The STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) Ahead Awards honor women who are leaders in manufacturing across the country. This year, Pratt & Whitney is proud to recognize Stacy Malecki and Anita Rebarchak as STEP Ahead honorees and Kokui Francisca Adesokan as a STEP Ahead emerging leader. All three exemplify how Pratt & Whitney employees shine not only in the workplace, but in their communities. Pratt & Whitney Communications sat down with Malecki and Adesokan to learn a little more about their careers and what being a STEP Ahead honoree means to them.
STEP Ahead honoree Kokui Francisca Adesokan remembers the moment she was told to take the easy way out – to back down from a challenge. She was in college and wanted to take more math classes than was required to earn her business degree.
"I was told that I didn't need to take more math classes," she said, "and that didn't sit well with me."
Adesokan decided to instead pursue a career in engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to fully immerse herself in her love for math, science and technology. Today, she's a deputy CIPT leader for the PW1100G-JM engine, but perhaps more importantly, she's a team player and a mentor for young women with similar career aspirations.
She attends Legacy Foundation events and East Hartford high school career fairs to share why she chose engineering, what she loves about it and why she recommends it as not just a rewarding career for men, but for women, too. Becoming an engineer is a remarkable feat for Kokui, who was told to consider alternate career options as a child in Togo, Africa. At 16, she moved to the United States with her family and couldn't speak a word of American English.
"In Togo, women weren't encouraged to pursue technical careers because they were seen as too challenging," she said. "So coming to the States was like a second chance to explore that side and learn about engineering and manufacturing. So to tell girls that you can be in a technical field, you can be an engineer, you can be in manufacturing, you can make a difference – that's important to me."
A Pratt & Whitney employee for over five years now, Adesokan said she has learned how to become an effective leader in her roles of increasing responsibility. Her keys to managing projects successfully? Analyze the project at hand, assign the right role to the right team member, be there for your team and reward each other's success.
"As a leader, you really need to be there, whether it's a late night working with the team or a phone call Saturday morning," Adesokan said. "Leaders should be doing that – not just setting the vision and then going away. You have to be there to help the team out."
Stacy Malecki may be a STEP Ahead honoree, but she's more proud of helping young engineers achieve their career goals than her own accomplishments.
The senior director of Hot Section Engineering is also the leader of the Mechanical Design Explorers Program. With a seven year history and over 100 graduates to date, engineering chiefs and fellows lead this program that teaches early career design engineers to think like exactly that – design engineers.
"I'm really proud of the Mechanical Design Explorers (MDE) Program," Malecki said. "It's a great opportunity for young engineers to understand how parts they work on fit into other parts we develop and the overall system of the engine."
Not only does Malecki enjoy working with young engineers, she knows time spent with them is a worthwhile investment. In addition to the MDE program, she's a volunteer for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, evaluating engineering programs at colleges and universities across the country.
"It's a great opportunity to meet and interact with students and get insight into mechanical engineering programs," she said. "I like working with college students – the creativity and energy brings back memories from my college days."
Like many of the young engineers she mentors, Malecki began her career at Pratt & Whitney, too. Her 30-year career began with her now-husband when the couple landed positions at Pratt & Whitney upon graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her uncle is a former Pratt & Whitney employee, and her son now works here, too.
Although Malecki's job title is in engineering, her ties to manufacturing are strong, making her a well-deserved STEP honoree. She spent a year and a half in North Haven, Connecticut, in 1996 and 1997 working with manufacturing engineers to find the best way to make a design that's producible and delivers products to customers on time.
"I've always considered design engineering and manufacturing to be closely connected," she said. "You can't have a good design unless you can make it."