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Taste the Stars

Meet Fadwa Naji, the current project manager for the Beach Launch Team. From first meeting her, you would be charmed by her assertive and confident personality. For a while I decided what would be a good addition to the blog and what better way than to interview the women in charge! The face of this humbling and ambitious Team! Their will be much more of these interviews of leads within the team yet to come. The goal of them will be to give the public the chance to get to know these leaders on a personal organic level. And who knows, maybe even inspire other tinkers and future leaders?

A quick note on her background, Fadwa’s majoring in aerospace engineering after she switched from physics. She was originally in the nursing field, but after her son Hunter was born, she decided she wanted to do something more: something her son would be proud of. That is when she decided to go back to school and try engineering. On the first week that she transferred from community college to CSULB she stumbled upon a flyer outside her math class that promoted the school’s liquid rocket team. That same day she decided to stop by the laboratory where the club worked to see what it was all about. Immediately as she walked in, the structures lead at the time was working on a skin and without hesitation, she jumped in working right along with her and other members. That is the type of leader Fadwa is. At the sight of something new and intimidating instead of shying away like most people would, she jumps right in and becomes an agile member to the group.

Within a few months of being a member of the club, she decided to run for project manager. The project manager position is responsible to make sure every subsystem in the group stays on track and schedule for deadlines and assignments. The position also requires for her to assure they have all materials, guidance, and support they may need. As head of the club its important for the project manager to delegate between subsystem and guarantee everyone is communicating the correct information, so the club flows flawlessly through their projects. When asked what the biggest challenges were, she has faced in regards to her position, Fadwa responded, “Organization is the biggest challenge I have. Making sure I am organized so everyone can stay organized and stay on tasks.” Being that the Beach Launch Team is a college team and the students are not paid at all for their work. Fadwa also touched on the challenge of motivating students to work long hours, especially when the club’s rockets are not always successful, “Keeping college kids motivated and passionate about the club and work they do not get paid for is not easy, but seeing people come in the summer when they could be on vacation is encouraging and encourages more to come in and help.”

Fadwa has been working tiredlessly for the better of the team. She wants to be able to look back at her life a decade from now and remember her times with BLT as a springboard to her career. On regards to the legacy of her leadership she wants people to comment, “You know what, she wasn’t so bad as a leader.” Her personal goal for the club is to launch and recover successfully as many rockets as possible. Her dream career is to ultimately build rocket engines. It comes to no surprise that her favorite component of the rocket is the engine, but she as well admitted her appreciation for avionics. “Where engine work at times can seem limited the avionics subsystem can make up anything they please with a written software.” She would also be over the moon if she could ever have the chance to go to space.

This whole blog was started with the mission of the pink rocket project. So, as I asked her what the pink rocket project meant to her, she responded with the most genuine opinion that moved me. “It means that a little girl from Morocco [Fadwa] who was told she was not good enough for a job in engineering shows she did make it. It shows other girls anywhere no matter what background they have that if they look at the sky full of stars, they can reach them.”

Thinking about the challenged Fadwa has faced and all the skills she has gained from the club, when asked if it has shaped her perspective of her future and the engineering industry, she agreed 100% that it has for the better. It has shaped her to be more determined and excited of what she will be doing in her future career. She is eager to duplicate what she is currently building at a bigger level. The experience she has had in the club makes her feel confident enough to jump onto any project and succeed.

The day I got a chance to interview her just so happened to be the first general body meeting for the club that semester. A busy one at that, the laboratory was filled with over thirty new faces who all seemed eager to learn about the Beach Launch Team. Many potential new recruits periodically came up to ask her questions, which were times the interview had to be paused. For every question, Fadwa answered with a smile, making the person she was talking to feel welcomed. Yes, Fadwa is a fresh project manager in a scary position that comes with much responsibility. From my own perspective and knowing her for some time now, I know she won’t be remembered as a “Not so bad” of a leader, but rather a “Rockstar” of a leader.

Fadwa Naji

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