Before Heather Slaski went back to college and earned a Masters in aerospace engineering, she taught physics, earth science, and astronomy to public high school students in Harford County, Maryland.

She enjoyed helping students learn the sciences and, most of all, kindling their interest in physics. After two years of trying to live off of a teacher’s meager salary and working side jobs to make ends meet, she decided she wanted to be the one conducting the science and applying the physics.

After she left the teaching field, she went to work in the private sector for General Electric (GE) Aviation in Baltimore as a manufacturing engineer. She was responsible for developing manufacturing processes and documenting and driving process changes to reinforce proper installation procedures.

After a year, she was promoted to lead configuration management engineer to evaluate and review design changes, coordinate configuration control, and update configuration management plans. Three years later, she became the lead development quality assurance engineer. She ensured quality and regulatory compliance and conducted and provided expert guidance on root cause analysis techniques.

While working for GE and finishing graduate school, she met her future division chief. When an opportunity opened up in his division, she switched to the government sector. She started working for the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command-Armaments Center as an aerospace engineer in the Firing Tables and Ballistics Division at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

As an aerospace engineer, she determined and characterized ballistic performance and developed firing tables and aiming data for subsystems within mortars, small arms, and the field artillery family of weapons systems. She also served as team lead for the unguided mortar weapon systems for the Aiming Data Ballistics Team.

After four years, another exciting opportunity opened up. In April 2020, just as COVID-19 was locking everything and everyone down, she went to work for the U.S. Army Evaluation Center (AEC) as a suitability evaluator.

Slaski works mainly on the reliability, availability, and maintainability (RAM) side of suitability. A small part of what she does is analyze the test data and provide results based on the specific RAM requirements of a program. She explained if the evaluation shows that requirements are not met, details are provided to show what specifically failed. These details of what failed help determine the risks and the consequences of proceeding with a specific decision. Although it is not her decision to make, the information she provides is critical to helping senior leaders make the best one.

She loves her current role but admits starting a new job during COVID did present some interesting and unforeseen challenges. Due to COVID, her first two years with AEC were spent working primarily from home. Plus, since she was new, she had to learn remotely from others. The steady stream of support from her coworkers and her supervisor’s positive and encouraging feedback made all the difference in getting her up and running.

Slaski says she isn’t at full speed yet. There are still so many different components that go into suitability she has not learned. With so many fresh experiences to look forward to, she is eager to start making a difference in Soldiers’ lives while also working on some really cool projects.