In this episode, we had the pleasure to speak with Kelani Morin, Vice President of Engineering at Badger Technology Group, a US-based company focused on providing avionic and mission systems integration capabilities and solutions. drawing on expert software, hardware and systems engineers from leading technology and aerospace companies and the US military. Today, she will be sharing with us her perspective on being a woman in the Aerospace industry and tips on how we can inspire young girls to get interested in the field.
Elisa - Thank you Kelani for being here and joining us this morning. Please introduce yourself.
Kelani - Thank you. My name is Kelani Morin and I've always been an aerospace enthusiast starting at a very young age. I went to school at the University of North Dakota and I started there in electrical engineering. They didn't have an aerospace program at the time and I really didn't think I was going into aerospace engineering anyway, because I felt like that would limit options. And I didn't want to be limited to one industry over another. So, I thought electrical would probably give me the widest range of opportunities. That's the path that I chose when I was a junior.
They added an aerospace focus later on, which was perfect because the University of North Dakota has a really strong aviation program for actual flight training. And part of the focus was to get your private pilot's license. So I talked to my advisor, and I was like “That's exactly what I want to do.”
Elisa - How did you manage to have time? Being at college and then having these lessons in order to learn how to fly a plane? I mean, how did you do that?
Kelani - So it definitely extended my stay at the UN. I was there for six and a half years, which was okay. I had a bachelor's degree in a minor in math and then all of the flight training. I got married while I was still at college and then two years later had a child. So my first son was nine months old when I started flying. There was a whole lot of craziness. It was one of the things where I talked a little bit about life lessons and I tended to not necessarily take the easiest route, but I was stubborn and determined and unwilling to fail at it.
So I stuck with everything and regardless of how difficult things might've been one way or another, I figured out how to get through it.
Elisa - You have such a long experience in the engineering industry. How did you manage to work in different areas? You started as electrical, then you went to problem management where you lead a lot of teams.
Kelani When you work really hard at building a team or building relationships with people that are in positions that have the power to make decisions, then getting things done tends to be a little bit easier. Certainly you have to be assertive when necessary, but taking a collaborative approach tends to get things done a lot faster than, if you're going to just try to, you know, be a directive and do it my way type attitude, the more people that you can get together.
And when it comes to trying to figure out the best solution, the better off you're actually going to be, because I'm a big supporter of getting people together and laying out all of the different ideas on the table.
And very often what comes out of an event like that is an idea that nobody actually came to the table with it. It generally is a combination of multiple things. And you find that you end up with the best option by working that way. So I very much have taken the approach of bringing people together, the people that are the biggest naysayers or the most difficult personalities to work with. A lot of times you find out that it's because they feel like they haven't been listened to, or maybe they've presented ideas and they've been shot down.
So then they kind of start to get bitter or dig their heels in and they can be really difficult. But when you come at them and approach them by saying, “I'm really interested in what your thoughts are and I value what you bring to the table”, that opens up a whole nother dialogue.
Elisa - Being able to listen to the others. Yeah, definitely building other relationships. I think that is the strongest or the key to a successful team. And about being a woman in the industry? Do you feel like there are a lot of girls right now, now that when you started?
Kelani - Honestly from the different companies that I've worked in, I would have to say that the percentage of women in the engineering field, I don't see a lot of difference as far as the number of women. I don't know if that necessarily has to do with some of the aerospace and defense areas that have specifically worked in.
I know my understanding is that it's like in biomedical engineering and some of those fields that, you know, chemical engineering there tends to be a lot more women joining those specific disciplines. But I would say that percentage wise, aerospace and defense has probably been pretty stable.
Elisa - Since you are working in a small company, what would you say the advantages are? Do you hace anything to do with the procurement process by any chance?
Kelani - It's giving me an opportunity to bring experience from some of the larger companies I have worked with. Having that experience to be able to bring some knowledge as to what worked in different places and, and in different circumstances, having that background and being able to help with some of the early decisions with processes and how we want to structure tools and going about things to, to set ourselves up, to be successful, having a role in that is really rewarding.
And so I'm not shy about stepping in if I adhere to something, you know, from the quality or procurement realm or, or even, you know, talking a little bit about production and what has worked well and knowing a little bit about lean manufacturing and that kind of thing. Being able to apply all of that experience in one location and one company as we're, we're growing and, and building a strong foundation to really grow and become a major player in the aerospace world.
Elisa - Since Control Hub is procure-to-pay software, I can’t help but ask: How do you manage the procurement process at the company? Have you faced any challenges there?
Kelani - So where we've had some challenges, some of it just has to do with some basic process that we're working on, getting it put in place. There are things related to approving suppliers, doing some additional due diligence and who we want to work with.
I think that we're headed in a really good direction on some of our proposals that we're working on with who we want to partner as suppliers.
Elisa - How do you leverage resources to promote women in the industry?
Kelani - In the world of social media, getting information out to people. I think there's a lack of understanding of what the world of engineering really is, what the world of engineering can be for women. I think getting information out to people is key.
There's a lot of times where I've gone to schools and talked to young people and they really don't fully understand what engineering even is. So I think working with young people and talking to girls about how it is cool to be interested in math, and it is cool to be interested in science and not to kind of allow people that have ideas that, you know, women should be pushed into teaching or nursing, there it's, our society tends to kind of overlook women in stem.
So I think starting with elementary and junior high girls, anybody who expresses an interest in math and science to start fostering that really early, I think once you get into college and people have kind of been, have had guidance to go into other fields, that's almost a little bit late to spark the interest in engineering and technology.
So I would definitely encourage anybody who is in engineering today, that outreach is huge.
Elisa - Any other last advice you can give to our audience?
Kelani - I guess probably just to end with, just go for it. If it's something that you're interested in, don't let anybody else talk you out of it. If that's what you want to do, do it again, be unapologetically yourself and make sure that you're focused on where you want to go in life and not being a people pleaser in that you're worried about somebody thinking that you're not going the right direction. It's your life to make the decisions. And if you're really truly interested in engineering, don't let anybody hold you back. You can do it.
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