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What is DiscoverE?
DiscoverE is a non-profit, and our mission is to support a volunteer movement that we created of engineers and those in the STEM fields to reach out to kids and their influencers to inspire and inform them about engineering.
What role do events play in realizing that mission?
We have a number of campaigns that go on throughout the year, and I could look at events in a couple of ways. We have, for instance, Engineers Week, which is our cornerstone campaign. We have Introduce Girl to Engineering Day, because as you know, we’ve been underrepresented in the STEM field. We consider those events, but really they’re almost year-long campaigns within themselves, but there are specific events within that, and I can give you three examples of how we roll with events. One is to become part of other people’s events, to help validate who we are and what we do. For instance, we were at every White House Science Fair under the Obama Administration with our middle school program.
Did they reach out to you, or did you proactively reach out to them?
We did both. We knew some people as they were putting that first idea together, and we also had worked with a couple of people within the administration who knew a little bit about us, but once we heard about that coming together, we really wanted to be part of it, and when you hear “science fair,” we also wanted to be sure that engineering was represented, because it’s not… Technology is sort of easy to represent, science might be more typical to represent, but engineering not quite as much. Math is tough. So that’s one way we utilize events, to help validate who we are what our objectives are.
The other would be a couple of steps removed from events. We serve lots and lots of volunteers, feet on the ground, who we think will make a big impression. They have their own events, and our job is really to inspire them to create events, give them best practices on how to do that, and also to give them the tools that they might need, whether it’s giveaways for kids or talking points for parents.
And then, finally, we have events that we develop and manage and implement. For instance, for Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, we do a Capitol Hill briefing, because we don’t lobby around legislation, but we want to be a source of information, and we also present women as role models. And to say to the staff on the Hill, “Girls are interested in STEM, and we’re going to share with you some of the visions of these role models and how they got where they are.”
You (Linder) managed Discover Engineering Family Day for us at the National Building Museum here in Washington, where in one day we had, what, 10,000 visitors? And that’s about introducing kids and their influencers to engineering, because most aren’t going to have an opportunity for that.
And then also, our Future City Competition… Future City is a middle school program, where kids design and build models of a futuristic city using Sim City software, and we bring the winners of about 40 regions around the country into Washington to compete in the national finals, and that’s important in terms of the visibility of the program, the inspiration for the kids to compete and to show what they’ve been able to accomplish, what they’ve learned about engineering, and this year, we’re going to have teams from several countries, so that’s growing globally.
I have three questions to springboard off of that, and we can break them down:
- How are you getting all these volunteers? Are you finding them, or are they finding you, too? Because I think a lot of non-profits rely on that wider network in order to advance their mission.
- Introduce a Girl to Engineering is also a virtual campaign that you have. Talk about the virtual aspect.
- And in terms of the competition in Future City, how does one create a competition? What is behind that idea? Because it’s happening nationwide, and then it culminates here. And you don’t own each of those. You’re having to facilitate that through school systems and different networks.
Those are three questions that come off of this.
Everything we do is with a volunteer in mind. Our model is volunteer-centric, so I say that we mobilize them, we connect them, we support them, and we recognize them. We are both finding them, and they are finding us. We’ve had volunteers who have been with various programs for years and years and years. We went through a re-branding a few years ago, as you know, because we had been known as National Engineers Week Foundation, and in fact, really Engineers Week is our cornerstone program. All of our other programs really came from that, but we reinvented the model when we looked and said, “Engineers Week? Wow, that’s really happening sort of locally everywhere, but there’s no real collaboration at the national level.”
We changed that model. We went to organizations nationally. Those are non-profits that represent engineering, the diversity of organizations, and we have a lot of corporate partners, those that have a stake, really, in the future of engineering and technology talent. We said, “This is all happening at the local level. We need to bring it up a notch.” From there, we created a coalition made up of non-profits, corporations that are the big stakeholders in engineering and technology. They are the Lockheed Martins of the world. They are the Exxon-Mobils of the world, the IBMs and others. And then there are the diversity organizations – National Society of Black Engineers, Society of Women Engineers – as well as the technical organizations.
