The Power Women of the Wire Harness Industry -Christina Trussell
This edition of the Power Women series features Christina Trussell, an aeronautical engineer from the Seattle, Washington area. As a child from a military family, Christina was exposed to the Navy; her father, grandfather, and generations prior were in the military. As a result, she joined the Navy right out of high school. She had no engineering influences or aspirations during secondary education. One of her fondest memories was watching the Blue Angels with her father and telling him that she wanted to do ‘that’ when she was a big girl.
Because Christina joined without a predetermined job, which constituted admission in the Undesignated Program, a job was assigned to her. She was placed on an aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan, based in San Diego, CA. She spent more time on the sea than on land. During that time period, she visited a career counselor to determine her next steps. Since she had a high aptitude per her test score on the ASVAB (the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery), she was advised that she could pursue any job in the Navy. She decided to become an Aviation Electronics Technician. She was placed in the role and received on-the-job training. She was also provided assessment training, which she learned individually. Although the standard training session comprised 51 days in Pensacola, Florida, she studied on her own and was able to take the assessment per the next exam cycle. She advanced to the next rate shortly after passing her first exam—about a month or two into her training. Also, during her naval days, she was in a squadron that worked on a helicopter program, MH 60 Romeos.
Christina was accepted at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University after being exposed to it in high school. She started attending college while she was still in the Navy. She completed an integrated online program which consisted of class room courses and structured online classes. As Christina wanted to move back to Washington, she was able to attend primarily via the 4 campuses in her state. The teachers often instructed her classes via live screen though sometimes, the teachers were physically present to teach the classes. While still attaining her degree, and completing her Navy time, she worked for ATS (Aviation Technical Services). She mainly worked on Southwest Airline aircrafts converting them to a new standard. She was very involved in trouble-shooting, point to point testing, and reworking of wiring.
Although she received a job offer from one company while attending a career fair held by Embry Riddle in Seattle, she was targeting Blue Origin for work because of the positive feedback she received from her mentors. Blue Origin was also present at the career fair, and Christina was selected to endure an arduous 3-round interview session. Christina’s first round interview consisted of a meet and greet with a manager followed by a second interview series with a 6-person panel and subsequently, thirty-minute one-on-one interview sessions. She was hired almost immediately as an integration engineer in the harness lab where harnesses were inspected, reworked, and built. Within a month, she was promoted to the leader of the harness lab. She then became a project manager and just recently moved to wire harness production engineering. She is currently the element between design and production; if there is a defect, she is the person to authorize correction of the problem.
Not only is Christina’s path less traditional because of the early military involvement, she also experienced additional challenges because she gave birth to and cared for children while attending college. While she may have had less time for studying and assignment completion, she certainly learned to manage her time effectively.
When asked about her experiences in a male-dominated field, Christina advised that about 20% of personnel on the aircraft carriers were female so she was already familiar with the lower female ratios prior to college. In terms of her college experience, she attended about 90% of her classes at one of the Washington State campuses and did not really notice an uneven male to female student ratio. At ATS, there were about 20 males to every female. As a progressive company founded in 2000, Blue Origin has several female engineers and has grown from less than 1400 employees upon her hire to over 3000 people now.
When asked about her recommendations for other females considering their futures, Christina strongly recommends engineering even more so than the military; she believes that she has many options as a result of her aeronautical degree. Her career is very rewarding and she advises that students persevere through the program despite the challenges.
Thank you, Christina, for sharing your story.
If you are interested in sharing the stories but missed the original WHN distribution, the articles are available on the Jana Diversity Solutions web- site at www.janadiversity.com, or at wiringharnessnews.com.
If you know a female engineer who would make a great candidate to feature in the Power Women series, please direct them to me at melissa. femia@janadiversity.