From Airports to Aviation
My name is Ashley Allman. I was born in Utah, but in 9th grade I moved to Auburn, Washington to live with my aunt. I attended a different high school each year. Instead of the traditional high school curriculum, I opted to attend college full-time and worked towards my Associate’s degree at two community colleges. As a high school junior, I participated in the high school Washington Aerospace Scholars Program. Later, I joined the NCAS program at Seattle Central Community College.
After participating in the Washington Aerospace Scholars Program, I sought work at a small airport fueling airplanes. This was an integral turning point in my life. I wanted to be around airplanes, even if it meant mopping the floors in the hangar! When I first visited the airport, I was pleasantly surprised by an on-the-spot interview. It was one of those moments where I thought, “This is where I was meant to be!” I worked 12-hour shifts and loved going to work every day. My coworkers became my family. They came together and even helped fund a portion of my education, which I’ll always be grateful for. They mean a lot to me to this day.
It was the trip to Texas to participate in NCAS that solidified my desire to work on the space side versus the aeronautical side. The program was eye-opening, to say the least. After this experience, I began participating in multiple internships (four total) and got to work at NASA for a term in the Mission Operations Directorate. Meeting my co-workers here, who later became valued mentors, I realized, wow, so many of these people went to Embry Riddle. With encouragement from my team, I decided to apply as a transfer student. I was accepted, offered a scholarship, and moved to Arizona the following semester.
I’ll reiterate: my mentors helped me get to where I am today. I had many mentors, each making a huge difference in my career trajectory. Washington Aerospace Scholars, NCAS, and the internship programs I participated in absolutely set me up for success. It’s weird to look back and think, I’m an aerospace engineer. My parents didn’t go to college. When I was young, and got the opportunity to try new things, I dreamt of one day developing something cutting edge. This is why I went into engineering. When my parents split, it was very hard: I had to put my focus on something else, and I what I chose was to focus on my educational goals. I don’t consider myself a very smart person: sometimes I hear people say, oh, I’m bad at math, I could never study engineering. Well, when you practice, you get better and better and develop skills. Not a lot of people are actually good at math: if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to put time and patience into developing your skill sets.
I work at Oceaneering Space Systems now. I’m on one NASA project which I’ve been involved in since its inception. At this point, I have seven pieces of hardware that I’ve designed entirely: it’s really cool knowing they’ll go to the Space Station and will live there till the end of the Space Station. One might think, how can developing cables be so complicated? They’re space cables, that’s why!
The need to be challenged, to constantly improve, has been engrained in me since I was a child. I’ve played the piano for fifteen years. I can play and play and never get bored—when I was young, I would practice for hours and in the beginning, it’s not pretty. But I stuck with it and it’s become a part of me, and gives me an opportunity to connect to people (much like engineering!).
Believe in yourself, believe in your education, don’t be afraid to reach out to people. But most of all: don’t forget to give back. I’ve started a scholarship at Embry Riddle in the name of my generous helpers from back home. With a little help, the sky is the limit!