By Juliana Palomino
“I walked into the career fair, and the room was the size of three Costcos combined, with hundreds of employers. I had to be ready to walk up to recruiters and tell them why they should hire me.”
Kelsey Daley is a senior at the University of Kentucky with a major in electrical engineering and minors in mathematics and computer science. A member of the UK chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), she’s attended the national conference every year she’s been at UK. She’s faced the intimidation of the career fair every time, but she’s always gone with her elevator pitch ready to go.
As a sophomore, that preparation paid off. Kelsey spoke to recruiters from Northrop Grumman and interviewed on-site. A few weeks later, she received a job offer to work at their Palmdale, California, location.
“It was incredible. I called my mom right away,” she recalls.
Kelsey spent the summer in California’s hot deserts, working in the IT department on an internal application for the company’s supply chain.
“I fell in the love with the defense industry,” she says. “If you want access to the people trying new things that haven’t been done before, that’s the place to be.
That passion carried her to Cincinnati the following summer, where she worked in Northrop Grumman’s mission systems sector. Working on small-scale communication systems, Kelsey had her own workstations and built multiple programs.
“I saw a big correlation between my classes and my work,” she remembers. “The previous semester, I had just taken a digital logic lab, and my job involved essentially the same concepts. I was competing with multiple interns for one spot, and what I learned in my classes really gave me an edge.”
Faculty members, such as professors Robert Adams and Janet Lumpp, have made a significant difference for Kelsey in her classes.
“During my hardest semester, I basically lived in Dr. Adams’ office. And Dr. Lumpp has an amazing way of making complex concepts seem simple,” she says. “All the faculty members here are always willing to take the time to do what it takes to help you succeed.”
Membership in SWE has been invaluable for Kelsey as well. From opportunities like national conference to bonding experience with other girls, she’s learned the necessity of having a support group.
“Often in my classes, it’s all guys, or only a few girls. If you’re not willing to brave that now, no one else is going to do it later,” she says. “Having people to walk through that challenge with keeps you from feeling isolated.”
Kelsey has accepted a full-time offer with Northrop Grumman in Cincinnati, and she’ll begin soon after her May 2019 graduation.
“In college you shouldn’t be afraid to take opportunities that you don’t quite feel ready for, like a leadership experience or an internship,” she says. “It’s important to be bold and go for it, because that’s what’s going to get you ahead.”