By Guest Author | Posted - Mar 14th, 2024





SheTech Interns Interview Alison Sturgeon

Embracing Versality: Alison Sturgeon’s Journey in Fostering STEM Outreach

By Isabelle, with assistance from Alli

We recently had the opportunity to interview Alison Sturgeon, one of the Women Tech Council’s finalists for the 2023 Women Tech Awards. She is an Electrical Engineer Acquisition Specialist at Hill Air Force Base (HAFB). Sturgeon calls it a niche position, meaning it has a highly specialized focus. She is in charge of the procurement process for major systems at the base. These include large-scale, multimillion-dollar radar navigation systems for tracking missiles and satellites. Sturgeon is tasked with keeping a database of performance work statements and keeping track of all procurement documentation. The procurement process can take two to three years for major systems.

Sturgeon developed her interest in engineering through her father, a mechanical engineer in the Air Force. While developing a love for math, she was encouraged by her father to go into engineering. In high school, she asked her counselor which engineering field was the most math-intensive. The answer was electrical engineering. Unlike her father, who dealt with physical processes, she was drawn to electrical engineering and its modeling of processes that couldn't be seen visually using math applications. She studied electrical engineering at Brigham Young University. After getting married, she transferred to the University of Utah.

Along with her love of math, she chose electrical engineering as a major because of its high and constant demand in the workforce. She mentioned how HAFB and companies nationwide hire electrical engineering, computer engineering, and computer science majors the most. The world is run by computers. Having a job related to computers ensures job security. Sturgeon added that engineers can leave a job and easily re-enter the field. This was especially true during her time in the Air Force.

Throughout her career, Sturgeon worked for the Air Force three different times after leaving the field for various reasons. As a college student, she interned at HAFB and later went on to work for the private industry. She then came back to HAFB and worked as an engineer until she left to stay home and be a mother of three. She finally came back and ended up where she is now. Her experience is a clear demonstration of how valuable a STEM degree is. The versatility of a STEM degree, especially one in electrical engineering, enabled her to take this route.

During her time with the Air Force, working as a civilian offered a work-life balance that was uncommon in the engineering industry. Civilian employees make up 80% of HAFB’s workforce. The base is a center of engineering for the Air Force. As a civilian, she faced no military obligations, wasn’t expected to travel, and enjoyed flexibility in her weekly schedule. 

Sturgeon played a key role in building a STEM pipeline among secondary students in Utah school systems. She fostered student interest in STEM at Utah middle schools and high schools. As one of the initial teachers for Starbase, a program for 5th-grade students at the Hill Air Force Base, she created and taught the STEM curriculum. She was then asked to oversee all STEM outreach programs on base, including the Legacy program, which followed fifth graders to their college education.

After teaching Starbase, she realized there were unique issues for women working in male-dominated fields. She started the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) as a support group for women in all stages of their careers. This program involves networking, events, career-broadening, career advancement, and mentoring for participants. Members also were involved in STEM outreach at local high schools through speed mentoring of high school girls. Sturgeon shared, “I feel like being a female in the STEM degree is an advantage. You stand out in the crowd in a really good way.” Employers want women in the workplace, especially in STEM fields, to boost creativity and accelerate company accomplishments. Studies have shown that if companies are made up of at least 22% of women, what they can accomplish is accelerated.

When asked what advice she could give high schoolers and college students, she explained that college is different. The classes are harder, and the grading scale is curved, with only so many A's available. You sometimes take a test in physics where the average is 56%. STEM majors are “just a little bit tougher, but you can still be doing well and get a few C's and some B's.” In college, you just have to get through it and stick with it.

For future female STEM majors, Sturgeon advises, “Don’t be intimidated. Don’t let the guys in your class intimidate you.” She wants girls to know that just because they are sometimes in a room with all males doesn’t mean they don’t belong. “If you're one of the minority, sit up front and take charge because most of the doubt is just in your head.” This is especially true for women, who are typically harder on themselves than men. Most of all, don’t listen to anyone that might say something negative. “If you just get that degree, the world is open to you.”


Isabelle is a junior attending DaVinci Academy of Science and the Arts in Ogden, Utah. She is a SheTech Student Board member, SheTech-TechBuzz media intern, and author of the above article. Alli assisted in the interview.

As part of the media internship, Isabelle and Alli interview women tech leaders in Utah, including 2023 Women Tech Award finalists and awardees. SheTech media intern articles are published on TechBuzz News and active in the Silicon Slopes Community, SheTech Media Intern’s Instagram, and other social media channels.

The premiere event of the year for SheTech occurred today, March 14 (Pi Day). Explorer Day brought together over 3,000 girls from across the state. They came together for a day of inspiring speeches, exposure to tech careers via a packed exhibit hall filled with representatives from many of Utah's leading tech companies, universities, and other organizations. Hundreds of mentors provided the SheTech girls with expert guidance on myriad STEM career options. 

Participating girls also experienced a 360 degree photo booth and numerous hands-on group activities, including the annual Tech Challenge that taps the collective intellectual power of thousands of girls and hundreds of adult mentors, who collectively work on a common community challenge that could be aided by an innovative tech solution.

The day concluded with a graduation ceremony of senior SheTech members, the awarding of SheTech awards and scholarships, mingling with Rep. Jefferson Moss, a strong supporter of SheTech, and selfies and BeReals with Governor Spencer Cox, a devoted SheTech fan who has attended and spoken at Explorer Day five years in a row. 

This year, participation at SheTech reached a new high, bumping up against the maximum capacity of the venue. 

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