Julie Newman: Engineer and Author


Julie Newman, Chief Engineer for a major satellite program at Boeing and active STEM outreach champion, found her true calling in engineering.

She studied electrical engineering at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), interned at SpaceX helping to develop electronics for the Falcon 9 rocket, landed her first dream job at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), worked on an earth satellite project to refine climatology models, designed the radar instrument for the Europa Clipper Mission, worked as a Project Manager on the Space Launch System at Boeing, and had a hand in working on the most powerful launch vehicle ever flown. She is currently a Chief Engineer at Boeing and is working to improve engineering and company culture. 


Julie got started on her path to STEM in middle school while participating in the Science Olympiad competition building balsa wood bridges, model airplanes, rockets, and robots. Even though she excelled in the competition, the adults and educators in her life never really suggested that she pursue engineering. Luckily, she found her own way into the engineering field while choosing her college major.   

After attending multiple STEM outreach events, she noticed the need for more positive and effective STEM messaging for young girls. As someone who is passionate about the engineering field, she heard the call to action. In order to help educators draw girls into engineering rather than scaring them away, Julie wrote “Pull Don’t Push: Why STEM Messaging to Girls Isn’t Working & What to Do Instead.”  

“I really care about the future of the engineering industry. I love what I do.  I know that getting this message out to more kids and letting them find these amazing paths for themselves is an incredibly important thing to give back,” says Julie. “. . . I wrote this book for educators and volunteers to help them understand the research-backed messaging that makes the most impact and what resonates most.”  


Pull Don’t Push is split into three parts: the theory of STEM outreach, the pieces of messaging that work well with young girls, and lastly the appendices with useful tools, references, and guides to improve the effectiveness of STEM programming and outreach.   


Historically, science and math have been at the forefront of STEM outreach. Because of this, many more young women have gone into these fields over the past few decades, which is something to be celebrated! However, STEM outreach to girls doesn’t tend to focus on engineering, meaning that many girls who would be perfectly suited for an engineering career might miss their calling.    

Julie realized through her decade-long experience with STEM outreach events that they tended to either fail to accurately represent engineering or actively scare girls away from it.  Children, teens, and young adults who are searching for their passions want – and deserve – an accurate description of what they are getting into. An important way to capture their attention with engineering is to provide them with an attractively accurate description of the field. Julie does a wonderful job of breaking down what engineers do, and she provides readers with a precise definition: “Engineers work creatively in teams to solve problems by developing products and systems that improve the lives of many people” (Newman, 2023, p. 48). This definition does a great job of accenting the parts of engineering messaging that young girls really connect with.   


The second part of the book highlights the eight topics that resonate well with girls and young women: money, stability, helping others, collaborating, creativity, fulfillment, work-life balance, and a fast track to entry, success, and promotion. These eight topics are things that a majority of young girls value in their future careers – but that we often don’t tell them enough about!   

Emphasizing money and stability are valuable points to make when encouraging girls to choose career paths. On average, women are more risk averse than men; women tend to choose a career that they know will be secure and will provide them with a stable income (Newman, 2023, p 71). While money can be an uncomfortable subject for some to discuss, it’s important to keep in mind that a lot of people – not just women – crave a steady salary and lifestyle, and it should be a major talking point when encouraging people to pursue engineering.   

While money and stability are important factors in girls’ exploration of careers, they are, of course, not the only things they look for. For example, women have a strong preference for jobs that give them opportunities to help the world and people around them. Luckily for them, engineering is an inherently collaborative field that solves countless well-known problems for people. Highlighting these aspects in engineering will likely draw in many young girls who want to make a difference in the world.   

Many girls find it important to find themselves in a career that requires creativity (Newman, 2023, 94). When they think about a career in STEM, they might not realize that engineering can provide them with dynamic opportunities to flex their creative muscles. Engineering is a challenging field that requires collaboration and innovative thinking.  Emphasizing the inherently creative and fulfilling nature of engineering is sure to catch the attention of many girls and young women.   

Attitudes about work-life balance have changed over the years. Nowadays, young people want to work to live rather than live to work. That’s not to say that young people don’t want to have fulfilling careers that they devote their time and effort to; they just want to have a life that is separate from work. Telling girls they can have it all is a great way to draw them in. Let them know that they can be successful and still have time to themselves, that they can work full-time and still have a family if that’s what they want, and that they can grow within their career while still being more than just their job. Sharing this with girls is a surefire way to get them on board with engineering.   


Finally, the book’s appendices are filled with effective tools and tricks for STEM educators and outreach professionals. The resources in this third part of the book provide educators with methods and ideas for engaging and working with professional women in engineering, known as “Ambassadors.”  Full of templates and word-for-word scripts, the appendices are a treasure trove for any educator or volunteer looking to level up their STEM outreach efforts.  


There is only so much that can be said in a single magazine column, so unfortunately much of the information in the book had to be left out of this review.

However, I had the amazing opportunity to speak with Julie and record a thirty-minute interview.

I also highly recommend purchasing Julie’s book for over 200 pages of information and resources. Julie also has a website with more material for curious educators and potential future engineers.

Thanks to Julie’s own experiences with engineering and her willingness to share her knowledge with educators, it seems that STEM outreach – and more specifically messaging over the engineering field – will soon face a much-needed reformation. The next generation of engineers is in for a treat, and we will be fortunate enough to benefit from the amazing work they will do. 

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