Women's Mentoring Program
At the Center for Success Center in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, we are seeking to diversify the fields of engineering and computer science while providing resources for our students to become workforce ready as they plan their careers. One of those resources is the Women’s Mentor Program, a year-long experience available to sophomore, junior, and senior students.
The mentors who make up the Women’s Mentor Program are experienced professionals who are willing to share their knowledge with students to help develop life skills for success. The mentor acts as a coach and role model to support a student with their personal growth and career development. The program provides a great opportunity for professionals to counsel and influence the next generation of leaders. Being a mentor provides personal satisfaction as well as the ability to increase the workforce readiness of future recruits.
The objectives of the program:
- With the support of a practiced professional, students will bring goals into focus and identify actions required to reach objectives.
- Students will learn and practice communication and networking skills.
- Students will develop professional competence to ease the transition into the workforce.
- Students will gain a deeper understanding of how their academic learning applies to the world of work.
- Students will have access to a role model who can provide guidance and psychosocial support.
Enrolling in the Women’s Mentor Program:
Self-motivated CECS majors in their Sophomore, Junior, or Senior years who are ready to network and be challenged should consider taking part of this unique program. Students will be invited to apply in the spring semester for the following academic year.
Interested professionals who identify as female or non-binary in the fields of engineering and computer science are welcome to reach out to the program director to discuss serving as a mentor. Reach out to [email protected].
Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) - Product Delivery Manager, Technology & Innovation
Jessica Gann is Product Delivery Manager for Tennessee Valley Authority's Technology and Innovation organization where she leads a team of Software Engineers responsible for enterprise-wide foundational software systems. Jessica began her interest in technology right out of high school in the early days of the internet and web design where she entered the work force as a web application developer and found a passion for programming and all things databases. Throughout her career she has worked in many industries as Software Engineer, Database Administrator (DBA), and even Manager but always making a point to learn new skills and challenge herself along the way. In her spare time, she takes care of dozens of plants, loves traveling and exploring with her daughter and husband, and of course, learning and bettering herself both humanly and technically. Mentoring is a passion for Jessica because she was once that person in need of mentoring and it proved to be vital to her growth throughout her career.
Work Philosophy: Never stop learning. Always find ways to challenge yourself, and you will love what you are getting paid to do therefore it will shine through in your work.
Best Advice for Students: Everything is temporary. Just because you aren't seeing the results you desire or aren't on the exact path you intend to be on, stick with it, things will ultimately work out for you.
Jessica Would Like to Mentor: Any student who is driven, questioning, and humble. But one who is, most of all, passionate about bringing change for the greater good of those around them and those who will follow in their footsteps.
Stanley Black & Decker – Product Design Engineer, Heavy Applications
Erin joined the Heavy Applications Engineering group at Stanley Black & Decker (SBD) in June of 2021. Few people are aware of the impact SBD’s family of brands has on such a wide variety of industries. Stanley’s reach ranges from household appliances to power tools to railroad maintenance technology. Several years ago, SBD acquired Paladin, a brand which specialized in providing attachments for excavators, skid steers, wheel loaders, and other heavy equipment.
Prior to joining Stanley, Erin worked for as a Process Engineer Intern at Duracell, a Facilities Management Intern at Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), a Senior Maintenance Technician at Gestamp, and a Skilled Team Member at Volkswagen. Each job was a step in a slightly different direction and came with its own unique set of difficulties and opportunities for growth. Persevering through discrimination and subversion, breaking out of natural introversion and self-reliant tendencies, and learning to lead teams to accomplish and exceed goals.
Erin was raised in a rural town just west of Chattanooga and acquired two Associates of Applied Science degrees from Chattanooga State before graduating from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2021 with a B.A.S. in Mechatronics Engineering Technology. She recently married (if you like Hallmark movies, ask her how she met her husband). She enjoys spending her free time riding motorcycles, introducing her husband to the finer points of being a cultured country bumpkin, and hanging out with her nieces and nephews.