And the message was none of us was as strong as all of us together, right? The idea was if we put the coalition together and everybody was collaborating, we’d have a much bigger impact. For us, it was also a matter of having volunteers know that Engineers Week didn’t just spring, formed whole. They knew that they did Engineers Week maybe in a local community. They didn’t know there was an organization behind that. We have lots of tools and resources they could use, and it would crack me up. I would go to a local Engineers Week event, and then somebody might come up and say, “You know, we have this thing called Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day. It’s fabulous. Have you heard of it?” And I would say, “Yes, as a matter of fact, I have.” And we want them to know there’s an organization that’s there to support them.
The other thing we’re doing now is getting to know our volunteer community. We’ve really done a lot on our website – DiscoverE.org – and on the back end, we’re doing a lot more to get to know our volunteers, and in a couple of programs, what we’ve done is create pledge campaigns. For instance, for Girl Day, pledge to be a role model, and what that means is “You’re going to be an activist, and we’re going to support you. We have messages for you. We have all kinds of little tools you can use. We challenge you to invite a friend to be a role model.”
But that helps us start getting these communities together that we can target more effectively, and the engineering community as a whole is very broad. Whether you are aviation and aerospace, whether you are an energy company, whether you are a mechanical engineer or civil engineer… And we don’t focus on any specific industry or discipline; we serve a very broad base. Anybody can play. We’re an open source. You can take our stuff and go. We’ll give you the framework and the tools to do it. That’s the volunteer.
And how many volunteers do you have?
It depends on the program you look at. We think there are more than 50,000 in the U.S., and then there’s an ebb and flow throughout the year. And we’ve been surprised! The other thing we have found is as we started to get information, for instance, about Girl Day when we started doing the pledge campaign last year, we knew that people were adopting Girl Day and many of our programs outside of the U.S. But last year, we determined through the role model pledges, 22% were outside the U.S., so that tells us a lot.
Are these financial campaigns as well?
They’re not. We raise funds from our stakeholders. We have super partners, and we make everything, and I think it’s a differentiator for us. We make most of our events and campaigns absolutely free. One of those is called the Global Marathon For, By, and About Women in Engineering and Technology. It’s a virtual event for two days that connects to International Women’s Day, and it’s really to provide that sort of global town square for college and professional women in engineering and technology. In some places, you might be the only woman on your floor in an engineering firm and feel that you’re alone, but you’re not really, and we raise the money for all of these events, like Global Day. We support the technology platform, so anybody can sign up and come into that as an audience member.
What is the forum as a virtual event?
Webinar and webcast. For instance, some of the issues might be work/life blend. They might be how to advance your career. We always, in all of our programs, like to get people to think about all of the areas that engineers impact, and our keynote for this year’s Global Marathon on March 8th will be Cirque Du Soleil. They are really looking for next generations of talent, particularly from women, to create that spectacle. There’s a lot of engineering and tech that goes on.
Did you go to C2? because that is something that they put on in conjunction with another organization about innovation…
They are doing much more of that.
How did you get them to participate?
We actually, through our diversity council, have a woman with an organization called NOGLSTP, which is the LGBT group that represents professionals in science and engineering. We have a lot of great advocates, and she went ahead and happened to be talking to somebody from Cirque and mentioned we really want the future generations to know about the opportunities with us, and Shelley said, “Well, I’ve got somebody to connect you to.” And a lot of our connections come through our partners.
For Global Marathon in particular, as a virtual event, are you publishing it? We’ve talked about the platform – webinar-style. Are you publishing an agenda?
Yes, we have a program, like a TV Guide version. But the other thing that this program is, is any woman who feels she has a story to tell could be a speaker, so we want a couple of great keynoters, like Cirque. Last year, we had Meighan Stone, who runs the Malala Fund here in D.C., and we want a couple of more “celebrity status,” but we have had a number of women who have done great things, but you wouldn’t know them, and we put them front and center with this, and it’s always funny: “We’d love you to talk.” “Why me?” “Because you have a great story, and so many people are going to want to hear your story.”
What about any sort of back-and-forth question-and-answer forum?
We do that. There’s live Q&A, and we always tell the presenters, “They want to know your story. They want to know basically what is the message you’re giving them. What’s the takeaway? What’s the actionable piece? What can they take and use, whether they’re in France or Africa or Canada, wherever that might be” And then we also always say there’s going to be Q&A, and most of the presenters are very happy after the event is done to say, “If anybody contacts you, please feel free to refer them to me.”
Your speakers are also virtual, correct?
