“Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations” – Dr. Mae Jemison

Who is Najee Kitchens?

I found out my interest in the field of engineering in high school. I joined the all-female VEX Robotics team my Junior year and realized I enjoyed the challenge of creating a competitive robot, by way of coding, wiring, and mechanical design. My team made it to the world championship competition both my Junior and Senior year which were very proud and memorable experiences. I decided to major in Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech because I enjoyed the electrical and programming aspects of robotics. While there, I joined the engineering sorority, Alpha Omega Epsilon, to connect with other amazing women in STEM. I’m currently working at Acuity Brands, a lighting controls company, where I play a major role in automation and manual testing for one of there products.

Educational Background

Graduated from STEM charter school called GSMST

Bachelor’s degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

 

 

How did you choose to pursue this field?

I chose to pursue this field due to my robotics experience in high school.

 

Who was your inspiration or role model that guided you to this field?

My dad played a key role in guiding me to the field of engineering. He knew I was good at math and had more of an idea of what I could be interested in, before I decided I wanted to go down the engineering track. He also gave me advice and motivation for being successful in my industry which helps me continue to improve and work on my strengths and weaknesses.

 

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 had an interest in the engineering field. I thought about going to school for biomedical engineering because I was interested in robotic prosthetic limbs. I also thought about mechanical engineering because I enjoyed 3D modeling and building robots. I decided to go with computer engineering because I enjoyed software engineering and embedded systems the most when I did robotics.

 

What do you love most about your job or career?

I love that I feel like I’m making an impact on the quality of a product before it goes out for release to customers.

 

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your job or career?

The most rewarding aspect is finding problems and seeing those problems get solved by me or by the development team. Seeing fewer bugs in the products, means I’m doing something good for the company.

What things would you want to see changed about your current field of study or job?

I would like to get to a point where I don’t need to do manual testing as much by adding more to the automation testing.

What are the most difficult things or disappointing aspect of your job?

The most difficult aspect of my job is juggling my responsibilities of doing manual testing, automation testing, and helping others with side projects. It’s easier for me to focus on one problem to solve before moving to another one.

 

 

What tips would you offer to anyone thinking about entering into your profession/field of study?

I would tell anyone who’s thinking about going into engineering to first get an education or get hands-on experience in engineering. It’s also okay to not know how to do something or not know all of the answers. Say “I don’t know” and ask questions because no one knows all of the answers.

 

 

How have you combated the stigma of being a “woman of color” in STEM?

For me, I focused on getting my education in Computer Engineering more than anything else. I tried not to compare how well I did against others. I also think joining an engineering sorority gave me many examples of intelligence women in STEM doing amazing things. Believing that I’m good at what I do and understanding my value, is probably the best way that I combat the stigma everyday.

 

 

 

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?

I would tell my younger self that no one is better than you based on their appearance, attitude, or personality. Anyone can be successful and many of the successful ones have been told they would fail. Don’t let the “haters” keep you down.

 

 

 

Can you provide some words of wisdom to young ladies thinking about entering a STEM field as a career choice?

STEM is a very fun and creative field. There are many life improving and saving inventions that come out of the STEM field. Find what makes STEM fun and exciting for you. Nothing, not even the “haters” will be able to stop you from changing this world for the better!

 

 

 

What is your favorite quote?

“Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations” – Dr. Mae Jemison

I believe I apply this to my life very well. I recognize that I know myself the best. I know my strengths and weaknesses. So someone’s else’s opinions on what I can and can’t do doesn’t hold as much credibility or value as my opinion of myself. I set goals for myself because I want to push the boundary as far as it can go.

 

 

 

How has your family been a great influence or support system?

My family has had a great impact on my career journey. My mother is the reason why I went to a STEM high school. She found the application and told me that I should apply. She also researched and found a program that gave me a paid engineering internship with a matching scholarship. My dad has been supportive in giving me the advice I need to be successful in the professional world especially as a woman of color.

What are your future goals related to your career?

My future goal is to gain more experience in product development and/or get into an engineering management role.

What are some interesting facts about yourself that you would like to share?

I studied abroad in France my 2nd year in college and visited 10+ European countries. My hobbies include sewing, background acting, and providing life advice on social media platforms.

 

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.

 

 

Get In Touch

Email:

info@nyladenae.com

Phone:

(317) 910-8768

Mailing Address:

11923 NE Sumner St
STE 684294
Portland, Oregon, 97220, USA

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