Paula Endicott ’06 ME, PE

Paula Endicott ’06 ME, PE
Paula Endicott ’06 ME, PE

Q: What was your career path after graduation?       

A: Within a week of graduation, I started at a medium size A&E (architecture and engineering) firm (approximately 800+ associates) in Florida called RS&H, working as a mechanical engineering associate in the Aerospace & Defense Program. One of the first projects I worked on was the refurbishment of the vertical and horizontal doors of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at Kennedy Space Center.

I’m still with RS&H as an active mechanical engineer, as well as a project manager, and I’ve received my Professional Engineers license in Florida and Washington. Mostly, I work with fire protection systems, protective coatings, and mechanisms, and I manage several large design and construction projects. Most of the projects I work on are located at the space center and will play a major role in NASA’s return to space.

Paula Endicott, Mechanical Engineer, RS& H
Paula Endicott, Mechanical Engineer, RS& H

Q: What are you doing now?

A: Currently, I am working on the modification design to the mobile launcher for the Ground Support Equipment (GSE) installation. I am also the project manager for the construction effort for the same design. The mobile launcher, when finished, will support NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and interface with the Vehicle Assembly Building and the launch pad.

Here’s a computer rendering of the ML at the pad, from NASA’s website

Q: What has been the highlight of your career to date?

A: Being involved as the project manager for the construction of the mobile launcher has been the highlight of my career so far. I have been involved with the mobile launcher design for the last 10 years, when it was originally built for the Ares I Constellation Vehicle. The challenges involved in this last phase before we ready for the first launch are incredibly exciting and are utilizing every skill I’ve learned thus far. It will be a major thrill to see a rocket launch off of our ML.

Q: How did your Villanova education contribute to your success?

A: Villanova’s Mechanical Engineering program really focused on being detail-oriented and had a multidisciplinary aspect, particularly in my senior year. Since I work closely with structural and electrical engineers as well as architects, the adaptability this has provided me has been invaluable.

I also had some great professors, such as Dr. Jerry Jones, whose enthusiasm for his subject was infectious and whose encouragement was heartening.  Even 11 years down the road, I’ll come across a challenge and remember Dr. Jones talking excitedly about a situation similar to it. Sometimes I wish I could just email him about a unique situation I encounter because I think he would enjoy it.

Q: What do you know now that you wish you knew then (as a college student or new graduate)?

A: There are two things I wish I knew before I graduated. First, I wish I understood the importance of an engineering license. Professional licenses are very important in the A&E business and earning one is a 4- year process, starting with passing an 8-hour Fundamentals of Engineering test and culminating in passing an 8-hour Principles and Practice of Engineering test, during which you must work under the supervision of a professional engineer. I took my FE a year and a half after I graduated from Villanova. If you’ve been out of school for several years, it can be very difficult to pass the initial test.

Second, I wish I had a better understanding of the types of engineering industries there are. I didn’t fully appreciate the difference between the experience I would gain at an A&E firm and the experience my friends gained at large organizations, such as Lockheed Martin and Orbital. While I wouldn’t change my choices in the slightest, it has been eye opening. I have come to realize I love the fast-paced nature of my work and the exposure to so many facets of business, such as mentoring, proposal writing, contract negotiation, personnel management, conflict resolutions, code research, etc. I don’t know if I would have stayed in engineering, even though I love it, if I had gone to a different type of company and was only exposed to a single facet.

Q: What one piece of advice would you give to the next generation of female engineers?

A: Be confident in what you know and be receptive to criticism. I work in an office of 60 people, two of us are female engineers, and five more are female architects. I work with a lot of contractors, iron workers, and pipe fitters. I have been in meetings where I am the only female in a room full of men. I have found that when I project confidence in what I know and can concisely explain an idea, I receive the best consideration. You stop being the “young female engineer” and instead become the “coatings expert” or the “fire protection expert,” etc. 

You must also be able to handle criticism well. Most criticism you receive will be constructive and is meant to aid you in the future. Sometimes, the criticism is because you are a female and has no value. You need to be able to recognize the difference and discard the bad. You cannot let it drag you down. Be upset, and if warranted, let someone else know. But do not let criticism tear at you or dissuade you. You are an engineer who is attending or has graduated from one of the finest institutions. You are better than you know!