Young A&D Professional: Yasmine Straka

Mechanical Engineer
Raytheon
B.S., University of Arizona, Mechanical Engineering

When did you first decide to take STEM courses and/or pursue a career in engineering? Who was most influential in your decision making?

When I was a high school junior, I wanted to pursue in college a degree in the arts – specifically, music and creative writing.  Just before completing my junior year, one of my math teachers proposed an opportunity……a mechanical engineering internship at a local aerospace company. At the time, I saw it as an opportunity to take half days my senior year and make some additional money.  I had no idea it would change my life’s trajectory! Throughout that internship, I learned that engineering is one of the most creative career fields.  It allows you to think about problems, come up with creative solutions, watch your creations come to life and see them used in the real world! Fast forward to today, not only am I still in STEM, I am pursuing a career as a mechanical engineer in the aerospace field.

Having an opportunity early on in STEM allowed me to fulfill my desire to be creative and have a lasting positive impact in the world. It had such an impact on me that I was inspired to start a non-profit organization, S.Y.STEM Coalition, focused on bringing opportunities in the local STEM industry to students! My employer, Raytheon, has been an incredible supporter of our mission, providing both grant funding and volunteers to help inspire students in STEM all throughout the southwest!  Last year, Raytheon was a major sponsor of S.Y.STEM Coalition’s Jr. Shark Tank program – a hands-on, immersive summer camp for high school students focused on teaching the basic principles of systems engineering and entrepreneurship. Raytheon partnered with S.Y.STEM Coalition to bring 60 low income middle school girls to the Raytheon facility.  The girls went on several tours of the site and were mentored over lunch by female Raytheon STEM professionals.

What do you do in your job?

I do a combination of mechanical design and strategy. I am the mechanical lead for a new program designed to counter drones that pose a threat to our Army forces. I am also the strategy lead for a portion of the R&D money spent by Raytheon to defend the American homeland. I love what I do because I feel a sense of pride being even a small part of keeping people safe both at home and on the battlefield.

Why do you like your job?

I love coming to work every day because of the challenging work, the positive impact my work makes on the world and the way Raytheon enables me to constantly learn new things to solve emerging problems. My company encourages an environment of diversity and collaboration that truly allows employees to grow and continuously stretch their skills.

Any advice to young students wanting to pursue a career in engineering and enter the aerospace industry?

Deciding to go into STEM was the best and most life-altering decision I have ever made. I had many misconceptions about STEM when I was younger.   I thought I wasn’t “smart enough” and that engineering was not a profession that allowed me to explore my creativity. I couldn’t have been more mistaken. Don’t get me wrong, it has been a challenging journey, filled with failures and difficulties, but absolutely worth the effort!  If you are interested in STEM, my advice is to GO FOR IT! You may be surprised what you can do!