Laura V. Fechete, P.E.
Position: Department Manager, Structural Technology
Industry: Aerospace – Satellite Design and Manufacturing
Q: From your perspective, what are the most important trends that will take place in the satellite industry in the next 10 years?
Laura: We are seeing a trend away from larger and more powerful satellites to customers wanting smaller and more versatile spacecraft which can be inserted into diverse business plans. Customers want a satellite with radio and TV content, and internet and broadband content also.
Q: Given your position in technology and manufacturing, how has your work or work place changed in the last 5 years, and what do you foresee as changes in the next 5 – 10 years?
Laura: Satellite designs have gotten more complex, while costs and schedules have reduced due to market forces. In my area, computer models are increasingly complex, and more upfront analysis is performed. There is a large quantity of information, from requirements to actual test data, and manufacturers building a few components are looking to large-scale production techniques such as product lifecycle and lean manufacturing principles for engineering and manufacturing.
Q: What tips do you have for other women just starting out in your profession?
Laura: I would steer a new engineer towards getting involved in a professional society that compliments her work interests. By volunteering for chapter positions or committees, she can gain valuable leadership experience. And make sure to let her manager know the new skills she is acquiring!
Q: What have been the hallmarks of your success?
Laura: I would attribute my success as an engineer and a manager to several factors. Besides fundamental skills gained through school and work experience, I happily volunteered for additional work assignments, especially those involving interaction between other groups, for continued learning. I gained leadership experience through professional societies, which improved my communication skills. I’ve worked in many different roles and organizations, each time learning something new along the way, either from the project or from the people.
Q: What role has mentorship played in your career?
Laura: I have very few regrets in my career, but one big regret involves mentoring. Early in my career, a VP assigned me a mentor; another manager in his area. There was no mentoring program, and I was too naïve to understand the value. When that manager left the company shortly after, I did not know enough to go back to the VP and ask for another name. Now, any young woman can read “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg and get a good education on the importance of mentoring!
Q: What are ways that you have balanced career, personal, and other interests?
Laura: I have been active in professional societies during the majority of my career, and The Society of Women Engineers has been very good about bringing in women executives as speakers. Almost all mentioned that while you can ‘have it all’, you probably can’t have it all at the same time. I think on that when I have too many irons in the fire. I know I’m happier doing fewer things well, than trying to do too much with mixed results.
Laura fun fact: I enjoy Dragon Boat paddling, and am a member of the Bay Area Dragons. I can paddle both right or left sides of the boat!