Work Philosophy: Never stop learning and carry that “student” mentality your whole life. If you make a mistake, be humble and open to guidance. When you encounter an issue, don’t just complain about it; gather a few possible solutions and present that as an opportunity.
Best Advice for Students: It’s never too late to start over. Sometimes you must try something before you know it’s not what you want. There’s a difference between persevering through a short-term roadblock and staying in a bad situation because you feel trapped. Take calculated risks.
Erin Would Like to Mentor: A student who has a genuine interest in personal and professional development. Someone who always asks “why?” and doesn’t stop until they achieve an answer they’re satisfied with.
Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. – Civil Analyst
Karina Jensen is a Civil Analyst in the Water/Wastewater Department at Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. (Kimley-Horn) in the Mobile, AL office. As an analyst, she provides preliminary analysis and design calculations for water/wastewater distribution systems in addition to conducting field work and observations. Her professional passions originated from connecting and maintaining the utility hook ups for the RV during family vacations across the country.
Karina holds a BS in Civil Engineering from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC), is a veteran of the United States Coast Guard, and a former center defender for UTC’s Women’s Soccer team. She lives in Daphne, AL but is originally from Memphis, TN. When Karina is not in the office, she is spending quality time with her English Lab -Diesel, embracing her love of the great outdoors, or training for an upcoming race.
Work Philosophy: Nourish others, do everything with integrity, work hard, and have a good attitude. Karina’s father once told her about the following quote from Charles Swindoll, “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it… we are in charge of our attitudes.” Support your coworkers, friends, and family and they will be there when you need them most. Be honest with yourself and others so that your word and actions can be trusted.
Best Advice for Students: Listen to yourself and explore your own passions. Never be afraid to ask questions. Embrace every opportunity and challenge because you never know what you will discover when you do something you thought you couldn’t do.
Karina Would Like to Mentor: Someone who is adventurous, a lifelong learner, not afraid to take healthy risks, and has high expectations for themselves.
Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) – HR Business Partner (Manager)
Jodie has worked at Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) for about 13 years in a variety of progressively advanced roles. She is currently an HR Business Partner for Operations where she and her team partner with executive leaders to improve the employee experience, drive engagement, and influence strategic outcomes. She graduated from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga with degrees in Biochemistry and Engineering Management, and her interest in understanding the science of people has led to her current pursuit of a master’s degree in Organizational Psychology from Austin Peay State University. She began her career at TVA as an intern and was hired on as an Environmental Scientist to ensure compliance and minimize risk for transmission projects. From there, she took on a role leading the enterprise-wide power supply planning process, developing TVA’s first seasonal reserve margin, and improving modeling of batteries and renewable resources to inform TVA’s asset strategy. Her passion for learning and serving others was quickly recognized which led to opportunities researching emerging industry issues to inform TVA’s strategic direction, creating alignment and cohesion for a newly formed and growing commercial energy team, and in Human Resources where she spearheaded the enterprise transformation to hybrid work and championed pandemic relief response before being selected for her current role in leadership.
Outside of work, Jodie can be found at the climbing gym, on local trails, or at home with her husband and their three beloved senior dogs. She has a goal to complete at least 60 shifts at the Chattanooga Community Kitchen in 2022, serves as a Community Investment Volunteer Advocate for United Way of Greater Chattanooga, and is on the Board of Directors for Girls on the Run of Southeast TN. Her weaknesses include terrible reality TV and enthusiastically starting new hobbies.
Work Philosophy: Build credibility through integrity and accountability, and by authentically nurturing your network. Leverage that credibility to follow your curiosity and achieve goals. Independently develop your personal boundaries and empower yourself and others to honor them.
Best Advice for Students: Remain open-minded and give yourself grace to grow. Recognize that every aspect of your life (work, school, relationships, etc.) should be fulfilling in some way and that what you find fulfilling is allowed to change over time. Name your values and use them to evaluate decisions so that your path reflects who you want to be.
Jodie Would Like to Mentor: Any student who is curious and willing to share their questions, experiences, and perspective.
