Aerospace Engineer · Raytheon
“My desire to become an engineer is deep rooted. I grew up in a poverty-stricken environment in Sawmill, Arizona on the Navajo Reservation. It was definitely a situation meant to make or break you. My dream to pursue engineering began in a one room home without running water or electricity, but it was easy to dream ― I just had to look up. Seeing all of the military and commercial airplanes flying over my home ignited the fire, the passion and the love for engineering. At a very young age I was able to grasp the concept of flight and it was then I knew my dream was to be part of the engineering world. I became obsessed with aviation and aerospace, so naturally I wanted to be the ‘Navajo Sally Ride’, so I became an Aerospace Engineer. I earned my Aerospace Engineering bachelor’s degree at Arizona State University and later went back to get my master’s degree in Engineering Management at George Washington University.
Kristina is most proud of her work as a Flight Test Engineer at Raytheon, working on defense products to protect and keep our military safe. “As a Flight Test Engineer I made an important contribution to one of the most significant technical and financial challenges within Raytheon―delivery of the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile rocket motors. The missile program was in danger of concluding because of production issues. I was the Flight Test Engineer that was responsible for the real-time data monitoring of the missile with a replacement source rocket motor supplier and it went off without a hitch! This was a significant milestone to the Air Force since it allowed missile deliveries to resume. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to contribute in some way to keep our loved ones safe.”
“My motivation comes from that younger Kristina back on the Navajo Reservation that is hauling water for the family and doing homework by candlelight. She is forever with me because she understands hózhó. Hózhó is the belief system of the Navajo People and it doesn’t translate well into the English language but it basically embodies the idea of striving for balance and harmony together with beauty and order, to be in balance and beauty with the world, to live in beauty. As a Navajo woman I strive to live in beauty with balance and creation and to do this I must overcome all challenges that come my way. Getting through the tough problems only makes you stronger and wiser, but there is no better way to overcome them by facing them head on. For me and from a cultural perspective hózhó is part of my life and there is no hózhó if I cannot overcome challenges and tough problems.”
Kristina is a Sequoyah Fellow of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES). She is involved with regional conferences, leadership summits and national conferences, as well as mentoring American Indian students in the community in the Tucson AISES chapter. “The AISES organization has seen me go from a middle school student doing science fairs to being awarded the 2013 AISES Most Promising Engineer Award and I certainly would not be where I am today without the help of AISES.”