Shawn Linam wanted to be more than a mom.
And now she’s also helping young girls realize their dreams as well.
While working as a technical trainer after graduating college with a biological engineering degree, the Ahwatukee woman recalls, “I stumbled into space. I walked into it and I fell in love with space exploration.”
She met with a NASA representative, who encouraged her to apply for the agency’s spaceflight engineering positions. Though it was a different job than what she was used to, training astronauts turned out to be exciting and challenging.
“I worked in facilities considered as national treasures and worked with very intelligent people,” she said.
Her career change initially surprised her.
“Even though I finished school in biological engineering, I still didn’t have the confidence if I was strong enough or capable enough to work at a place like NASA. It never even entered my mind that NASA was a possibility for me,” she said.
But after 16 years as a NASA spaceflight instructor, Linam was ready to move on. So she took a job in Phoenix as an operations trainer for a satellite constellation called the “Iridium system.”
“At the time I wanted to advance and move up. When I got a job working with the Iridium system, I thought it sounded exciting to be a part of that program as well,” Linam said.
After five years with that company, she co-founded her own, Qwaltec, where she became the chief executive officer overseeing the development, management, direction and operations for the company.
Qwaltec specializes in aerospace and trains people on the operation of satellite systems. “This company focuses on technical training, mission readiness and mission engineering for space systems,” Linam said.
Linam now is helping young girls find new opportunities in the so-called world of STEM, the acronym for science technology engineering and math. She’s STEM director for the Girls Rule Foundation, a non-profit organization that puts on multiple after-school and summer programs that help build self confidence among girls generally in the seventh through 12th grades.
“When I looked at their mission statement that really resinated with me. I struggled with my own self esteem and my own confidence. I believe we are only held back by our limiting beliefs not our abilities,” she said.
Linam had been a Girl Scout leader when her daughters were younger as well as a speaker at many schools, encouraging young girls to dream big and work hard to achieve those ambitions.
In her position with the Girls Rule Foundation, she likes that she also can help the nation overcome the shortage of young people who are pursuing STEM careers.
“We are falling behind other countries in technology based fields because our kids have become less interested,” said Linam. “It’s a real focus in schools, in government programs and tech based companies to encourage STEM in our young people.”