By day, Quintessa Thomas shapes the future of Army aircraft at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center. After hours, she helps shape the future workforce.When the Army's new Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft takes off, Thomas will be able to say she had a part in it as a systems engineer for the CCDC AvMC Systems Readiness Directorate's Future Vertical Lift airworthiness division. AvMC has been delegated airworthiness authority for all Army aircraft, including FVL, the Army modernization priority designed to bring vertical-lift platforms into the 21st century with increased lethality, survivability, speed, range, payload, endurance and altitude."It's been a while since we've added a brand new platform to our fleet," Thomas said. "I'm working on new aircraft that will help our Soldiers identify the enemy so to give us an advantage on the battlefield. Our current aircraft are overmatched by our key adversaries. However, with the introduction of new technologies and a fast-track acquisition process, we will change this to ensure we are ready for whatever the future holds."Working from Army regulation 70-62, which outlines the airworthiness of aircraft systems, Thomas and the SRD team look at a variety of things, such as structural integrity, system safety standards, design handbooks and drawings. If they find a problem that can't be mitigated "it's our job to make leadership aware of any airworthiness impacts so they can make a decision on how to proceed with the program," Thomas said. "There's different levels. The PM has to look at the hazards as well as the severity, consequences, and probability of those hazards identified occurring, then decide if they want to accept the risk or push for mitigation or elimination."We're making sure that it's safe for our Soldiers to fly. Our job is to make sure that the Warfighter can rest assured we've evaluated everything and that aircraft is ready to go."The granddaughter of sharecroppers, growing up in a farming town in Tennessee, Thomas didn't encounter very many engineers. But with a little encouragement from her uncle and mother, and thanks to the example of her aunt - an engineer - and her father - a shade-tree mechanic - she found her career path in mechanical engineering. A graduate of Tennessee State University, supporting the Warfighter is the latest chapter of her 20-plus year career as an engineer. Prior to joining the government, Thomas worked for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, General Motor's Saturn Division, Ford Motor Company and Navistar.It's a journey that hasn't been without challenges but, capitalizing on her emotional intelligence, she's learned how to navigate and break down the barriers she's encountered.Only 13% of engineers are female, according to the Society of Women Engineers, and less than 2% are women of color. A study by DiscoverE, the organization behind Engineers Week each February, indicates that when young women have engineers for role models, their impact may not only spark interest in the career field, but help them realize their own potential.A firm believer in helping others, Thomas gives back in her community as a Girl Scout troop leader and a youth leader at her church where, through her example, she shows all that's possible with hard work and determination."I love that I get to help my girls develop new skills, travel to new places, meet professionals in varying fields, as well as try new things," Thomas said of Girl Scouts. "Many times, I'm forced to step outside of my comfort zone which helps me grow and show my troop that girls can do anything! Why not spend my time helping change a life and shaping our future?"Her advice to young people wanting to follow her example is simple, yet powerful."Work hard," Thomas said. "Read and absorb everything. Look at every opportunity as a building-block experience. Have a positive attitude. Build good relationships." -- The CCDC Aviation & Missile Center, formerly known as the Aviation & Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC), is part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, which conducts responsive research, development and life cycle engineering to deliver the aviation and missile capabilities the Army depends on to ensure victory on the battlefield today and tomorrow. Through collaboration across the command's core technical competencies, CCDC leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our nation's wars and come home safely. CCDC is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.