Aerospace Engineering Graduate Ensures Safety for FAA

JaciLynn Poteet (’21) once felt like she was behind all her classmates, but now she’s ensuring rocket launch safety.

JaciLynn Poteet graduated with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering in 2021 and poses for a picture standing beside the scenic boulders around Willow Lake in Prescott, Arizona. (Photo: JaciLynn Poteet)
“I’m doing this job because safety is important and people’s lives are on the line,” Poteet said. (Photo: JaciLynn Poteet)

Discovering ERAU Summer Camp

Growing up in a small town with a three-digit population in rural Arizona didn’t present JaciLynn Poteet with many diverse opportunities for growth. Playing in the dirt throughout her childhood, she had imagined she’d grow up to work in construction like most people around her did. Poteet knew she enjoyed math and science, but after attending an Embry-Riddle summer camp in high school, she had a newfound interest.

“I knew I wanted to be an engineer after I realized I couldn’t be the next Taylor Swift,” Poteet said. Instead of becoming an international popstar, she was inspired by the professors at the summer camp and ultimately chose to earn her B.S. in Aerospace Engineering at Embry-Riddle.

Poteet in front of the Falcon 9 booster after completing an inspection at SpaceX Headquarters. (Photo: JaciLynn Poteet)
Poteet in front of the Falcon 9 booster after completing an inspection at SpaceX Headquarters. (Photo: JaciLynn Poteet)

After graduating in May 2021—it was a virtual ceremony during the COVID-19 pandemic—she was nervous about starting her career with no internships under her belt.

“I felt really behind all my peers,” she said.

Up until that point, her resume was made up of grocery store jobs that ended up working to her advantage during her job search. The customer service experience and interpersonal skills she gained working in retail translated to the communication that’s necessary in her current job.

Working for the FAA

Poteet works as a Commercial Space Transportation Safety Inspector with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Her job is to ensure launch operators are in compliance with federal regulations and licenses. She said this is “something I didn’t think I would be anything close to doing until much later in my career.”

Though her job involves a lot of paperwork, it has taken her to New Zealand, which Poteet recounted as a great feat against her own fears and anxiety. But she’s not letting impostor syndrome or doubts get in her way.

“Being a woman in the field, I do a lot of second guessing,” she said. An estimated 11% of aerospace engineers are women, but women like Poteet are shrinking the gap.

No Fear as an Aerospace Engineer

She’s proud of the hard work she’s put in over the years. “Overcoming the fears that I’ve had—not only professionally, but just as a person—I’ve been really proud of that recently, and just enduring some of the hardships of life while still graduating and getting myself to where I am now,” Poteet said.

If landing a job at the FAA with grocery store experience and a bachelor’s degree has taught Poteet anything, it’s to leverage yourself and believe in your own potential.

“Focus on the experience that you do have and how you can make that work for you professionally, instead of focusing on the experience that you don’t have,” she said. “I didn’t apply for a lot of jobs that I was probably more qualified for than I believed.”