The 2016 motion picture, Hidden Figures, was a pioneer for the box office as a bold new statement for African American films. Setting the bar high with new content, the film set itself apart by keying in on black excellence, but of course not without centering on the struggles that came along with it first. “Hidden Figures” tells the story of three African American women: Dorothy Vaughn, Katherine Johnson and Mary Jackson. Portrayed respectively by Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monae, these three women dominated in their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields and helped the first American man orbit the Earth in the 1960’s. With all three of the of characters portrayed being HBCU graduates, the movie became an inspiration not only to black women, but also to students of historically black institutions.
These women were so inspiring that there is a plethora of modern day hidden figures that walk alongside us every single day. Tia Bolden, to name one, is a graduate of Savannah State University with quite the campus background. During her college career, Tia served as a catcher for the university’s softball team, a campus resident’s assistant, as well as becoming a woman of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. all while keeping up as an electrical engineering major with a minor in technology education. Now someone try saying all of that in one breath.
Ms. Bolden recently accepted the job offer of a lifetime at the NASA Michoud Plant in New Orleans, Louisiana. So, it’s safe to safe she’ll be getting to the bag down on the bayou all while still setting the standard for young black women with similar upbringings. I was able to sit down and speak with the modern day hidden figure herself to ask just a few questions about the big life step and how it came to be, and of course it wouldn’t be right unless we asked about HBCU experience as well.
Damesia: Tia!! It’s so great to have you here to talk about this new chapter in your life. So, jumping straight into it, how did your HBCU Experience at Savannah State University aid you in your journey to NASA?
Tia: My HBCU experience taught me that nothing in life worth having would be handed to me and that hard work was necessary to succeed. Engineering doesn’t want to see Blacks succeed. Engineering doesn’t want to see women succeed. Imagine falling into both categories. During my undergraduate experience, I realized that being a Woman of Color in a male dominant field, I would have to work twice as hard to receive half of what I deserve. My HBCU experience also equipped me with internship experience and valuable Engineering knowledge so that I would be able to prosper in the Engineering work force outside of college.
Damesia: How did you manage to land your new job at NASA as an Electrical and Manufacturing Engineer just a year after graduating from Savannah State?
Tia: In March of 2018, I attended the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) National Conference. Throughout the conference, I was able to interview on spot for Full Hire positions with major Engineering companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Google and Apple. I appreciate so much NSBE for the networking opportunity and all their efforts in securing success for minorities in the Engineering field. They were by far the most pivotal force in the securing of my new position.
Damesia: What is your best advice to students who are going along the same path as you that want to secure a job when they grow up?
Tia: My advice to young black students in Engineering would be to defeat all odds that are set against them, network everywhere that you have an opportunity and gain internship experience.
Odds: Everywhere that you go, there will be someone who doesn’t believe in you and it’s your job to show them where they went wrong. The “twice as hard for half of what I deserve” mentality pushed me through all adversity and allowed me to remain steadfast throughout my adolescent journeys with Engineering.
Network: The truest statement I’ve heard in terms of success is, “it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know.” My school sponsored 12 Engineering Students to attend the NSBE conference, and if it had not been for my advisor submitting my name to be included on the roster, I may not even have been in this incredible position I have been given. Often times we overlook networking, but I’ve realized that it’s not always who you know, but rather who knows you and who speaks highly of you; so I make it my goal to have a lasting impression on everyone that I encounter, because you never know how they may help you down the line.
Experience: Throughout the NSBE conference and career fair, I heard most of the recruiters say, “your degree is great, but what do you know?” and that says that just graduating is not enough anymore. Earlier, I mentioned defeating all odds. As a Minority, I had to do what was necessary to make myself stand out from my competition. It meant having leadership experience, undergraduate internship experience, a 3.5+ GPA and community service involvement on my Resume, just to be considered. My mother always told me, your networking will get you the interview, but your experience will get you the job. Those words stood true along my pursuit as well.
Damesia: That was some essential and crucial life advice. Of course, someone of your stature and with this much of an inspiring story, readers may want to be able to keep up with you along your journey. Where can we find you?
Tia: The engineering position is relocating me to New Orleans, Louisiana. But I’m still the Georgia Peach who was raised in Decatur, so I’ll never stray too far from home.
You can also find me through social media on Instagram at @Tbold14.