Soaring to New Heights

Kristen Marquez is breaking barriers—in more ways than one. As a manager for Boeing, one of the world's leading aerospace companies, Marquez is succeeding in a field with few females.

Marquez was a first-generation university student when she earned her BS in mechanical engineering in 2006. Now the Boeing Commercial Airplane 787 Final Assembly Manufacturing Engineering Manager in Seattle, Washington, Marquez is one of the youngest managers within her immediate division. She ensures that the airplane manufacturing process is as efficient as possible.

"I strove to excel in my five years with the company," Marquez said, "I have the opportunity to impact the build of the airplane directly. It is a very challenging, but rewarding position."

Serving others

Marquez also helps others overcome barriers in their own lives. Despite her heavy workload with Boeing, she finds time to mentor high school students with the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum through the Making Connections program at the University of Washington, and volunteers for organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Seattle Works, and Northwest Park Restoration organizations.

Her role with Making Connections is close to Marquez's heart. As a leading female in a male-dominated field, Marquez wants students to dream big.

"Recent studies have shown a tapering of women in STEM curriculum-related jobs," she says. "So my contribution to increase the numbers is by mentoring students and showing them the possibilities."

Her civic service doesn't come as a surprise, considering her involvement with clubs as an undergraduate student at Northern Arizona University. She served as the vice president of the university's Society of Women Engineers (SWE) chapter, as well as the Treasurer of the Society of Hispanic Engineers (SHPE) from 2005-2006.

Marquez's achievements are a testament to the heights that can be reached with focus, determination, and dedication. Marquez encourages undergraduates to develop good writing and problem-solving skills.

"Good writing is important and it is a skill—good writers will always have a job somewhere," she says.

"Most likely, you will work in a place that will require you to learn new technology, processes, materials, etc.," she said, "but if you have a sound and logical method for solving problems, then you will be able to get past the learning curve quickly in the workplace."

A solid foundation

Marquez largely attributes her success in the workplace to her rigorous, hands-on educational experience at Northern Arizona University. "Earning an engineering degree from NAU was challenging for me, but it gave me a great foundation for my current work habits," she said. "I may have had to sacrifice some of my time in college for more studious activities, but now, many doors have opened up because I have the degree and got good grades."

Marquez also appreciated the accessibility of her professors. She said she always felt encouraged and able go to her professors for help—her favorite professor, Dave Hartman, in particular.

"I easily got to know my professor and peers," she said. “[Dave Hartman] always had a sense of humor. He introduced real life applications of engineering theory."

During her time at the university, Marquez took advantage of opportunities to manage projects and network, such as attending local, regional, and national conferences and acting as the team lead for her senior capstone project, all of which prepared her for her position at Boeing, she said.

"The university has a great balance between the technical aspects of engineering and project management," Marquez said. "I was given the opportunity to take a lead role on my capstone project, and various other lead roles throughout my NAU career, and it has really helped me to get to my current position."