When Missy Brost speaks at school career days, kids get fired up about her work as a stress-test engineer on the Boeing 787. “I designed something and tested it, and it broke at over three million pounds of pressure with sparks and a big bang,” she tells them. “It’s like I predicted the future and then got to see if I was right.”
Now a senior manager for Boeing Research and Technology in ergonomics and safety development, Brost has moved away from hands-on engineering. Instead, she makes life better for the workers who put the planes together. “We use motion capture, human modeling—we’re even working on telerobotics,” she says. “We want to do anything to make it easier for the technicians on the floor doing the physical build.” She has another aim as well: encouraging young people to launch careers in science, technology, and engineering. Recognizing her achievements in both areas, the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) named Brost a Distinguished New Engineer in 2010.
Brost joined SWE as a 17-year-old freshman at Arizona State University and has held leadership positions in the organization ever since. She earned her bachelor’s degree from ASU and a master’s from the University of Washington, both in mechanical engineering. She was a founding member of Boeing Women in Leadership, whose members range from mechanics to executives. She mentors young women in junior high and high school. When she decided to go back to school herself and enrolled in MIT’s Leaders in Global Operations (LGO) program, she was gratified that undergrad Alice Yeh ’09 reached out to her. “I mentored her when she was in junior high!” Brost recalls. She continues to encourage students as an active Sloan alumna in Southern California.
Treks to visit plants abroad were a highlight of her LGO experience, she says. The students traveled to China, Korea, and Japan for her first trip and Europe for the second. “We could see how the same companies operated differently in different countries,” she says. “In Shanghai, for example, the workforce…is all the same age, and they only want to work for four years and then go back to the country. My second year…Eastern Europe was having a hard time keeping workers. They were focused on retaining their workforce.”
Brost continues to travel. She and her husband, Josh, who live in Manhattan Beach, California, have been to all seven continents, finishing up with Antarctica last Christmas.