Alumna shares insights, stories with aspiring engineers
By Steve Seepersaud
Since the Alumni Center opened in 2015, the Benet Alumni Lounge has hosted a number of events. A test has never been one of them.
To break the strange, almost exam-like tension at the outset of her talk with students, Victoria Tagarelli '13 shared an anecdote about learning from failure. Her classmates in the Watson School didn't embrace her attempt to organize a ball.
"Turns out engineers don't want to dance. I guess that shouldn't have been a surprise," she said, eliciting laughter from the nearly 30 students in the room.
Tagarelli, an information assurance engineer with Lockheed Martin in Owego, spoke at the Alumni Association's March 15 Cool Connections, Hot Alumni event. She advised students on how they can best prepare for their eventual careers and discussed her work in protecting systems from cyberattacks.
"The work is hard, but I went into engineering because of the challenges. I love it," she said. "What I do is described as hardening a system, and the electrical engineering background I have from Binghamton is helpful."
Through Lockheed's Engineering Leadership Development Program, Tagarelli has encountered a number of challenges as well as opportunities to showcase her skills. Tagarelli told the students she has had four different jobs since joining the company just after graduation.
"My first job was in a business role," she said. "The biggest challenge in the beginning is that it wasn't engineering and not what I had envisioned doing, but I really did love it. Later I went into program management, and found that wasn't my path. It's valuable to know what you don't want to do.
"It's funny working in Owego, because I never went past the Cider Mill when I was a student. Now, I'm helping new employees to integrate in the area and like it. I also do a lot of STEM outreach as I think it's important to get people into the pipeline for STEM, especially females."
One common thread across all her different roles at the company – which she reinforced with the students – was the importance of relationships and working well in a team-based environment. In a field that's focused on data and processes, the value of soft skills can't be forgotten.
"Emotional intelligence or EQ is really big right now," she said. "You need that to get ahead in your career. I've learned to adapt to different situations over the years, and it has made me much stronger as a professional."