SmartRent (SMRT) - Embedded Software Engineer
As a homegrown Chattanoogan, Ace enjoys igniting change both in the local tech community and the city through education and activism. They have worked at the Company Lab and Visionario supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem locally and for the county government redesigning their website with accessibility (WCAG) in mind. Pre-COVID, they volunteered in local middle schools teaching coding alongside teachers. Currently, Ace works as a software engineer at SmartRent creating firmware for new IoT hardware hubs. In their spare time they dance, read webcomics, and hang out at one of the community veggie gardens.
Work Philosophy: Fill in the gaps. Find the features or processes being overlooked and create solutions there. This often has the greatest impact on your team and your users.
Best Advice for Students: Do the things you are interested in, rather than the things you think are required. To pick, think strategically about the value you are receiving or creating. You cannot do both, the “good to have” and the things that interest you, fully without burning out. It is okay to pick just one
Ace Would Like to Mentor: Someone who wants to start something (a project, a business, a fight, etc)
Google - Senior Data Center Engineer
Mary Opalka is a senior data center engineer at Google. In her role she collaborates with the Operations and Design teams to develop the data center (DC) mechanical designs, starting from project conception to issue for construction (IFC) for new DC projects build outs and major infrastructure upgrades. She also contributes to new technology insertions through collaboration with the core engineering teams during development and creates system level concept and schematics designs, and carry through to detailed designs to ensure requirements are met. In short, Mary manages all site-level mechanical system issues during the project design and construction phases and identifies and resolves issues with the cross-functional program teams.
Mary has had this role for 3 years. Prior to joining Google, she worked for a mechanical contractor in Washington state for 2 years and spent the 8 years prior to that in Washington DC doing anything from standard writing to design to construction to commissioning. Some of her favorite projects she has ever worked on are The Catalyst Building in Spokane, WA (a NetZero office and education building) and Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB - a particle accelerator) at MSU in Lansing, MI.
Mary was raised in Scranton, PA and graduated from Wilkes University with a BS in Mechanical Engineering. She also has a Masters in Engineering Management from UTC. She enjoys spending her free time traveling and spending quality time with her family.
Work Philosophy: You are replaceable at work but not at home. Work hard during your work time but don't neglect yourself or your family for work.
Best Advice for Students: Your degree is just a starting point not your whole definition. STEM fields are very broad and there's a lot of opportunity to do something outside your standard role. Reach for it!
Mary Would Like to Mentor: Someone trying to figure out what they want to be when they grow up - we can figure it out together!
Miller Industries - Business Systems Analyst [IT]
Sarah Thomas is a Business Systems Analyst within the Information Technology department at Miller Industries. She started there as a Quality Engineering intern in the spring of 2018. Prior to this, she worked as an intern at EPB in both the Engineering and Fiber Design departments. She completed two years of her undergraduate degree in Industrial Engineering at UTK and finished with dual degrees in Industrial Engineering and Engineering Technology Management at UTC.
At Miller Industries, she has worked on multiple projects throughout her career that have made an impact on where she is today. While an intern, her most important project was improving the PDI (Pre-Delivery Inspection) process. She created a solution that utilized technology to solve reporting, communication, and analysis gaps in the business process. A few months after delivering the proof-of-concept to her manager, she accepted a full-time position in IT as a Business Systems Analyst. Since then, that project has gone live, and she has managed and supported multiple other IT business solution projects for the company. These projects include the implementation of a training platform, supplier portal, and various applications for Operations.
When Sarah is not working, she is spending time with her dogs, playing board games, or doing something related to food. She also rotates between rollerblading, learning Mandarin, and piano every three months when she starts to forget the last thing she learned.
Work Philosophy: It is up to the individual how much purpose they want to derive from their work. That being said, it is much more enjoyable to spend your time and energy doing something you want to do instead of something you have to do. Do something that incorporates your passions and that you can be proud of.
