Ali Lavine had a classmate whose mother was the first mom in space. Naturally, growing up in Houston, she had NASA on her radar, sharing dreams of traveling to outer space with her friends. By the time she was a senior in college, completing a dual degree program between Colby and Dartmouth Colleges in physics, math, and electrical engineering, that dream was still with her. And when an astronaut with an electrical engineering background came to speak, her interest in aeronautics was cemented.
Hearing that astronaut speak about control systems and theory made Ali’s math education click, and a realization began to dawn that math could be used to control those massive objects in the cosmos that so captivated her as a child. It was a short leap from that recognition to her interest in aircraft, and shortly thereafter, she attended a career fair and learned about BAE Systems, which quickly led to her joining the company’s Engineering Leadership Development Program in 2012.
“Learning about Linda Hudson, one of the few female CEOs I’d heard about in the industry, and her engineering background was a huge draw to BAE Systems,” said Ali. “As I found out more about her career path and leadership, I knew this would be the right company for me.”
Unlike most ELDPs in the Commercial Aircraft Solutions business in Endicott, N.Y., who start their careers banging away at flight-critical desk jobs, Ali was given the opportunity to help develop the aircraft cabin demonstration simulator that the business is now using to launch its IntelliCabin™ system. From her first days at BAE Systems, Ali was developing the block diagram to map out everything that would go into the cabin mock-up, sourcing the products that could make each component work, and then creating a way for the system to integrate all those disparate parts. This unique opportunity to design and create something so integral to an important product launch was gratifying -- if a little unsettling.
“One thing I never thought I would be doing as an electrical engineer, was putting together an airplane seat that cost more than my car,” said Ali. “I actually had to send my program manager an email requesting help from some of my stronger colleagues to even get it out of the shipping container!”
But this singular experience led to more, as Ali moved to BAE Systems’ trade show vendor’s site for the better part of a month to help oversee the construction of the ultimate cabin simulator. Ali personally worked with the vendor to integrate each part into the two-seat cabin mock-up, route all the wiring so that it would be hidden from view, and ensure the demo was portable to the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Germany for its debut.
Supporting the simulator demonstrations during the show in Germany brought Ali’s first job rotation full circle. Witnessing her 10-month passion project transformed into the centerpiece of the BAE Systems trade show booth harkened back to why she became an engineer in the first place.
“A chief engineer from one of the potential customer groups that toured our booth said to me, ‘I can definitely see the vision,' ” said Ali. “That was an incredible moment!”