Name: Suzanne Beckstoffer
Place of Employment: Newport News Shipbuilding
Job Title: Director, Technology Development
Education: B.S. Civil Engineering, NC State University
MBA, The College of William and Mary
Suzanne Beckstoffer is the Director Technology Development for Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, VA. In this position, she leads the company’s independent research and development program and the Washington Technical Office. Her previous experience includes managing the FORD Class aircraft carrier design/build processes and tools, project manager of the Automated Steel Factory, as well as positions of increasing responsibility in aircraft carrier and submarine engineering, engineering management, strategic planning, steel fabrication, and business development. Suzanne holds a B.S. in Civil Engineering from NC State University and an MBA from The College of William and Mary. She is also Chairman of the Board of BayPort Credit Union, a $1.2 billion financial institution headquartered in Newport News, VA. Suzanne has served as Vice President Membership of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, and is a Past President and Paul Harris Fellow of the Warwick Rotary Club. She serves on Industry Advisory Boards for the NC State University Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering Department and for Webb Institute.
What is the greatest challenge you’ve encountered during your career in STEM?
My biggest challenge was overcoming my fear of public speaking. It's taken a lot a practice to become comfortable in front of a large group, or even addressing hundreds or thousands of people. Now it's becoming a regular occurrence.
What do you think is the most exciting thing about having a career in STEM?
I'm always thrilled and proud to see one of the ships I've worked on TV. Whenever there's trouble somewhere in the world, and the President asks, "Where are the carriers?" I'm glad our ships are there to defend our country and project diplomacy wherever it's needed. I also have a cousin who flies jets off our aircraft carriers, so it's personal, too.
If you could give one piece of advice to a girl who is considering doing a Silver or Gold Award based on STEM or pursuing a career in STEM, what would that be?
Do what you love. I always loved math and science, and building big things that would be useful for a long time. The Roman aqueducts and roadways, Egyptian and Mayan pyramids always fascinated me as a child. They were so well-built and functional even thousands of years later. My original career plan was to build bridges, but ships are pretty darn good, too!
Did you have STEM mentors?
The reason I'm an engineer is because of my 10th grade math teacher, Mrs. Baldwin. She was the meanest old woman who ever lived (or at least my classmates and I thought so at the time...) But, she's the person who took her own time to drive another girl and me to a weekend university conference on engineering careers for women. I took one look at the water lab in the Civil Engineering building and I was hooked. Thank you, Mrs. Baldwin!
If you were a Girl Scout, what is your favorite Girl Scout memory?
I was a Brownie in a very small town, and my favorite memory is of going on a hike to a "haunted" old house just outside the city limits. I was scared to death even in broad daylight. There was probably some lesson in there about facing one's fears, but I just remember it as a delicious thrill.
If you were a Girl Scout, did Girl Scouting have an impact on your decision to pursue a career in STEM?
think being a Girl Scout encourages girls to be adventurous, to try new things, and to bravely explore the world. Those are good steps toward finding a rewarding career in an unexpected place.