“We never fail… we learn.” -Aisha Bowe
Starting as a community college student with no idea who she wanted to be when she grew up, Aisha Bowe spent a lot of time having anxiety around testing, and basically existing, because she was afraid she was going to do it wrong. But in a state of relaxation, she realized that really complicated things that usually come as a challenge to people, she was doing with ease. Bowe embarked on a career journey as a NASA rocket scientist, and she is the founder and CEO of STEMBoard. She even tries to get the next generation of talent excited about STEM careers through a product called Lingo.
In this episode of the Security Clearance Careers podcast, Bowe details her experiences after college as an aerospace engineer, how intimidating it was to work at NASA (and how she gained some confidence), how educating younger kids about her work at NASA inspired her to start her own business(es), the importance of getting the next generation excited about cleared engineering careers, and how she does that through an engineering coding kit for kids and teens that allows them to build projects and get them excited about STEM.
Looking down the alphabetical list of engineering careers at the University of Michigan, the first one just happened to be aerospace, and Bowe began her journey to space.
Was self-talk, imposter syndrome, or any other self-doubt (that especially females experience in this space) an issue for you? “This is a continuous thing – I have to reaffirm how I think and how I feel on a daily basis.” Bowe notes that the performance issue that you may be facing may not be tied to your ability, it’s tied to your anxiety. Recognizing this allowed her to take advantage of techniques she uses to this day to manage her anxiety. Even though it took her several years to work on her imposter syndrome, her successful career did not falter because of it.
For our younger audience listening who are thinking about what kind of field to get into, what kind of minds fit in well for engineering careers? “There is no one right background,” Bowe says. “Resilience and the ability to rationally analyze the situation.” Even though Aisha wasn’t originally focused on engineering, it was a byproduct of her environment and every step of the way. She wasn’t raised by engineers, and in fact was told by a guidance counselor that she should do cosmetology. “All the things that I thought went wrong, actually went right. And it was in those situations where I had to be resilient, in the situations that caused me the most pain that allowed me to grow.” If you’re interested in engineering, it’s possible to come in and engineer solutions without being classically trained. “Starting a business is hard. Starting a career is hard – but that doesn’t mean that you can be successful in it.”
What kind of day-to-day impact have you seen from all the roles you’ve performed in?
Aisha has seen the day-to-day impact outreach and her community college years have had on her career through STEMBoard and helping to support the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) solve national security problems, through engaging and exciting young kids about STEM projects through Lingo, and soon will even find herself in space. She will be the first Black woman to fly with BLUE ORIGIN on the New Shepard, a fully reusable suborbital launch vehicle, and is expected to be the sixth Black woman to cross the Kármán line – the internationally recognized boundary of space.