Tiger to TRW

If engineering has an enthusiastic face it is Wendy Okamura, University of Hawai'i at Manoa graduate in electrical engineering. "As engineers we fight to solve problems," says Okamura. "Problems are our battles, and the more challenging or difficult the problem, the more overwhelming is the feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment achieved once a solution is found."

"In the next 20 years I see engineers making a huge contribution towards society," Okamura continues. "Advancements in electronics and communications will continue to grow with alarming speed. Engineers are the building blocks for these advancements in every step of the way. With these advancements the possibilities to do almost anything will be within reach."

Okamura is currently employed at TRW Inc. in Redondo, California as a Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuit (MMIC) designer. "I perform circuit simulations using a CAD tool to meet certain design goals set by the customer," she describes. "After simulations are completed, another software is used to layout (draw) the MMIC. These layouts are turned into masks, which are then used to fabricate (make) the actual circuit. Once fabrication is complete, tests are done to validate simulations. If there are no discrepancies, then the design is a success. But that is not always the case. If measurements do no match the simulation then further work is needed for redesign and the entire cycle continues again."

Okamura credits her family with her success. "Growing up throughout my elementary and intermediate school years my parents and paternal grandparents were my principal role models," she reflects. "I looked up to them and respected them for everything they did for my older brother and me."

Her high school teachers convinced Okamura that engineering was a perfect career choice. "In my junior and senior years at McKinley High School, my physics and math teachers were so enthusiastic about their respective subjects that it made me intrigued with both topics," says Okamura. "The one major discipline that combined both areas of study was engineering."

Although focusing more toward math and physics in high school, Okamura kept busy with other activities. She was a member of both the volleyball and basketball teams as well as the National Honor Society. She also played flute in the school band and was student government secretary during her senior year.

Okamura remained active during her years at UH Manoa. "The (UHM) College of Engineering is where I made many dear friends," recalls Okamura. "I became active in the student organizations there; the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), the Engineers Council at UH (ECUH) and Eta Kappa Nu, an EE honor society. Not only did I get the chance to meet many people, I also learned invaluable skills in organization and most important, time management!"

Two UH Manoa engineering professors stand out for Okamura. "Dr. Michael DeLisio's courses laid the groundwork for most of the work I am doing today at TRW," she says. "Academically I am indebted to him for his guidance and depth of knowledge."

"Dr. Tep Dobry was a faculty member that inspired me outside of academics," Okamura remembers. "His dedication to the EE students was unrivaled. As IEEE's advisor, Tep was always there to assist the students if they needed any guidance in planning activities for the organization. On top of that, he must have had the longest list of students to advise for registering for classes every semester. I am grateful to have had the chance to meet him and work with him."

Okamura's advice to youngsters: "If you know that math, physics, computers, mechanical drawings, or anything similar is something you're really interested in, then you're perfect for one of the fields in engineering. Don't get discouraged by those that say, 'Engineering is so hard!' For girls especially, don't ever feel that you won't be able to succeed in a field dominated by men. I know this has been said many times before, but it is so true; with hard work and determination, you can succeed in anything you put your mind to."

Despite all her success, Okamura remains humble when explaining how she ended up at TRW. "During the summer of 1996 I was fortunate enough to get an internship position at TRW. This was after my third year in the College of Engineering," she remembers. "At the time, I wasn't exactly sure what I would want to specialize in and because of that, I was not very self-confident about starting an internship position at a mainland company. Nevertheless, I was placed in the RF Products Center and was given various work assignments. All of the workers in that department made me feel welcome and comfortable in the jobs that I worked on. This first summer of success allowed me to land another internship at TRW the next summer in the same department. During this second summer, I learned a lot about the basic necessities to survive as a MMIC designer. All of this history with TRW made my eventual decision to work there almost an open-and-shut case. I still left my options open and interviewed with other companies, such as Raytheon, Motorola and Boeing, but after weighing all of the options, I chose TRW."

As new technology continues to expand the envelope of discovery, Wendy Okamura will be right in the middle of it all. "To me, the best part about being an engineer is having the opportunity to not only experience the innovation and advancement of technology, but also to be a part of it," she concludes. "As engineers, it is we who push the boundaries of technology. We ask the questions and seek the answers through problem solving and enthusiasm towards that quest. Challenges and obstacles make the engineering field truly dynamic and interesting."


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