Yes, we’re all virtual.
OK, every aspect of it is virtual. That’s a great format. And you do that also with the Girl campaign, too?
We do. With the exception of our middle school competition and a little bit with the marathon, most of what we do, again, is that open source. “Here’s the program and why this program is important. Here’s the framework you may adopt.” But for instance, Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, there is a lot of one-on-one contact. There’s a lot of women and men in engineering making a special effort to be sure they include girls in activities. But what works for Girl Day at UT Austin, for instance, they may have 8,000 girls on their campus that day, and a small engineering firm in Vermont. Not that many. It’s a very different model, but everything we provide or make available, it’ll apply as well to that firm in Vermont as to UT Austin.
And our biggest success is when we have a girl who is mentoring. We had a student who came to our Capitol Hill event last year. She had been introduced to engineering as a 10-year-old at the UT Austin Girl Day event and is now an architectural engineering student there and is now mentoring the girls who come on campus. That’s what we love.
Those are stories you’re telling?
Yes, absolutely. We need to do more storytelling, but we’re doing it more than we used to.
You’re innovating left and right. It’s happened since I met you. Talk about the competition platform. How did that come about in terms of an inspiration, and what were your goals around it, and how has that played out?
The competition is our Future City Competition, and the program really starts in August and runs into Engineers Week in February, and what we wanted to do was reach out to middle school students, because that’s a time when kids are really starting to form pretty solid opinions about whether they’re going to be interested in science and math, and they probably haven’t even been introduced to engineering.
We created a competition that also used SimCity and computer modeling, which at the time was kind of unusual, and…
And SimCity was on board with this?
I didn’t know about it at the time, but they actually had approached one of our partners with a program they had called Sim Pipeline. The company told us, “Well, maybe they have something you can use,” and so SimCity became the platform we used, but we didn’t want kids to just play a game, so part of the equation is there’s a skilled volunteer with them, or a volunteer who can sort of tell kids, “This is what’s real and not,” and an educator that will work with the team or provide access for that volunteer.
The kids design a city 150 years in the future on a computer, and they have to consider things that engineers do when they go through the engineering design process. The issues they may consider would be energy, transportation, healthcare this year is public space, the power of public space. They also research and write an essay on that topic, and then they build a tabletop model of a portion of their city, and then there’s a science fair kind of setup, where they bring those models in. There are teams of judges that go, and they have to present, so there are also those oral skills.
This is where we cry every year, because we produce this event, and it is incredible what these kids are doing.
Yeah, and it’s also incredible, the stories that you hear from them, because we’ve had a number of kids… And again, what pleases us is we have so many stories of alums now who are going into engineering or science or technology, because we don’t expect everybody to go into engineering, but we want them to have some awareness and just be an informed citizens, right?
How did you get the program into schools? For those in our audience who are non-profit, mission-based, could utilize this format for themselves, how do you get this format?
It’s all volunteers for us. We support the volunteers who go in and work with and approach the educators, and those are informal educators as well. It could be Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, all those kinds of organizations, as well as maybe a classroom setting.
Some of the educators use this as enrichment, but some have it integrated into their curriculum across the board, but it really is the volunteers going in there and talking to the teachers about the ROI for their kids and for the teachers as well that have made this happen.
So your boots on the ground are going into schools, going into community organizations saying, “Hey, we’ve got this great program. We’d love you guys to participate. Here’s what you’ll get out of it. Here’s what we’ll get out of it. And you guys get to come to D.C. It’s a juried test, and the kids will have a chance to present.”
And come to Washington as their prize. We also have many volunteers who serve not necessarily as mentors, but they set up committees that help run these programs. For instance, we’ve had the same volunteer coordinator in Chicago for more than 20 years. There’s a certain passion around this. I’m not saying we don’t have volunteers who burn out – we certainly do – but we have some who really have put their heart and soul into this program, and that really translates when you’re talking to potential partners, and we just do our best at the national level.
One of the things that, again, differentiates this program, I think, from some other competitions is that the kids don’t have to raise money to come to D.C. That’s a very costly proposition for us, but we felt like we wanted the playing field to be level. 49% of the participants at all levels in Future City are girls, and we also queried schools, and we know that 33% of the schools that participate have kids on free and reduced lunch of 50% or more. That’s huge. There aren’t many competitions that, particularly in the STEM space, can say that.
