Throughout history, women have faced systemic barriers and discrimination in their professional lives, particularly in leadership positions. Despite these obstacles, numerous women have shattered the glass ceiling and become influential leaders in various fields, from politics to business. One such woman is Dr. Pamela McCauley, an accomplished engineer, educator, and entrepreneur who has significantly contributed to engineering and diversity, equity, and inclusion in academia.
Pamela McCauley is an Associate Dean for Academic Programs, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Wilson College of Textiles at North Carolina State University and the founder of T-STEM Research and Expert Witness Services. Her trailblazing journey inspires women and individuals from underrepresented backgrounds, demonstrating that anything is possible with hard work, determination, and resilience.
The Engineer Who Improves Lives
Pamela McCauley was drawn to engineering because of her early appreciation for math and science. Despite initial aspirations to become a medical doctor, she discovered that engineering would allow her to combine her interest in the human body with her love for science and design. As a result, she pursued a degree in industrial engineering at the University of Oklahoma.
After completing her B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering, McCauley joined the University of Central Florida Industrial Engineering faculty and launched her own engineering business within the next two years. She finds engineering to be a fulfilling profession because it involves problem-solving and making a direct impact on people’s lives. Specifically, her work in occupational design and software product development has helped to improve access to information and ultimately enhance the quality of life for many individuals.
Overcoming Challenges and Building Networks
McCauley’s journey in academia and entrepreneurship was challenging. As a woman of color in engineering, she faced the obstacle of not having access to a strong network. However, she was determined to overcome this challenge and over the years, built a great support system by seeking mentors and participating in professional societies and technical conferences.
Despite her hurdles, McCauley worked tirelessly to build her reputation as a researcher and develop her entrepreneurial skills. Her efforts paid off, and she became a nationally recognized engineering faculty member at the University of Central Florida while launching a successful engineering business.
McCauley’s academic career began with earning a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree in industrial engineering. Then she remained for 27 years at the University of Central Florida faculty. During this time, McCauley’s academic activities included serving as a Martin Luther King, Jr. Visiting Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT, A Fulbright Scholar working in New Zealand, a Jefferson Science Fellow with the US Department of State, and a National Science Foundation I-Corps Program Director.
In 2020, McCauley joined Wilson College of Textiles as the Associate Dean of Academic Programs, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She remains passionate about academia and its impact on the future through working with students, conducting impactful research, and disseminating findings globally.
McCauley’s entrepreneurial journey began in 1995 when she started consulting. She later launched Tech Solutions, Inc. in 1999, which focused on government contracting and grew to about $1 million a year in revenue with offices in New Mexico and Florida. McCauley found satisfaction in supporting agencies like NASA and the Department of Defense as a contractor but also committed to focusing on establishing intellectual property for future enterprises.
Her company has developed numerous software solutions for federal agencies and government contractors, including SimSeries, which is a suite of simulation tools designed to support the Army Corps of Engineers in responding to high-consequence disasters. She is particularly proud of the engineering research that Tech Solutions did for the Department of Defense supporting the operational test and evaluation of military systems. The work her team did on the Joint Biological Point Detection System, technology used to determine the presence of biological agents, was instrumental in this system being available to be deployed to protect the Pentagon after the 9-11 attack on America.
T-STEM Research and Expert Witness Services
In 2013, McCauley founded T-STEM Research and Expert Witness Services to provide high-quality, research-based expert witness services to legal firms, businesses, and other organizations. The company specializes in biomechanics, ergonomics, product liability, occupational safety, and safe product design.
Additionally, T-STEM is actively developing software products to provide solutions that support innovators and researchers. Founder McCauley has a passion for innovation, engineering, and sharing the power of these fields to impact society positively. Her expertise has led to regular invitations to offer keynote addresses on leadership, innovation, and T-STEM topics.
T-STEM faced a significant challenge when it started. The company needed to create a business model that could provide instant revenue through its service business while allocating some of its resources toward the research side to build long-term revenue through intellectual property acquisition.
To tackle this challenge, the company created a dynamic business plan that allowed for carefully delegating resources to support both sides of the business. The foundation of the business model remained the same, focusing on providing high-quality services and innovations that adapt to changing opportunities and resources.
Despite the initial challenges, T-STEM Research and Expert Witness Services successfully created a balanced business model that allowed it to thrive in the short and long term. The company has positioned itself for sustained growth and success by providing expert witness services while investing in research and intellectual property creation.
Making a Positive Impact
The vision of T-STEM is centered on providing top-tier research-based expert witness support that positively impacts its clients’ lives. The company believes that expert witness support is of utmost importance, as it directly influences the outcome of a legal case with its technical expertise and high-quality support.
The experts at T-STEM are passionate about their work, as they are aware of the unique opportunity to apply science to real-world situations and explain complex details clearly and concisely. By doing so, they can positively impact the lives of individuals and their families and even future generations.
Moreover, the applications of science in legal cases can lead to changes in workplace practices, occupational safety, product design, and workplace layout. T-STEM recognizes the significance of these applications and strives to provide the best possible support to its clients to ensure that justice is served and positive change is made.
Today, the company boasts a broad client base in the legal and corporate sectors, which has been instrumental in its growth and success. In addition to providing expert witness support, T-STEM has been aggressively pursuing federal funding to support the development of innovative software and human engineering-related solutions.
Steady Growth and Emphasis on Innovation
McCauley has taken a deliberate and controlled approach to growing the business. She has steadily grown the company’s clientele base and services despite maintaining a full-time academic position. As the business grows, McCauley plans to expand the T-STEM team to support the organization’s leadership. She also envisions furthering the company’s services by placing more emphasis on research and innovation. The business model of T-STEM is designed to adapt and evolve. McCauley sees a shift in the future where the company will emphasize the research and product development side of the business while maintaining its commitment to providing high-quality expert witness support.