Best Advice for Students: Approach everyone you interact with as someone who can teach you something, and be willing to listen to ideas even more than you share them. Early in your career, you will often find yourself less knowledgeable than your more experienced coworkers. You can either stay unknowing, ask questions, or do your own research. The last two options will help you in every aspect of your career. Lastly, once you do gain knowledge, appreciate the work it took to get there and be patient and willing to share it with others so that they can grow as well. People remember when you help them.
Sarah Would Like to Mentor: Any student who understands and appreciates that learning will continue throughout their entire career. They should be both excited for it and willing to work through the challenges they will face. They should also find value in getting to know others and their diverse experiences. Due to my background, I think I could provide the most benefit for someone interested in technology, business process improvement, or project management.
Mueller Water Products - Process Engineer
Career Path and Personal Passions: Chanel Booker is currently a Process Engineer at Mueller Water Products where her primary duties include process optimization, process documentation and root cause analysis of various water distribution products. Chanel has had an interest in engineering since a young age and decided during high school that a degree in Mechanical Engineering would be a good fit and began attending UTC in the Fall of 2014. The highlight of her college experience was her senior project in which she got to be on UTC’s first NASA University Student Launch Initiative team: a yearlong process of designing, building, and testing a rocket to eventually launch at NASA’s annual USLI event. Chanel’s career began with an internship at Miller Industries during her junior year, which then turned into a full-time position as Manufacturing Engineer Supervisor after graduation in May of 2019. In February of 2021, Chanel started at her current position at Mueller Water Products. In her spare time, Chanel enjoys rock climbing, cooking, as well as playing Magic the Gathering and D&D.
Work Philosophy: Trust yourself and always do your best because that is all that anyone can ask. Always seek out innovation and don’t be afraid to voice your ideas/concerns.
Best Advice for Students: Take everything one day at a time and don’t be afraid to ask questions or reach out for help.
Chanel Would Like to Mentor: Someone who is looking for guidance- both personal and professional growth. As a first generation college student, Chanel hopes to connect with someone who may also be a first generation college student.
ALL4, Inc. - Staff Engineer
Olivia Pearson graduated from UTC in May 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering and from there began her graduate program at Georgia Institute of Technology studying Materials Science and Engineering. This time in graduate school was a season of significant personal growth for her, and in May 2022, Olivia graduated with her master’s degree. Since June, Olivia has been employed as a Staff Engineer at ALL4, Inc, an environmental consulting company.
Work Philosophy: Balance is the most important element in doing consistent, high-quality work. Mental health and rest are both treasures which are critical to success and must be protected.
Best Advice for Students: The 80/20 rule is something to live by, and intentional time management (knowing when you have hit “good enough”) is a key tool for self-preservation. Perfection is the enemy of complete.
Olivia Would Like to Mentor: Someone who is friendly, works hard, and has a desire for personal growth.
Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) - Manager, Analysis & Controls, Technology & Innovation
LaTasha Rogan is the Manager of Analysis & Controls for Technology Portfolio Management within the Technology & Innovation organization at Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). In her role, she is responsible for leading a team of portfolio analysts in creating and managing project schedules and forecasts while driving projects to complete on time and within budget.
LaTasha has worked for TVA for over 20 years, starting as a System Engineer at Sequoyah Nuclear Plant. Over the years, she has been able to move into several different areas within the company including the Transmission organization as a Project Control Specialist and later to T&I as a Portfolio Analyst and Senior Project Manager.
LaTasha was born and raised in Selma, AL and graduated from Tuskegee University with a BS in Chemical Engineering. She also holds an MBA from Bethel University and is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP). She enjoys serving in community organizations, church, and spending free time with her husband and two daughters. They enjoy taking family vacations, trying new restaurants, and going to sporting events.
Work Philosophy: Do your best right where you are. You never know who may be watching you. At the right time, the right opportunity will come your way.
Best Advice for Students: Most people you meet have had help along the way. Be open to meeting new people and receiving their advice. Also, always think positive even in the face of adversity. Having the right perspective makes the difference in most situations.
