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Meet the Makers: Aaliyah Brown Is On A Mission

Understanding the unique barriers, Aaliyah is determined to help young women and minorities pursue careers in STEM.

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By the time Aaliyah Brown was 10 years old she knew she wanted to be an engineer.

Her first exposure to the career was as a sixth-grade student in the Aspire Program of Hathaway Brown School, a tuition-free academic program for girls from low-income communities.

She saw engineers described as people who can make things work and make things better – and she was hooked.

She encountered roadblocks along the way – she did not have close role models and even had a college professor imply that without engineers in her family, she would not succeed. She refused to entertain the negativity and firmly rooted her feet on the path to becoming a process engineer.

Thanks for the Inspiration

Aaliyah used those words of discouragement to fuel her passion. “I was determined to open doors for myself and for women of color who saw a future in technical fields,” she said.

Women of color need support to discover and pursue a career in engineering: Only 20% of bachelor’s degrees are awarded to women in engineering and computer sciences and only 6% of bachelor’s degrees in engineering are awarded to women of color.

“I knew that only I could determine my future,” Aaliyah said, “and I started to understand that I could help others realize theirs.”

Aaliyah interned at Rockwell Automation for two summers before college, and this supportive network of professionals became her inspiration. She realized that once she graduated, she could work for a global company focused on connecting the imaginations of people with the potential of technology to make the world work better.

Make Relationships

"I’m a maker of relationships,” said Aaliyah. “I focus on my craft and I focus on working with people. Diversity here is seen as an imperative because every different experience informs decisions – and it’s the foundation of new technology that is driving the next industrial evolution.”

Aaliyah remains in awe of the diverse engineers surrounding her and her work.

“Every day I talk to people who are fresh from college and people with three or more decades of experience in automation – some were original contributors to many of the products we take for granted today,” said Aaliyah. “The ability to mesh these different worlds and navigate to something truly special makes this company and this experience unique and has helped me build a career that’s even bigger than I imagined.”

Make Space
Aaliyah is drawn to curious people who, like her, want to find a better way – and want to do that through engineering.

“People will notice I’m a Black woman, but what I want them to see is my contributions,” said Aaliyah. “I want the work I do to be significant.”

In addition to her day job, Aaliyah founded a non-profit organization, Build Sessions CLE, giving Cleveland-area students heading to college something she did not have: a community of engineers that look like them, who could relate to the experience, and offer support.

“As long as we lack women and minorities in science and engineering, I am on a mission to make a way for them,” said Aaliyah. “I will make the space, I will encourage young minds to chase after the possibilities, and to see themselves as people who can pursue technical careers. I will challenge them to capitalize on creativity to lead the way.”

Carol Jors
Carol Jors
Storyteller, Rockwell Automation
Carol Jors

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