And you’re able to do that because…
We raise the money through our partners. The local committees raise the money. They’re about 225,000 volunteer hours generally, just at the local level. They raise the money, host the local competitions, and we provide it nationally. We provide the curriculum, and then when it’s time for those trips into D.C., we are really hosting the kids. It’s the three team members. It’s an engineer, volunteer, and their educator, because we consider them an integral part of that team.
That’s really an innovative way to pay for the experience, but also not to have it cost anyone anything but be able to get this out into your networks. It’s incredible.
Yeah, and to keep a level playing field, you cannot expect kids to compete if they are financial disadvantaged from the get-go, so that’s one of the reasons we’ve worked hard to raise money at all levels. We could always use more, but we just do our best to provide a great experience with the resources we have. And you know it’s emotional.
How do you define success for your events? Do you actually establish quantifiable metrics? How do you determine ROI?
We do. It depends on the event. With us (and you and I do this every year), we bet on how many people are coming through the door at our Family Day program at the Building Museum, but what really jazzes us and our partners for that event is when you hear parents and kids say “I wait for this every year.” It’s that huge experience. People say, “Kids aren’t interested in engineering,” and, what, we have 10,000 in the door. That’s one thing.
I think the chatter that we hear as well… For instance, we made an announcement about Cirque du Soleil as our keynote, and we’re getting a lot of chatter, which helps us promote the event, and we don’t have money for advertising.
When you say “chatter,” you’re talking about social media?
Social media, yeah. We’re hearing chatter. “This is so awesome! The intersection of engineering and the arts! This is so awesome!” And we query people a lot. Future City had its own independent survey, which was pretty deep, and then other things. We do survey at Family Day. “What did you think? Would you come back? Would you recommend it? What did you get out of it?” and others. The Global Marathon, we can dig a little deeper for metrics as well.
What are some of the metrics around that?
How much time people are staying? Would they come again? Would they recommend it to a friend? What were the most popular sessions, so we can report back to people?
What are the pitfalls of a virtual event? If someone was going to go into that, what would you say? “Watch out for this, and definitely do this.”
I guess it depends on what you want out of it. We’ve never charged money for someone to sign up and attend our virtual event – the marathon, for instance. We saw somebody trying to create a competing event, and it was even just $25, I think, for you to register to come on, and it didn’t work. So you have to determine what your purpose is, what you want to get out of it, and how much you’re willing to then invest. What purpose does it serve for us? It’s really as we were beginning to edge towards “We’ve got to start thinking more globally, because we know people are taking our programs. We know it, so we need to start reaching out to a community beyond the one we’re talking to here in the States.”
Certainly our partners do that, whether they’re an engineering society or a corporation, so for virtual events, I would say the other thing is and we have found (and this is just one of the basics) is firewalls are a big issue on the corporate side, and we can test a firewall with a company that might be having a speaker one day, and the next day they change their security. That’s a real issue. This means the firewall will not let that presenter present the next day, even though we’ve already tested it. There’s some basic things like that, and we’ve learned more about that.
The other thing we’ve learned… As you know, we’re not a gigantic staff. We’re pretty lean. The first year we did it, we went 24 hours, and I was on a headset the whole time, and it was mostly phone calls, but Sally Ride found out about it and called and said, “I think this is great.” So I thought, “You know what? If Sally Ride thinks it’s great, I think we’ve got something here.” She participated. Sally Ride, the astronaut.
But we knew we couldn’t maintain that, so we’ve hired basically a production company that runs the technology that helps people connect. They’re testing, they’re having them rehearse, they are on call all the time, and they are on every broadcast so that if there’s any technical issue, they’re dealing with it.
And are you live for that the entire time?
Yes, we’re mostly live the entire time.
There are a few, depending on where people are going to be, but very few. Most are live. We’ve had a few glitches!
In terms of your sponsors, how has ROI changed for your sponsors? What are they looking for? How has that evolved over time, what they were looking for versus what they’re both looking for and you’re able to deliver now versus what you were before?
I think they want some deeper metrics. It’s interesting though, because you always hear that, right? “What’s my ROI?” Like, what do you want? But everybody is a little bit different. So when I look at the event and what we deliver on this ROI, it’s a little bit different, depending on the sponsor and the event. With Future City, for instance, with the kids at the finals, we definitely give them that emotional connection. We’ve got the signage. They want to know that the media will show… those kinds of things. But we give them the emotional connection with the kids. They have plenty of time to talk with the kids.
