If you were to ask Nathalie Gosset what is on her career dashboard, the first word she would use is “volunteer.”
That’s because this Southern Californian believes being an IEEE volunteer has been as valuable to her career trajectory as the jobs she has had. “The time I’ve spent volunteering for technical professional societies after my work day has ended has been the number one booster for my professional advancement,” she says.
After joining IEEE in 1989, Gosset quickly discovered that raising her hand brought many volunteer opportunities–with both the IEEE Buenaventura Section and several technical societies, especially the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society and the IEEE Communications Society.
Gosset’s 30-year career as an engineer has centered on emerging technologies, and her achievements built her reputation as a highly respected technology innovator. Most recently, she was Senior Director of Marketing and Technology Innovation at the Alfred E. Mann Institute for Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California, for the past 12 years.
How she developed her impressive career, as well as her encounter with workplace sexual harassment, is the subject of the newest volume in the award-winning IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE) e-book series. Vignettes of Discovery and Growth: The Journey of a 21st Century Female Engineer, by Nathalie Gosset, is the 16th work in the series.
In her e-book, Gosset recalls how, at a very early age, she processed and learned the math lessons her engineer father was teaching her. She writes that she actually saw shapes driven by arrangements that mirror the logic of mathematical principles.
“At an early age, I could solve problems in these imaginary worlds much faster than the traditional way,” she writes. “As a result, I was acknowledged as a solid student in math.”
The author is from the village of Danjoutin, in the Alsace Lorraine region of France. After five years of study in Paris, and receiving her BSEE engineering degree, she wanted to study further–in the United States. But obtaining the needed $15,000 for tuition and expenses at the University of Colorado, where she had been accepted to work toward a Master’s in telecommunications, was an enormous problem. Gosset visited five banks in the Danjoutin area for a loan, but without her skeptical parents’ signatures, she was turned down. Then, during a second round of bank visits, one officer agreed to the loan, with no collateral. “Instead,” she says, “he wanted me to write to him once a month about my progress.”
The author faithfully complied, and as soon as she graduated and started working, she regularly wired funds until the loan was repaid. “The banker’s faith in me was a life lesson in trust, and inspired me to pay it forward,” she says.
Her career took off with her first supervisory position at Alcatel and eventually included Sabeus, where she was vice president of engineering. Along the way, she acquired critical leadership lessons, such as not being afraid to have individuals on her technical teams who had more experience and expertise, and thus earned more, than she did. “If you do not work with the best, you will clip your own ability to learn and to help your team to succeed,” she quotes her own manager at the time.
In a chapter titled, with some irony, “The Best Job I Ever Had,” Natalie Gosset relates how she joined the Alfred Mann Institute (AMI) for Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. Leveraging her technical and business knowledge, she advanced to Senior Director of Marketing and Technology Innovation Evaluation. In this role, she introduced many hundreds of physicians and researchers who wanted to share their product ideas, to AMI, then organized the studies to determine whether a new concept was suitable for the marketplace.
In this chapter, Gosset describes how the sexual discrimination and harassment she experienced on the job affected her, and the high price that she ultimately paid when she spoke up. The author lost both her job and her daughter’s free tuition at USC. Because the case is currently in litigation, Gosset is limited by what she can write about it. However, she offers solid advice about what a person should do when confronted with what she describes as “a societal problem.” She remains convinced about the value of engineering as a career for women. “With the right support from colleagues and supervisors,” she concludes, “the engineering journey can be a remarkable ride!”
Except for the first book, an overview of STEM occupations, each volume is a personally written account of how a noteworthy woman technologist became interested in technology; obtained her education; and developed a productive, satisfying career.
This year marks the fourth year of the landmark e-book series. Educators and women’s organizations have praised the series, for providing girls and young women with real-world role models of successful female engineers. In 2017, the publishing industry honored the series with 10 publishing industry awards.
Georgia Stelluto, IEEE-USA Publishing Manager; and Manager & Editor, IEEE-USA E-books, notes that the group offers a diverse cross-section of backgrounds, and each author has a distinctive story to tell.
Vignettes of Discovery and Growth: The Journey of a 21st Century Female Engineer, by Nathalie Gosset is available at https://shop.ieeeusa.org at the IEEE member price of $7.99; non-members can purchase the volume for $9.99 each.
Four more volumes in the IEEE-USA Women in Engineering series will be published in 2018. Recent e-books are:
— Women in Engineering – Book 15: From Physics to Wall Street: My Accidental, Unplanned and Eclectic Life and Career, by Rowena Track, Global Vice President of Digital, Channel and Partner Strategy and Marketing at Cigna Corporation.
— Women in Engineering – Book 14: Becoming an Engineer Accidentally, by Monique Morrow, CT – Evangelist for Cisco Systems’ New Frontiers Development and Engineering.
— Women in Engineering – Book 13: An Engineer in the Making, by Susan Delafuente, a Silicon Valley technologist.
— Women in Engineering – Book 12: It’s Not a Career Path – It’s an Obstacle Course! by Lisa Schoedel, a Chicago attorney.
— Women in Engineering – Book 11: Quietly, Clearly and Authoritatively by Amy K. Jones, a senior systems engineer at John Deere.
— Women in Engineering – Book 10: My Three Journeys: Finding Professional and Personal Fulfillment as an Engineer by Oracle principal hardware engineer Jeewicka Ranaweera.
— Women in Engineering – Book 9: Recognizing & Taking Advantage of Opportunities by consultant Jill S. Tietjen, P.E.
All the above volumes, as well as the first eight in the series are also available at https://shop.ieeeusa.org/, and also are priced at $7.99 for members and $9.99 for non-IEEE members.
Helen Horwitz is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Albuquerque, N.M. She was with IEEE from 1991 through 2011, the first nine as Staff Director, IEEE Corporate Communications.