I’ve found a lot of success in my chosen field of engineering and I honestly credit this to believing that I'm the only thing that can limit my accomplishments then choosing to live a limitless life - Millicent Gilmore
The increasing amount of African Americans studying and working in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields is revolutionary. Largely due to the efforts of the country’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), African Americans are entering their STEM degrees better equipped to thrive in college, to graduate and to find successful careers. Did you know that 25% of African American graduates with STEM degrees come from HBCUs and that HBCUs graduated 46% of black women who earned degrees in STEM disciplines between 1995 and 2004? In this Re.engineer Trending Leader feature we recognize Millicent Gilmore as prominent HBCU graduate and Engineering Leader that has navigated corporate America to deliver STEM excellence across several engineering platforms.
Millicent is the mother of five children and three bonus children, and the Engineering Manager at the largest chemical manufacturing company in the world. She has applied her technical and management skills to develop creative, sustainable, engineering solutions for difficult issues faced at most production facilities. Millicent leads a team of engineers and engineering technicians that are accomplished change agents and together, they have successfully implemented projects that begun as concepts or out-of-the-box ideas, that are now being duplicated on a global level. She also mentors other engineers, participates in community projects and spends a tremendous amount of time working on STEM events for girls in the Huntsville, Alabama school district.
When Millicent is not serving her engineering team, she flexes her creative side of her brain by playing the piano and creating new recipes in the kitchen. “I’ve found a lot of success in my chosen field of engineering and I honestly credit this to believing that I'm the only thing that can limit my accomplishments then choosing to live a limitless life”!
Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
Millicent: My love of tinkering, science and mathematics is at the foundation of my decision to seek a STEM field career. As a child, I would take things apart and attempt to put them together after making some type of change to them. I killed many VCRs, radios and telephones along the way! I also managed to make our phone ring with lights as an eleven year old which didn't impress my mom much since I didn't figure out how to make it ring audibly again!
Q: As an Engineering Manager for a Fortune 500 company, how are you leading innovation and technology for the teams that you support?
Millicent: Everyday, I walk into a new problem that requires a fresh, sustainable solution. My team has been empowered from the very beginning to seek out new technology, connect with new vendors and think completely outside of the normal! If there is a technology expo or a new technical training available, my company and I are 100% supportive of my team diving into these opportunities. As a leader, I am aware that I can't do everything alone and that I'm only as strong as my team. Building a successful team with a broad knowledge base is very important to me and to my site. Approaching all challenges with a root cause strategy, openness, honesty, courage and knowledge sharing is definitely an equation for success when supporting operations at my site! My team and I are never afraid to fail, however, we're all terrified to stop learning, stop driving change and stop experimenting with new ways to improve our site and ourselves.
Q: Your resume is a continuous development of growth experiences. What has been your most challenging opportunity climbing the corporate ladder?
Millicent: As a female engineer in a leadership role, learning to have a good work-home life balance can be extremely challenging. Women often experience unconscious bias in STEM careers and this can cause us to feel as though we can't say, 'no' or that we have to do more to appear equal to our peers. It has been a difficult journey for me, but I've realized the importance of having that balance! The effects of a great work-home life balance include positive work results, family that feels supported and less likelihood of feeling burned out at work which leads to more effective leadership abilities.
Q: At Re.engineer, we believe in the power of collaboration, especially when there is value at stake. Tell us about your greatest value creation project or program.
Millicent: My team thrives on our ability to successfully collaborate with production, quality and maintenance teams. One of my greatest value creation projects was the implementation of our new "Engineering The Future" program. This program allows everyone the opportunity to have an idea or solution evaluated by the engineering team. The team meets with the submitter and reviews the idea, the expected results and feasibility of creating a project. The engineering team then works on designing the project and invites the submitter back to review the design with the team. Once the project has been implemented, the person who submitted then idea is honored and posted on every monitor with a short description of their Engineering the Future project. This has worked amazingly at our site to build trust and establish the 'One Team' culture we want to achieve at our facility. I'm very proud of this program!
Q: What advice would you give to other young professionals looking to take their career or business to the next level?
Millicent: Get involved! Poke your nose in places you haven't poked it before! Be open to new experiences and challenge yourselves regularly. One thing that has worked for me is yearly goal setting. Set reasonable goals that require real effort and good time management. As you accomplish these goals, set more that push the boundaries of what you are currently doing in your role. Make sure some of the goals are developmental and create a little discomfort to stretch you professionally.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
Millicent: As a young engineer, everything I didn't complete that day, kept me up at night because I wanted to have a solid path on completing those items the very next day. Nowadays, nothing keeps me awake at night! I've mastered time management and how to effectively schedule tasks so that driving them to completion takes a lot less effort.
With a professional and personal history of challenging the status quo and for seeking out opportunities to promote the progression of the STEM disciplines, Millicent has proven that with a little bit of courage and a whole lot of ingenuity, you can thrive in your career. I've known her since our undergraduate days at Southern University and A&M College where we would either cram in study sessions or compare our homework and lab reports but to this day, she is still the same Millicent; a collaborator, a leader, a refreshing voice of reason and ultimately a certified Re.engineer!