Can they make relationships with the kids?
In some cases… Shell, for instance. We have relationships with some of the kids from the schools in areas that they serve, so that’s a possibility. The ROI on something like Family Day is a little bit different. They want to see their signage. They love that we do the surveys on numbers – “But did you learn something?”
I would also say, for something like Family Day or when we do the Hill event for Girl Day, again, it’s also some business-to-business, if they’re coming to an event, that they have time to meet one another, chat, and there’s a little bit of exchange on the corporate social responsibility side. Some of it really is a bit of a business-to-business kind of connection, and we’re actually thinking more about that. How do we make that happen more and more effectively perhaps?
Those are some of the takeaways, but it really depends on the event.
What about the social media? How is that piece playing into your sponsors’ interest? Are they looking at those metrics now?
Oh, absolutely. We report to them. We’ve done Twitter chats for Girl Day with Girl Scouts and other groups. Again, we don’t have a promotion or ad budget of any type, so we do use social media. One of the things we’ve done that’s been really great for us is shareable graphics. For, say, Introduce a Girl to Engineering, we are really promoting to the professional or college community: “Be a Role Model.” What we do is say to our partners, “If you have a woman or two you would like to showcase as a role model…” We take the picture, we have the quote, we co-brand the graphic, and we and they share it out, and it’s been highly effective for us, and it’s really more of a time and template issue, but that way, our partners are sharing it as we are sharing it on Facebook. We do the same thing now, some sharable graphics, for the Global Marathon, but we do look at the reach on Twitter and Facebook and all of those things, and we report back. Even if they don’t ask, we report back how many for 3M – what the social media presence was there – and we like to get a little competition going, too.
Do you handpick any influencers out in the social media universe to talk about your event that might not be involved but are out there, like the astronaut who calls in? Are you seeing that?
Yeah, we’ve actually had that with some people, National News and some others. For something like the Global Marathon, last year, among our thought leaders, we picked those that had a social media following or the biggest social media following. Not necessarily through their organization. It might have been, but it also might have just been personally, and we did some blog work with them, and that helped drive. We’ve definitely seen… You know, we get so excited when we see something come in. “Whoa, look who tweeted us!”
Well, Cirque should be very interesting. They have a vast network of celebrities and a whole universe of CEO’s.
It always is a tradeoff, how much are they willing to invest, but they have been very generous so far.
Back to the events themselves, what’s the biggest challenge you face with having kids at your events? We just did a big event this weekend over the inauguration. We had 6,000 kids that we shepherded around and created an experience for over the course of 4 days. What are the biggest challenges you’re facing?
I say safety is always paramount. Most of them, when they come to D.C. for our events, have parents and chaperones and all of them, but also, you have to keep them busy, and that takes a lot of planning. I mean, you’re going to keep them out of trouble if you keep them busy, right? You know that from your own kids. I know that from my kids. You keep busy. I think those the big things. You want them to be respectful. We haven’t really had a problem, but concerns about the safety, keeping them busy so they don’t really have time to get into trouble, I think, are the big ones for us.
From an insurance perspective, any things that you have to do differently than you would for other events?
Differently? I don’t know about differently. I mean, there are certainly the issues… We post signs for the families and the kids in terms of photo releases. We do a lot of that. Or if we have kids we want to interview for special reasons, we get releases. We obviously go through adults for that. We don’t ever just assume.
We’re also a little protective. We understand that if we want to film, first of all, for something like the competition, we can’t create a situation where, let’s say we send a camera, and then later the kids will say, “Well, we were at a disadvantage, because the cameras were there, and they weren’t there for the other team,” so you have to sort of also be aware of when it’s appropriate to interact with kids and when it’s not. I mean, we’ve taken the kids to the White House a number of years, and the first year we went, they were actually with President Obama as he was going to be having a live satellite feed with the International Space Station, so it was our kids and the President, and the President’s Science Advisor, and I’m thinking… “But they’re kids!” We also met with the President’s Science Advisor before that. The kids had a long day. I saw one yawn, and I’m thinking, “Oh boy!” But they’re kids, and most people understand that.
