Name: Liz Billman
Location: Washington, D.C.
Liz Billman of Washington, D.C. is totally in orbit, which is to say that she’s an aerospace engineer who is recognizing her kindergarten dream of navigating the stars!
Liz achieved her aerospace dreams by designing and flying satellites, fixing flaws from mission control and keeping everything on the up-and-up up in space. Currently she’s managing software that surveys the health and performance of satellites, and another program that sounds out of this world. “It’s a development program to finally create a human transporter like in Star Trek….just kidding. Although if that were possible, I would be much more punctual,” she jokes.
Every day for Liz is different, from going over program finances, scheduling for her team, or analyzing astrodynamics to hunt down the solution to a problem. She also coordinates a whole slew of technical details within her team while also talking to their customers to make sure that everything on both ends is copacetic. She spends a lot of time at the computer, which balances out the stuff she’s truly jazzed about: hardware! “Especially if we’re running a test,” she gushes. A recent project included the purchase of a thermal chamber that gave her the ability to freeze and bake equipment so that it would work well in extreme temperatures. Cool!
But the most important part of her day is clear. “I get to come home and be a mom: play baseball, tell silly stories, dance and get great hugs from my little guy. It’s a good deal.”
“I get to come home and be a mom: play baseball, tell silly stories, dance and get great hugs from my little guy. It’s a good deal.”
Liz managed to balance her job and school simultaneously…all while pregnant, a task as hard to conceive of as reaching the stars. “I got pregnant a year before completing my part-time masters in aerospace,” she recalls. “I nearly tossed my cookies during an astrodynamics final, but I made it through and passed the test with flying colors! The hardest part was going back to school after my son was born. You get “baby brain” which makes it very hard to learn and remember new things. Thankfully, that only lasted for about 6 months. It was even tougher when I had to travel for work. I had to lock myself in the airplane lavatory in order to pump on long flights. And my husband was a saint through it all. He’s a fabulous dad and took really good care of our son and the house while I was pulling all-nighters to complete homework and projects. He deserves a medal!”
Sounds like it! And what would Liz say to young girls who are scared to aim so high?
“If you focus on the entire goal, it’s too daunting,” she says. “Break it down into smaller milestones or tasks and focus on those. If you just take one step at a time, you will get to the end before you know it. And realize that you can’t do everything at once. Just make sure you know what your “life priorities” are and protect those things. For example, it’s more important to spend time with your family than to spend an hour making a fabulous meal, so order take out and relish those few moments of peace amongst the chaos.”
That’s some good advice. Beyond aerospace and a heavenly home-life, Liz also can pride herself in conquering one of her biggest fears: heights!
“I recently decided to sign up for trapeze lessons. I was shaking as I climbed the ladder to the platform and thought I would faint as I leaned out over the platform to grab the trapeze bar. But, when they said, “Jump!” I didn’t hesitate. It was incredible! I’m so glad I did it! And it did help alleviate my fear: I was able to climb up 40 feet on our ladder at home to help take down our Christmas lights this month….and I didn’t even shake on the way up.”
Talk about stretching your horizons! For beaming up satellites, and staying grounded here at home, we think Liz Billman is one Cool Girl!