IST senior helps Boeing prepare for natural disasters and threats

Editor's note: This is the third in a series of articles about students in the College of Information Sciences and Technology completing internships this summer.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Upon starting her internship this summer, Bailey MacDowell was encouraged to discover that many of the activities she enjoys at Penn State are also a part of the community at The Boeing Company. With a wide gender gap in the technology industry, the rising senior in the College of Information Sciences and Technology is an advocate for strengthening the position of females entering tech careers—which she does both at Penn State and at her internship in Bellevue, Washington.

“I love working as the president of (the) Women in IST (student organization) on campus, and I am able to connect with Boeing Women Inspiring Leadership and other active groups in the community that promote diversity internally while volunteering locally,” she said.

Through her internship, MacDowell has connected with employees and leaders who are highly active in promoting diversity in the industry, as well as with fellow interns who are members of women in technology organizations at their respective universities.

Bailey MacDowell, a senior studying security and risk analysis in the College of Information Sciences and Technology, has spent her summer as an IT preparedness intern at The Boeing Company in Bellevue, Washington. Credit: ProvidedAll Rights Reserved.

“Advocating for women in technology is essential in both academic and professional environments, as women still hold only 20 to 30% of jobs in the industry,” said MacDowell. “Technology should reflect the needs and principles of its users; in order for us to create technology that affects positive social change, women must have a strong role in the conversation.”

MacDowell, a rising senior studying security and risk analysis, first connected with a Boeing representative at the College of IST Pro Expo career fair last fall, which led to an interview the next day. She continued to network with company representatives at various events sponsored by the College of IST’s Office of Career Solutions and Corporate Engagement, including at the world’s largest gathering of women technologists at last fall’s Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Houston, Texas.

“The College of IST career office has been an invaluable resource as I sought out a challenging and rewarding internship that would help me to discover new career opportunities and grow my network,” MacDowell said.

In her role as an IT preparedness intern at Boeing, MacDowell helps the organization to prepare for and recover from natural disasters and other natural threats. She works with her team to ensure that up-to-date disaster recovery plans are in place for critical applications, hardware, software and IT sites to ensure that the business can continue to operate in the event of an incident. She has also pursued data analysis projects to study mitigating the gaps in recovery time and investigate the ways in which the department communicates these gap mitigation metrics to company leaders. The problem-solving abilities fostered in her IST courses helped to prepare her to handle challenges that have come up throughout her internship.

“The variety of the SRA (security and risk analysis) curriculum and its focus on critical thinking skills has allowed me to adapt to different projects, skills and communication styles in the workplace,” she said. “Last semester, I took a visual analytics course involving Tableau, and I have been able to directly apply those skills to data analysis projects for multiple teams at Boeing.”

In addition to her day-to-day responsibilities, MacDowell has been tasked by her manager to be on the lookout for ways to automate and improve her team’s approach to projects, due to her fresh perspective on the initiatives and work environment.

“I appreciate being able to interact with subject matter experts from across the company and ask questions to both recent graduates working at Boeing as well as individuals who have been employed in the technology sector for several decades,” she said.

This responsibility has helped MacDowell to learn the importance of taking initiative – especially during times when she hasn’t been given defined instructions or deliverables. She said that some of the most challenging and rewarding projects she’s worked on have come from connecting with managers and employees across different groups to learn more about their initiatives.

“Speaking up is essential,” she said. “By vocalizing the types of work I am most interested in, I have been given a new project at a higher level. I will be analyzing data and creating dashboards for a vice president within Boeing Global Services.”

Learning to speak up, combined with moving to the west coast for this summer position, have pushed MacDowell to step outside of her comfort zone.

“I enjoy facing challenges in a classroom setting, but it is entirely different to move to a new city and settle into an unfamiliar team environment,” she said.

But, the ability to learn, to be a self-starter and to speak candidly about one’s experiences are essential to any position, she said. She advises fellow IST students to explore any and all opportunities when starting on their career journey.

“Don’t put any limitations on yourself, regardless of your year or current skill level,” she concluded. 

Last Updated July 23, 2019