February 6, 2020

photo of jill meyersWhen aerospace engineering alumna Jill Meyers opens her laptop, an image of a Pilatus PC-12 in flight lights up the screen, serving as a daily reminder of the inspiration for her career in aerospace engineering.

At an early age, Meyers developed a fascination with airplanes while watching them take off and land at the airport near her childhood home in Arizona. At just 17, she obtained her private pilot’s license, and she joined the U.S. Air Force two years later. While serving on active duty, Meyers earned her bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering at UT Austin.

“The educational division of the Air Force handed me a list of career and degree options for the Airman Education and Commissioning Program for which I was selected. They were all engineering, and meteorology was at the bottom. I’ll never forget it,” she said. “I put astronautical engineering first, aeronautical engineering second and, for the third option, I put none. They came back to me and said, ‘You need a third option. Spots are limited in your first two choices, and you probably won’t get into either one.’ Needless to say, I got in, and I was assigned to The University of Texas, which I’m so grateful for.”

As an active-duty student, Meyers’ time on the Forty Acres didn’t mirror that of a “typical” undergraduate. Air Force responsibilities and requirements created unique roadblocks for her to navigate, building resiliency and strengthening her determination to succeed.

“It was difficult. My load was heavier than most, in addition to my responsibilities as active-duty Air Force. I was always a bit envious of the other students who could stretch out their coursework and have more time to take other non-engineering classes,” she said. “But, two things kept me going. I had amazing professors, and I found two other women in the same program — and we became inseparable. There is such power in community.”

Following graduation, Meyers went on to have a successful career in industry, working at Boeing, Raytheon, Eclipse Aviation and Northrop Grumman, starting as an aerospace systems engineer and advancing into senior leadership roles. She now owns her own consulting company and travels around the U.S. as a public speaker, talking with young, female engineers, hoping to inspire their own visions for future careers.

“When somebody asks you to do something that’s really life-changing for potentially thousands of kids, you don’t say no,” Meyers said of her move from corporate America to the non-profit sector. “I left industry to spend time helping the next generation of young girls see they have a wealth of opportunities available to them. I want to help them find their passion and thrive.”

Meyers credits her time at UT with much of her early-career success, as it provided her with a solid foundation of both technical and life skills upon which she built her career.

“I love that the aerospace engineering curriculum provides a little bit of everything. You develop such a wide range of knowledge across all engineering disciplines that, when you go into the workplace, you are ready for anything,” Meyers said. “I truly believe we must never stop learning.”

She hopes to continue to use her time and career experiences to increase her outreach efforts and empower girls and women of all ages who are pursuing careers in the aerospace industry.

“There’s a famous quote by Sally Ride: ‘You can’t be what you can’t see,’” Meyers said. “I’ve taken that quote to heart and adopted it as my mission. I want women to see the opportunities available to them and know the sky is not the limit when it comes to their astronautical and aeronautical dreams.”