The other thing I love about them is they are never intimidated, right? They just get excited, and the President turns and says, “Do you have any questions?” Every hand went up! They were great.
How do you distinguish yourself from the industry? You talked about volunteers as your model, free events…
Yeah, free and open source. We keep our events free. Family Day, you don’t have to pay anything to walk in the door, to sign on. To attend the Global Marathon for women, you don’t have to pay anything to do that. Future City, again, we continue to try to support the team so that they don’t have to spend time selling cookies or donuts or whatever it might be, really focus on the work, and to feel like they’ve really won something. That’s the other thing.
I think those are the big differentiators for us, and I always tell our staff that we’re really about people. Engineering doesn’t seem that way, but it’s really about people. We’re not about the doodads, and in fact, it’s kind of ironic that so many of our events are low tech, right? When you look at Family Day, you’re building things out of straws and newspaper and tape, but the fact is volunteers have access to straws and paper and tape, so I think there’s some irony in that, but we are always conscious that we are serving volunteers, and we always put them out front. You won’t see me, for instance, on Capitol Hill. I won’t be at the microphone. The women we bring to speak, they’re the ones with the story, there’s no star power on our staff!
In the position that you sit as Executive Director, which is essentially the C-Suite in a more corporate environment, what are some of your biggest challenges?
Time. Over the last couple of years and as part of the re-branding, we’ve done of lot of thinking strategically, business planning, and now it becomes a matter of time in getting everything implemented that we want. We can see the future. It’s just slower getting there than we would like it to be, so I would suspect that in the non-profit world, certainly, I can’t just go hire somebody to make it go faster, so I think that really is our biggest challenge.
We are lean enough – I’ll put it that way – that we can pivot, and we have done that over the years. That’s always a challenge, I think, to be able to respond to what’s coming, and we’ve been able to do that pretty well, working with our partners and saying, “Oh my gosh! We’ve got to do something about women and girls!” We’ve been able to create Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day.
How big is your full-time staff?
In the office, we have four full-time in the office – we’re about to hire one more full-time – and two full-time out of the office, and then the rest are sort of… Social media is part-time for us.
And your advisors? You’re not usually using paid advisors; you’re just pulling from your network of volunteers?
Right. The thought leaders for our Global Marathon, they are women more experienced… We also have a millennials team, because we determined the audience we really wanted to reach for the Global Marathon was the millennial audience, so we created a millennial subcommittee, and it’s great for them, because they work with our thought leaders, so these are executive, like Diane who is running Corporate Social Responsibility for IBM, or the woman who heads up Software Engineering for Raytheon… That’s why I think another differentiator in our events would be they’re really created by the people who eventually would participate in them, so they know the environment, they know what the objectives should be. We’re not the experts; they are. We listen a lot.
One last question: Are you bringing these thought leaders together on a regular basis?
By phone. First the first time, we’ve done now two thought leader meetings in person, and it’s interesting to me. For instance, in the marathon, they are very busy women, but we have had some stay with us for 5 years as thought leaders on this project. That’s pretty long, considering the level they’re at.
And then we do have a steering committee of mostly the non-profits that we work with that also are a lens for us on what will or won’t work for volunteers. We have a diversity council that we use as a diversity lens, and a few years ago, I started a leadership council, and those would be the highest level of supporters for us, who also tend to be the biggest participants in terms of putting volunteers out there. They’re my go-to group, and they’re the one now that I’m more formalizing to have quarterly calls. It’s been a great and a deep and a long relationship with many of these companies, but when I think ahead, if I’m not here, somebody has to know where the relationships are with those partners, and so that was part of the reason for that council, and they’re also leaders in their industry in the work we’re doing, so they can advise, because I’m not going to create something just to create something. It has to have value. I don’t want to have redundancy, and they’ll tell us straight up, because they’re not going to fund us if we do.
That’s a session plan when you’re not Executive Director. I mean, how are they going to navigate these relationships?
And now they know who to call, and the person in my spot would know who to call.
GUEST: Leslie Collins
Leslie Collins created the DiscoverE outreach campaign (1990) which led to an activist volunteer outreach movement and has evolved into the new organizational name. She also created Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day and Global Marathon For, By and About Women in Engineering & Technology.
Collins began her career in public relations at the American Gas Association. Later she became the public relations director for the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE).
Collins is a graduate of Boston College and attended graduate school at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland.