Getting to Know FabFem Nicole Ward

By Sasha Sleiman

Nicole WardThe FabFem project has the unique opportunity to highlight women working in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields every day through our FabFems role model database. Nicole Ward, the Chief Engineering and Technology Project Engineer for Lockheed Martin, is not only a FabFem, but also serves on the PA NGCP Collaborative Leadership team and her dedication to inspiring the next generation of girls in STEM is something we wanted to celebrate. Mrs. Ward did not decide upon, or even know much about, pursuing her degree in Chemical Engineering until she went on a college tour where she met an engineering student who opened her eyes to the opportunities that could be pursued within the field. She later graduated with her BS in Chemical Engineering from Drexel University.

The importance of mentoring and being an active role model for girls, particularly girls interested in STEM fields, is not lost on Mrs. Ward who reflects on times in her past she now recognizes as mentoring relationships and the and impact they’ve had in her life. After recognizing the great impact a mentor can have, she was privileged to become a mentor for interns at her company.

"I vividly recall receiving a ‘Thank You’ card from a parent of an intern mentee who expressed her heartfelt gratitude in helping her son. By the same token, I received an invite to attend my intern’s graduation as a result of our mentoring relationship throughout his internship. I was deeply humbled. My hope is to continue these life-long connections and looking forward to developing new ones!" - Nicole Ward

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In order to get to know Mrs. Ward a little better, we asked her a few questions about her experiences as a role model and what first inspired her to step into this role.

  1. What do you hope to achieve by being a role model?  What would you want a young person to take away after meeting you?

    My #1 goal in serving as a role model would be that my testimony can help encourage someone else. My hope is that they walk away feeling inspired, and less alone. My hope is that they can witness first hand someone else’s journey of perseverance, of someone who dared to dream, of someone who dreamt beyond her circumstances.  Most importantly, my goal is that others recognize that they too can succeed in whatever they put their mind to; that they are overcomers; that they already have the necessary tools in place to make dreams happen.
  2. What inspired you to first get involved in being a role model? How does being a role model for others impact you. 

    My inspiration in becoming a role model stemmed from my early college days as a chemical engineering student.  I took a hard look around me and noticed that I – being a female – was greatly outnumbered by my male classmates. When I entered the workforce as an engineer, the trend continued. Even to this day, I work in a male-dominated industry. However, rather than accepting this as a negative, I regarded it as fuel to reach success. This outlook has greatly impacted, and continues to impact my day-to-day activities. I find myself always looking for ways to promote STEM, whether it be serving as a mentor for a FIRST Robotics team, or a judge for an underwater robotics competition, or even as small as talking to college students at my church about some of the exciting parts of my job as an engineer.   
  3. If you could share advice with your younger self, what would it be?

    It would be that finding out what you don’t like is just as valuable (if not more) than finding out what you do like. Oftentimes we set a false expectation that we must like everything that we try or feel guilty when it doesn’t turn out to be what we had hoped. I have found those moments to be the most insightful and regarded them as blessings to gain more clarity.  Hand in hand with finding your passion is the value of authenticity. Be your genuine self. The rest does fall into place.
  4. NW 3Do you have any 'lessons learned' that you would like to share with young girls pursuing this field?

    Although I am learning on a daily basis myself, below are some “golden nuggets” that have proven valuable in my career and throughout my life that I would like to share with young girls pursuing STEM fields:
    • Geek is chic: it’s ok to be smart in school!
    • If your dreams do not scare you – they aren’t big enough.
    • If you’re at a crossroad, choose the path that will make you happy and fulfilled.
    • When you exploit your passion, success is inevitable. Because when you do what you love, then you’re performing at your best.
    • Do not give others the power to convince you away from your dreams.
    • Be the change you want to see in the world.
    • Tough situations don’t last, tough people do.
    • Never, ever give up.

To learn more about Nicole Ward visit her FabFems profile: www.fabfems.org/users/nicole-ward.

Sasha Sleiman, Outreach Coordinator for the FabFems Project, started with the National Girls Collaborative Project in August. She recently completed her Master’s degree in International Policy Studies from the Monterey Institute of International Studies.