that I was just as good. Almost every team I was in, I wasn’t acknowledged. In situations like that, I would focus on doing my part and showing my professor what I have done every step of the way for my own protection and letting them know what was occurring in the group I was in.
What tips would you offer for anyone thinking about entering into your profession?
Go for it with everything you have. Envision where you want to be in the end. It’s about the bigger picture. You can’t let people deter you from what you want to do. You have to stay focused. Make sure you have a good support system and be selective with the people you allow into your life because you have a goal and you can’t get distracted. Listen to people because everyone you meet knows something you don’t but take everything with a grain of salt.
What advice would you give your younger self about your career journey as a “woman of color” working in a predominantly white, male-dominated field?
You have always been capable and will always be. As Beyonce said, “None of my fears can go where I’m headed.” Be confident in yourself and your abilities and continuously work on bettering yourself.
Can you provide some words of wisdom to young ladies thinking about entering a STEM field as a career choice?
Work on your confidence, get out there and build your network, and don’t be afraid to put yourself first. Go to as many conferences and workshops as you can to help prepare yourself. Don’t be afraid of big changes as it relates to your career. Success calls for discomfort. Never ever doubt yourself or your skills. Don’t let imposter syndrome have you out here passing up opportunities that were meant for YOU.
What is your favorite Quote? How do you apply this to your life?
“If what I’ve done today doesn’t prepare me for tomorrow, then I haven’t been good to me.” – Author Unknown. I think this quote is so powerful because bettering yourself is a continuous thing. There’s always something that could be done better. If at any point I get complacent, I have this quote on my mirror to remind me that my goals cannot be achieved if I am not always working on them. If I’m not doing something to prepare myself everyday, then it will take me longer to reach my end goal.
What are your future goals related to your career?
I’m new to my career and it’s unknown what I will be exposed to so my goals may change which is ok. When provided with new information, it may open a path to new opportunities. Right now, I really want to focus on building my technical reputation and then possibly manage several teams.
How has your family influenced your journey and provide support?
My family has been very supportive. It was very difficult for them to see me leave and be so far away but they know that I’m doing something great while taking advantage of opportunities that many of them didn’t have the opportunity to do when they were my age.
Contact Jirah Taylor for any further questions:
We hope you enjoyed learning about our latest “STEMsation”, please comment about how her experiences have inspired you, how your experiences can inspire others and nominate our next “STEMsation to spotlight their amazing accomplishments.