LaTasha Would Like to Mentor: I hope I have a student who is a sponge and desires to soak in all the professional/career advice that I will provide.
Dr. Sevin Sozer
Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) - Senior Manager of the Advanced Analytics, Enterprise Planning
Dr. Sevin Sozer is currently the Senior Manager of the Advanced Analytics team in Enterprise Planning organization at Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Sevin joined TVA in 2013 and held a variety of roles within Enterprise Planning developing mathematical models to support operational, financial, and strategic planning decisions. She also played a key role in developing the TVA Analytics Strategy. Since 2018, Sevin has been part of the Pricing and Contracts team, focusing on the long-term pricing strategy and leading a cross-functional team to create a rate design evaluation framework. Prior to TVA, Sevin worked at Southern Company, where she gained a diverse background in power system modeling, portfolio management, strategic generation planning, finance, and risk management.
Sevin attended Galatasaray University, Turkiye, for B.S. and M.S. degrees and graduated as top of the class with a major in Industrial Engineering. She continued her studies in Industrial and Systems Engineering at Auburn University, where she served as a teaching and research assistant. During her studies, she had the opportunity to have teaching duties for several classes including Probability and Statistics, Production Economy, Stochastic Operations Research, and Real Options. Her research duties for an NSF supported project included reviewing power systems literature and presenting subjects including Deregulation, Market Design, Congestion Management, Transmission Pricing and Planning.
Sevin joined the UTC as an Adjunct Faculty in 2021 and teaches in the Engineering Management Department. Sevin loves her interactions with her students and having a small role in preparing them to their professional careers.
Sevin currently lives in Chattanooga with her husband, Al, 13-year-old daughter Eda, and 8-year-old son Ege. Sevin is passionate about women in STEM areas and currently serves as the Girls Inc liaison for Women Empowered Employee Resource Group at TVA. She loves spending time in Turkiye every summer visiting family and friends and swimming in the Mediterranean Sea.
Work Philosophy: Total commitment and transparent communication. Always be curious and adaptable. Keep a growth mindset.
Best Advice for Students: Always look for the opportunities in every situation. Take advantage of the experiences around you. Be a team player.
Sevin Would Like to Mentor: Someone who is open to take feedback to become their best self.
Missile Defense Agency - Engineer, Radiation Hardness Assurance for Electronic Parts
Laura Gustad is a general engineer in the Radiation Hardness Assurance for Electronic Parts group at the Missile Defense Agency in Huntsville, AL. She joined MDA through the SMART Scholarship Program as part of the rotational Career Development Program. In May 2021, she graduated from the University of Virginia (UVA) with a BS in Electrical Engineering and minors in Applied Mathematics and Design Integration. While at UVA, she was a teaching assistant for Intro to Engineering, worked several semesters in a microfluidics lab in the Chemistry department, and spent a summer in the laser lab in the Electrical Engineering Department.
In her free time, Laura enjoys exploring and finding new things to do in the Huntsville area. She's very involved with her church and loves being part of the choir there. Her main hobbies include baking, yoga, viola, reading, and hanging out with her talkative cat, Chloe. She's participated in STEM outreach efforts for age groups from elementary school up and is excited to work with the UTC Mentoring Program.
Work Philosophy: My philosophy toward work is to challenge myself and find ways to enjoy what I'm doing. Looking for new ways to get involved, learning new skills, and working with different people help challenge me to grow personally and professionally. I find enjoyment and motivation in understanding how my work fits into the larger program needs and overall goals.
Best Advice for Students: Whether it's with the TA or the professor, office hours are a great resource. If they're not busy, it's time to ask about class recommendations (and honest reviews from TAs who've taken them), research positions, or how to focus your studies for the career you're interested in.
Laura Would Like to Mentor: Students with a healthy work ethic committed to their studies and furthering their careers. I enjoy people who are open to trying new things and who enjoy engaging in discussions. Pet lovers and book lovers especially are welcome!