When Amal Osman was in high school in Boston, a black female engineer from the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) visited the students for career day and explained in practical terms the impact that engineers have in the world. It was not what Osman imagined an engineer looked like. Not only did Osman see herself represented in the speaker, but she learned the practical applications of engineering – from designing sneaker production to building roadways and bridges. She was hooked and pursued a degree and career in engineering.
“I didn’t realize the world around me was built by engineers, but once it was explained to me in practical terms, I bought in,” Osman remembered.
Today, Osman is a Managing Director for Middle East & Africa at Collins Aerospace. In this role, she has a strong focus on helping airline and airport customers embrace innovations to modernize and connect the aviation ecosystem and accelerate the seamless travel experience. “When you look at the advances that we’re making in restoring passenger confidence – whether its biometric solutions or advancements in connected aviation solutions on the aircraft – we are at the forefront of helping the industry recover,” she noted. It is solving these types of challenges that Osman has centered her career around.
Not yet 40, her career has spanned nine different roles within the company, many of which have taken her around the world, opening her eyes to different cultures, experiences, and much more.
“I’ve had a fantastic career so far. I’ve been able to travel to so many different countries, working with customers, suppliers, partners, and other stakeholders to identify new business opportunities,” she said. “At 36 years old, this level of opportunity at this stage in my career has been amazing.”
As Osman looks back on her path, she noted a common theme – she always runs towards challenges instead of backing away from them. For her, it is understanding the bigger purpose for the problem being solved that she found most intriguing. She recalls doing a traffic study during a high school internship at the age of 17 and realized that the bigger purpose was to understand how traffic flows to alleviate congestion. “There was no looking back at that point,” she said. Osman knew that she wanted to continue to solve these big challenges using both her technical acumen and her curiosity to make an impact.
“I’m still excited to go to work every day. With every transition in my life, from early-career to mid-career, to a newly working mom, I’ve still been able to progress. I couldn’t ask for a better career path,” Osman shared.
As a woman of color, Osman knows that “representation speaks volumes.” She has seen several women leaders in her own organization but knows that more can be done to grow the number of Black women engineers. She is actively involved with NSBE, which is building the pipeline of the next generation of innovators via partnerships with leading aerospace companies to inspire future careers in the field.
“I think being visible is important because it shows someone that they can do this as well,” she said. Osman serves as a mentor for several young and early career women. She takes the time to share her story and career path. “Those conversations are important, and it was exactly those types of conversations with my mentors that helped me build my path.”
Osman encourages the younger generation to consider a career in aviation. “It’s an exciting, evolving industry with a strong heritage,” she said. Having a pioneering heritage opens the door to building on the foundation and creating new applications and innovation. “We’ve gone from radios to avionics and air structures and today, we are talking about electrified aircraft and electric propulsion. It’s exciting and will be an important area for the future of air travel.”
For the future generation, Osman shared a piece of advice that she wished someone told her early on: “Be bold.” Somewhere along the way, Osman received the message to keep her head down, do the work, and she’d get the promotion. “But if you don’t ask, you won’t receive. I wish someone earlier in my career told me to be bold and ask for what I want. A lot of times we look for advocates outside of ourselves, but ultimately, you are the best advocate for yourself.”