During Women’s History Month, the Modern Military Training editorial team is featuring stories of women who have pursued STEM-related careers and are impacting the future of military training. From astronauts, to military leaders, to fighter pilots, to engineers and researchers developing new training tools, these women serve as role models for young women pursuing their passion in STEM and it’s a privilege to share their stories.
In this Faces of Training profile, we featured Amy Dideriksen, a Lead Researcher with Mission Systems Advanced Technologies at Collins Aerospace. Dideriksen shared how she stumbled into the world of training and simulation and how she was able to channel her passion for both technology and education into a successful career with Collins Aerospace.
Here’s our full conversation with her:
Modern Military Training (MMT) Editors: When did you first become interested in STEM and how did you take this interest and apply it to your career?
Amy Dideriksen: I grew up a tomboy with all boys in my family and neighborhood; I played sports, was in band, and taught swimming lessons in high school. I went on to earn a softball and art scholarship at Illinois State University, where I completed my degree in Fine Art. After finishing undergraduate school, I began coaching at a junior college and this prompted me to return to school for my master’s degree. I wanted to learn to draw on the computer, but I fell in love with training since it was so much like coaching. I ended up earning my master’s degree in Industrial Technology with a focus in Training and Development, and that education is brought to the table every day at Collins.
MMT Editors: Tell us about your career path. Was it traditional? How did you face being in a male-dominated field? Were their bumps along the way?
I quickly began leading a team of 20+ instructional systems designers (ISD) to develop computer-based training and earned my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. I found that I became too focused on the work, and not enough on the people, so I decided to pursue a Resource Manager role and managed 60+ consultants. I continued to grow, moving into a Human Resource Manager position and earning my certification in Senior Professional Human Resources (SPHR). With this certification, I taught other Resource Managers how to manage people.
I decided to take on a new challenge and hired on with Rockwell Collins (now Collins Aerospace). I started working as an ISD, managing other ISDs and training projects. I am currently conducting research for Advanced Technologies, assessing human physiological and task performance metrics and learning how they can be used for adaptive learning.
Throughout this journey, being female in a male-dominated organization was not a new feeling for me. As I mentioned, I was raised around all boys and I have never shied away from a challenge, so this didn’t faze me at all. However, for younger women who find themselves in this situation, I would recommend that they find one of the many strong female leaders in the company for guidance and advice. Similarly, it’s important that we support other women we work with every chance we get.
MMT Editors: When you look back at career highlights, what are you most proud of?
Dideriksen: The thing I am most proud of is that I never stopped learning, growing, and taking on new challenges. I’ve learned to build many different lessons throughout my career, and I’ve had success along the way. I’ve helped numerous programs satisfy customers, supported resources who need help, published several papers on new technologies and research results. And at the age of 50, I am going back to school to earn my PhD degree in Industrial Engineering with a focus in Human Factors at the University of Iowa as their first remote student.
MMT Editors: Looking at the defense and training industry today and into the future, what is most exciting?
Dideriksen: The most exciting thing about the simulation and training industry today is that we are in the middle of implementing new, disruptive technologies. Our customers are looking for ways to train smarter, faster, and more efficiently. To remain competitive, this means new methods and approaches to ramp up armed forces quickly with digitally intelligent training simulators capable of analyzing large amounts of data quickly.
MMT Editors: What advice do you have for a younger generation of women who are looking to explore a career in the defense and training or any STEM-related field?
Dideriksen: Stay focused, keep learning and never give up. It doesn’t matter if you are new to the industry or an experienced engineer, STEM is a fast-moving field where everyone can play. It’s like joining the other turtles in the East Australian Current (EAC) from Finding Nemo – Jump in and enjoy the ride!