Engineering a good defence
Kathie Reece, Sc’82, didn’t exactly have a career plan mapped out for herself. When she graduated from Engineering/Physics with a minor in Electrical Engineering, Kathie thought that like many of her peers, she might end up working for Northern Telecom, where she would head into computer chip Development.
“I always knew that i liked mathematics, but what I discovered after graduation, when I entered the workforce, was that I really liked problem-solving,” says Kathie. “What you like, and what you’re good at naturally blend together, but it sometimes takes some exploring to find the right route.”
That simple strategy has been the key to Kathie’s career success. She started out at the Department of National Defence headquarters in Ottawa working as a database and web developer, but moved on to become a defence scientist. As such, she designed analytical models and simulations to support military initiatives. This launched her on an entirely unexpected career trajectory.
As a defence scientist, there are opportunities to work with other organizations, and Kathie was posted to North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) Command, Colorado Springs in 1987 where she worked as an air defense analyst.
Kathie left the government in 1992 and has been working as a defense contractor for a number of projects with the U.S. Customs Service, Air Force Surgeon General, Ground-Based Missile Defense Command, and now with Air Force Space Command.
These days, Kathie is employed as a project manager at a company called DSoft Technology, Inc. in Colorado Springs (www.dsoft-tech.com). One of the many projects she has been working on is a contract to supporting United States Air Force Space Command.
“We’re developing modeling and simulation tools to support the space and cyberspace analysts in making decisions about future requirements and assisting in real-world space problems such as satellite collisions and the impact of space debris on satellite operations,” she explains.
Kathie has been involved with high-priority defence programs since her move to the U.S. Working there, as she does, in a still male-dominated profession, Kathie has seen that too often women are seen, but not heard. “There’s a lingering general perception that females don’t quite have the required intellect. The solution is technical competency and proving yourself over and over,” she says.
Being Canadian – she’s a native of the Ottawa suburb of Kanata, ON – and having earned her Bachelor’s degree at Queen’s and her Master’s degree at the U of Waterloo, Kathie is well qualified to compare the quality of her education to those of her American peers.
“I have to explain to my co-workers that [Queen’s and Waterloo] are equivalent to the best American universities; I liken them to Stanford and MIT respectively. That gets attention because I have the skill set to reinforce the statement.”
“Canadian universities need to reach out and in particular promote their research. American universities do this all the time. Alumni can play a big role,” she advises.
And it’s one that Kathie Reece is already proudly tackling.