When Alicia Boler Davis was a young girl, she would take apart household appliances and put them back together. Despite being considered the “troublemaker” among her siblings, her penchant for how things worked served as her beginning admiration for science and engineering.
Davis is this year’s Black engineer of the year.
She was introduced to engineering when her middle school teacher noticed she took a liking to science and engineering. From there Alicia, declared “I’m going to be an engineer.” Davis always took a liking to the engineering field, but a STEM program in college reaffirmed that it was her calling. She passed her first engineer test with an impressive score of 93 while her colleagues failed.
Davis is the executive vice president of global manufacturing at General Motors, one of the main sponsors of the BEYA conference. I had no idea I was about to be introduced to a whole new world fueled by STEM.
The lobby of the Marriott Hotel in Washington DC was decorated with Black people ranging from elementary school students to adults far advanced in their career. The DC staple was the center for the BEYA conference where engineers we’re honored for outstanding achievements in the field. Black women like LaAndrea McDonald, who was noted for her work in ballistic missile defense systems and Cassandra Wheeler, a plant manager at Georgia Power Company, were among the honorees at the gala.
“It’s a humbling experience,” Davis said when we candidly chatted during the conference. “I had the opportunity several years ago to come and I was recognized for career achievement award and I was like oh my god, we are doing some amazing things,’ The students that are here are also able to see and interact with people who look just like them and they can say oh my gosh, if they did it, I can do it.”
With the release of Black Panther, young Black girls got their first chance to see themselves as a scientific princess in Shuri. But strong Black women like the Shuri’s character also exist in real life, in women like Alicia Boler Davis.
Davis has been with GM for 23 years and worked in almost every department from quality to tools to connectivity and customer service. “I’m a Black woman everyday. It’s something I’m very proud of. Growing up, my parents told me I can be anything and to be bold about it.”
She added, “I’ve never looked at it as a hindrance or a negative. I’ve always looked at like, I bring a unique perspective. I have a different experience and a set of skills and I bring that to the table.”
No journey is without struggle and Davis’ Black womanhood prepared her for the the ups and down along the rise to success. “Failing is not an option, but things aren’t going to go the way you want them to go but you’re not going to be defeated. That’s part of our spirit and a part of who we are and that’s what I bring to work everyday.”
The annual BEYA conference continues to live up to its goal to “create connections between students, educators and STEM professionals while facilitating partnerships with individuals and their local STEM resources.”