A Gold Award Alumna Spotlight: Katie Lin
What does saber throwing and industrial engineering have in common? Besides an understanding of physics and being able to react to changing conditions, not much else comes to mind, right? For Girl Scout Gold Award Alumna and Lifetime Member, Katie Lin, the two are linked in her life through Girl Scouts and the STEM experiences that she’s been exposed to since childhood. Now the president of the KC chapter of Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and an engineer, Katie Lin is living a life of leadership, STEM and service to women in her community.
Growing up in Texas, Katie joined Girl Scouts as a Daisy and stayed through high school. Her mother served as troop leader or co-leader for the majority of her years and she remembers getting to do exciting outdoor adventures, service activities and growing as a leader. “Girl Scouts impacted me a lot in terms of leadership. I’m a shy person, especially when I was younger, and Girl Scouts helped me with public speaking and I learned to get involved. That has carried through my whole life,” Katie said.
Her troop, 5029, took advantage of their location by visiting sites like the USS Lexington, a naval ship permanently docked in Corpus Christi, Texas. “We spent the night and got to see what it was like to work on a ship like that. We got to sleep in bunkers…wash the planes in the morning…and sit in the cockpit chairs. As a troop, we really enjoyed that,” Katie said. It was experiences like this that exposed Katie to new things and helped shape her as a leader.
In high school Katie had her sights on earning her Gold Award, having earned her Silver Award with her troop. As a member of color guard (a sport that combines dance, flag handling and rifle throwing), she saw an opportunity to educate younger girls about the sport many don’t know about. “Color guard is one of the few activities you can join in high school without having experience. With sports, dance teams, orchestra, band, they want skilled performers or players who have done it in the past. With color guard, you didn’t need any prior experience,” Katie said. Her project was to create a camp for younger girls to learn about color guard and the opportunities it provided.
After finding a passion for STEM in high school, Katie packed her bags and moved to Columbia, MO to join the engineering program at the University of Missouri (MU). Engineering wasn’t always on the top of Katie’s list of careers, partly because her parents were geological engineers and studied rocks for a living. “Most of our family vacations were to national parks where they would try to explain to me how things were formed…and I thought ‘it’s pretty, but I don’t care.’ So I didn’t want to be an engineer because I thought they studied rocks. It wasn’t until high school that I realized there were all these different kinds of engineering and that I liked math and science and that I was good at it,” Katie said.
While at MU, she met the man who is now her husband, Hao Lin, a fellow engineer who moved with his family from China to St. Louis, Missouri when he was 13. It was at MU that she first found SWE and served as the president of the MU chapter for two years. SWE’s goal is to help female engineers network, learn about the industry and support one another. After moving to Kansas City to work at Honeywell, she got involved with the local SWE chapter and now is serving as its president as her way of giving back to women in her STEM community.
As a female engineer, Katie believes in encouraging young women to explore STEM fields as career options. “Engineering is one of the few fields that hasn’t progressed [in terms of gender equality]. I think women are currently around 18% [of the engineering workforce]. It’s important for girls to understand that there are opportunities for STEM. A lot of girls like math and science, but may not understand what engineering is or that it can be a good career,” Katie said. That’s why she not only encourages young girls to participate in STEM activities, but is also a Girl Scout supporter as a member of Daisy’s Circle (the monthly giving program for GSKSMO). She also encourages young women to network through groups like SWE NEXT, which is a free membership level in SWE for girls under 18 curious about engineering.
Through Girl Scouts, Katie found the confidence to thrive, to speak up and to have the courage to be an engineer. “In engineering, you have to be courageous and wanting to take the initiative to try something new. Especially being a woman in a male dominated field, you have to be those things. That is something Girl Scouts helped me with,” Katie said. Today, she gets to travel for work and as a hobby, leads a community of STEM women and leads a happy life as an engineer. Thank you, Katie, for your inspiring work and for continuing to connect women in STEM.
If you know of a great Gold Award Alumna story, share with us in the comments below!