Footsteps all her own

The unexpected journey of father-and-daughter Raytheon engineers.

Katherine and Don Herrick Enlarge
Raytheon engineer Katherine Herrick came to love engineering through her father, Don Herrick. Don plans to retire from Raytheon this year.

This article was first published on Raytheon’s site on October 20, 2017.

When Katherine Herrick was an engineering student at the University of Michigan, professors would recognize her last name and say, “Oh, I know your dad.”

But now the shoe is on the other foot for Don Herrick, a Raytheon principal engineering fellow.

“When I come into work, people always tell me, ‘Hey, I know your daughter,’” he said.

Katherine’s followed many of the footsteps her father has left throughout his engineering career, and now is leaving footsteps of her own at Raytheon.

Women account for 14 percent of all engineers, according to an April 2017 report from the Society of Women Engineers. Raytheon supports numerous efforts aimed at encouraging women to pursue engineering careers. Katherine’s story is just the sort of tale that will hopefully help inspire the next generation of female engineers.

Where it all started

Back when he was a professor, Don would take his young daughter to his engineering classes at Texas A&M University, where the pair would conspire.

“He would give me the answer to some difficult engineering question that no student would know,” Katherine said. “And I’d repeatedly say to myself the answer, just trying to remember the words.

“He’d go around the room asking the students if anyone knew the answer, and of course they didn’t, and then he’d call on me and say: ‘Katherine, do you know?’ I’d give the answer, and the whole class would be laughing so hard they’d be falling out of their chairs.”

Those moments inspired Katherine’s interest in the field.

“He gave me the strength to do things that I may not have had the confidence to do otherwise,” she said, “to find the courage to just go for it and not worry about what other people said.”

A turn in the road

The story of their Raytheon careers has a little bit of twist.

“I’m the lifer,” Katherine said.

Don joined the company in 2012, bringing with him expertise in radar and electro-optical systems. Katherine started in 2001, doing research-level work focused on amplifiers, antennas and array architectures, and is now a chief engineer.

They also share the same alma mater. Don has a master’s degree from the University of Michigan.

Katherine has five U.S. patents and more than 50 technical publications, along with her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from U of M. She will soon join Raytheon’s engineering elite as a senior fellow.

The future is ever her focus. Katherine has led panel sessions on Women in Engineering at the past two IEEE International Microwave Symposia. She is also on the board of U of M’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Council.

“It’s important to give back and provide guidance,” Katherine said. “I had a moment when I was pursuing my bachelor’s, and I wondered if I should continue. My courses were so general and I didn’t know how to apply what I was learning.

“My father encouraged me to get an internship, and when I got to see something more specific, I got to see why things happen, and I got more excited about it again. I love helping anyone I can in this field.”