#PGHSTEM Spotlight: Mattie Collins-Wood
Engineer, electrician, advocate for youth, STEM professional
Mattie Collins-Wood is an engineer with a vision for the future of STEM. Combining both her electrician background and engineering background, this double-threat wants to break through the barriers that keep people of color from being equitably represented in the engineering field.
Through her work as a mentor and role model, Mattie wants to be a shining example for the younger generation and is working diligently towards it. Speaking to her, I feel she has a true passion for helping and mentoring.
We sat down with Mattie to learn how STEM has shaped her life as an engineer and founder of STEM The Future.
This interview has been edited for clarity and concision.
Willy James: What was your STEM “a ha moment”?
Mattie Collins-Wood: I went to Taylor Allderdice High School, Pittsburgh Public Schools, and I was in the magnet program called “professional engineering” —it’s now called “CTE”—.
I got interested in the digital electronics module: I liked soldering, I liked wiring different things together, I like the the many different projects we worked on, and so I got totally interested in that field.
Willy James: What has a career in STEM meant to you?
Mattie Collins-Wood: It’s a life-changing experience. There’s not a lot of people who look like me in the electrical or engineering field. So I took it upon myself to really work hard to get in and stay in electrical engineering just to be a new face in this field.
“I kind of did it to prove somebody wrong.” – Mattie Collins-Wood
Willy James: How did you know you wanted to go into electrical engineering?
Mattie Collins-Wood: Unfortunately, one of my experiences in high school with the program I was in, my teacher at the time suggested that I pick a different major. So I did it to prove somebody wrong. But I also already had a passion for it.
Willy James: What’s one thing you wish more people knew about STEM?
Mattie Collins-Wood: There’s a lot of opportunities in STEM. Whether it’s on the professional side and engineering, like myself. I’m an electrical engineer, but I’m also a certified electrician and some people might not see that as a STEM field, but it is. Those two professions end up working together.
Willy James: What’s one STEM experience/resource/book/program/event you’d recommend?
Mattie Collins-Wood: For me, I didn’t think that being a part of my electrician apprenticeship was really, at first, what I wanted to get into. I just looked at it as a way to help me pay for school. But the more I got into the field, the more I learned. And basically you’re getting paid to go to school—that’s what an apprenticeship is really about. I was learning the same things I was learning my freshman year in college.
I think a lot of people should look into trade schools and apprenticeship programs. They might help you rather than if you’re not really interested in college. I know a lot of kids feel like school is not really for them, but if you want to get into STEM fields, there are a lot of apprenticeship programs. There’s electrician, HVAC, plumbing, piping…they are all part of the STEM field.
Learn more about Mattie and her work on her LinkedIn.
This post is part of the #PghSTEM Spotlight, a project to lift up professionals who represent a more diverse and inclusive future for STEM careers.
Follow the links below to check out other spotlights in the collection.
Published June 11, 2019