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Cassie Leonard

Aerospace engineer

After a successful career as an aerospace engineer, Cassie now coaches others on how to build a dream STEM career

Cassie Leonard comes from a family of engineers, with her aunt running her own engineering firm. By the age of 14, Cassie wanted to go into space and design space stations! 

“It never crossed my mind that I could not be an engineer, it was just logical to me,” Cassie says. 

Cassie started studying aerospace engineering at UCLA but quickly realised the airplane portion of aerospace was much more thrilling than the steady orbits of outer space. Top Gun airplanes, G forces, all very cool things, where you can still come back home to your own non-floating bed at the end of the day!

Buckle up for a lot of mechanical engineering, physics, calculus, chemistry and material science. And to understand and build airplanes, you’ve got to learn about how things interrelate and how loads travel between two forces, how a big object, like an airplane, moves through fluids, so welcome to fluid mechanics and thermodynamics. 

Cassie started as a graduate at Boeing (the world’s largest aerospace company) as a structural engineer, designing surveillance airplanes that defend the waters and look for submarines. 

It is not just about calculus though, although being an engineer calls for being methodical and structured, you also need to be a lifelong learner.

When Cassie started, she had to realise that there are so many parts to design and that before looking at the big picture of designing the airplane, you need to work as a team on each piece and make sure these integrate. And integration relies on communication between all the functions, so always be curious of all the other functions around you. 

Cassie moved through many functions to understand it all and was then able to a lead large team and be a knowledge broker in the company – facilitating communication between all the people who need to talk to each other, finding a common language to work together. 

Cassie started as the only woman in a team of 35 engineers but that did not stop her from creating a successful 16-year career at Boeing, exploring so many different parts. 

She then left Boeing as a mid-career leader in STEM, she published the book STEM Moms to help people build a great career which fits within a happy life of parenting. 

Cassie’s tip top career tip

“Don’t think about networking as a way to climb the ladder rather build a genuine support network by helping others and learning from them. This way, you can take bigger stretches because if you fall, you will have a safety net to help you bounce back.”

Cassie’s study and career path to aerospace engineer and advocate

  • Bachelor of Science (Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering), UCLA
  • Master of Science (Aerodynamics and Aerostructures), University of Sheffield
  • Applied 25 times to Boeing to get the job! Then keep asking on what is the next growth step to keep learning and moving
  • Maritime Mechanical Engineering Senior Leader, Boeing
  • Associate Certified Coach, International Coaching Federation
  • Professional career coach

Read more about aerospace engineering careers here.

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