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Mechanical Engineering Alumnae Flying to New Heights

Kristen Marquez

2006 BS in Mechanical Engineering

College of Engineering, Forestry, and Natural Sciences

Northern Arizona University alumna Kristen Marquez is getting used to breaking barriers—in more ways than one. As a manager for Boeing, one of the world's leading aerospace companies, Marquez is succeeding in a field that traditionally hasn't seen an abundance of female managers.

Since earning her BS in Mechanical Engineering in 2006 as a first-generation university student, Marquez's hard work has landed her a position as one of the youngest managers within her immediate division in the company. As a Boeing Commercial Airplane 787 Final Assembly Manufacturing Engineering Manager in Seattle, Washington, Marquez works hard to make sure that the airplane manufacturing process is as efficient as possible.

"I have strived to excel in my five years with the company," Marquez said, "I have the opportunity to impact the build of the airplane directly. It is a very challenging, but rewarding position."

Marquez is also interested in helping others overcome barriers in their own lives. Despite her heavy workload with Boeing, she also finds time to do volunteer work for issues that are important to her. In addition to dedicating time to organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Seattle Works, and Northwest Park Restoration organizations, she serves as a mentor through the Making Connections program at the University of Washington, where she mentors high school students with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) curriculum.

Her role with Making Connections is one that is close to Marquez's heart. As a leading woman in a male-dominated field, Marquez is dedicated to helping students learn how to dream big.

"Recent studies have shown a tapering of women in STEM curriculum related jobs," she says. "So my contribution to increase the numbers is by mentoring students and showing them the possibilities."

Her civic service doesn't come as a surprise, considering her involvement with clubs as an undergraduate student at Northern Arizona University. She served as the Vice President of the university's Society of Women Engineers (SWE) chapter, as well as the Treasurer of the Society of Hispanic Engineers (SHPE) from 2005-2006.

"Good writing is important and it is a skill—good writers will always have a job somewhere," she says. "If you are informed, smart, and can see both sides of an issue, there will always be a market for that."

There is no doubt that Marquez's achievements are a testament to what heights can be reached with focus, determination, and hard work. When asked for her advice to future engineers, Marquez said she encourages undergraduates to make sure they first and foremost learn the methodology of solving problems.

"Most likely, you will work in a place that will require you to learn new technology, processes, materials, etc.," she said, "but if you have a sound and logical method for solving problems, then you will be able to get past the learning curve quickly in the workplace."

Marquez largely attributes her success in the workplace to her rigorous, hands-on educational experience at Northern Arizona University. "Getting an engineering degree from NAU was challenging for me, but it gave me a great foundation for my current work habits," she said. "I may have had to sacrifice some of my time in college for more studious activities, but now, many doors have opened up because I have the degree and got good grades."

Marquez also appreciated the accessibility of her professors. She said she always felt encouraged and able go to her professors for help—her favorite professor, Dave Hartman, in particular.

"Class sizes were small so I easily got to know my professor and peers," she said. (Dave Hartman) always had a sense of humor. He introduced real life applications of engineering theory."

During her time at the university, Marquez took advantage of the many opportunities to manage projects and network such as attending local, regional, and national conferences and acting as the team lead for her senior capstone project, all of which prepared her invaluably for her position at Boeing, she said.

"The university has a great balance between the technical aspects of engineering and project management," Marquez said. "I was given the opportunity to take a lead role on my capstone project, and various other lead roles throughout my NAU career, and it has really helped me to get to my current position."

Professor Spotlight: Dave Hartman

Dr. Dave Hartman is a mechanical engineering professor in the College of Engineering, Forestry, and Natural Sciences. He has worked nine years in industry and has consulted for numerous companies, including Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He specializes in:

  • materials engineering
  • stress analysis
  • failure analysis
  • forensic engineering
  • creativity
  • design
  • In addition, he has conducted workshops on "enhancing creativity in the workplace" for various companies and is currently an ASME/ABET Evaluator for mechanical engineering programs in the US.