McCauley believes the company’s success over the past decade can be attributed to the high quality of its expert witness services and impactful research. The company has built a loyal customer base through referrals and repeat clients, which speaks to the quality of work done by McCauley and her team. The company takes pride in providing expert witness support that directly impacts the outcome of legal cases, and its research has the potential to make a difference in areas such as workplace safety, product design, and occupational practices.
Entrepreneurship Post Pandemic
McCauley believes that the pandemic has changed the landscape of entrepreneurship, making it more accessible through technology. She notes that her company now has clients from further away due to the use of technology for communication. She hopes this trend will continue, especially as access to entrepreneurial and innovation resources has historically been challenging for women and minorities in STEM. McCauley also sees increased access to STEM education due to technology post-pandemic and is optimistic that this will continue.
The Engineering Problem-Solving Approach
McCauley credits her education as an engineer for shaping her approach to problem-solving. From the onset of her engineering training, she learned the importance of the Engineering Problem Solving Approach, which she discovered applied not just to engineering but to all aspects of life.
McCauley notes that every day, as an academic leader and entrepreneur, she faces challenges that require solutions. Whether it’s a human resource issue or a technical problem, making decisions, gathering information, and applying resources to solve problems is essential for success in any enterprise. Her engineering background provides a solid foundation for tackling these issues.
Through her experiences, Pamela McCauley has learned that problem-solving is not limited to creating solutions to technical issues but also extends to developing innovative ideas that address the needs and wants of society. Her engineering background has given her the skills and knowledge needed to overcome obstacles and find creative solutions to problems in her personal and professional life.
Personal Experiences and Entrepreneurship
McCauley believes personal experiences are vital in shaping an entrepreneur’s mindset. Her experiences have taught her the importance of resilience, optimism, and meaningful relationships. McCauley understands that people prefer to do business with those who are kind and genuinely care about them, as well as those who can help solve their problems. These are the same qualities that are valued in a friend. She applies the lessons from her personal experiences to her professional life and believes they directly influence her approach to entrepreneurship.
Strategic Mindset & Professional Development
When asked about advice she would give her younger self, McCauley reacts, “Avoid comparing yourself to others and dream your biggest dream everyday – no matter what challenges come your way” She also emphasizes the importance of having a strategic mindset for personal and business goals to stay on course and achieve one’s vision. McCauley believes that as an entrepreneur, innovator, and leader, it is essential to focus on running one’s race rather than getting sidetracked by the success of others. By maintaining a clear sense of purpose and direction, she believes that individuals can avoid comparing themselves or competing with others.
A healthier, happier and more productive approach is to remain dedicated to their goals while maintaining a strategic and purposed focused mindset. This also leads to a resilient and hopeful approach to career and life. McCauley also believes that everyday she be an opportunity to dream bigger and pursue our highest ideals and that all things are possible if someone is willing to grow, work, believe, and persist.
McCauley credits one of her mentors, Dr. Howard Adams, with giving her some of the best advice she has ever received. Dr. Adams emphasized the importance of investing in oneself from a professional development perspective, and McCauley has taken this advice to heart throughout her career.
She recognizes that personal growth and development are as important as growing a business or supporting an academic unit. Although McCauley acknowledges that she has not always been as effective, she emphasizes the value of regularly focusing on professional development and encourages others to do the same. For her, investing in oneself is crucial to achieving success and staying relevant in today’s ever-changing world.
Winners Don’t Quit
Pamela McCauley firmly believes in the power of hope and perseverance in overcoming challenges. Her life story, she feels, would be aptly titled “Winners Don’t Quit – They Rebound with Hope and Resilience!” Raised by an optimistic mother and a disciplined US Army drill sergeant father, McCauley imbibed the values of a disciplined optimist from a young age. She has always believed that with a positive attitude, hard work, and persistence.
In her personal and professional endeavors, McCauley has faced numerous obstacles. Nevertheless, her unyielding spirit and unwavering hope have allowed her to overcome them with flying colors. Through her experiences, she has learned that having a positive outlook and faith in oneself and a higher power can take one far. She and her husband, Johnnie O. Michael, Sr., are committed to mentoring and sharing their experiences with family, friends, and the community to encourage everyone to pursue and achieve their highest ambitions.
As an advocate for women’s empowerment, Pamela McCauley is passionate about encouraging more women to publish books, particularly in leadership, innovation, and STEM. In 2019, she was approached by CRC Press, a division of Taylor and Francis, to lead a new initiative called “Women of STEM: Innovation and Leadership Series.” This series aims to provide a platform for women to publish edited books and monographs on novel STEM and leadership topics, thereby disseminating knowledge and expertise and paving the way for future generations of women in STEM. McCauley believes that by supporting these women and giving them the recognition they deserve.
McCauley plans to continue her dual role as an academic leader and innovative entrepreneur. She finds both roles fulfilling and believes academic leaders with entrepreneurial skills can greatly benefit STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education. McCauley is excited to be part of the community that educates future leaders who will create innovative solutions. As an entrepreneur, she enjoys translating her academic research into useful innovations and intends to continue building innovative solutions that positively impact the community. Pamela McCauley is excited to share that she will be joining Widener University as the Dean of the School of Engineering on July 1, 2023.
Encouraging Aspiring Entrepreneurs
Pamela McCauley encourages individuals who desire to become entrepreneurs to stop talking about it and as Nike says “JUST DO IT!” Take the plunge! But this plunge should be taken with a plan of action, a well-advised strategy, and readily available resources according to McCauley. She advises utilizing today’s vast resources to launch a business, develop ideas, and fund innovations.
According to her, many universities offer an innovation ecosystem connected to the community, incubators, and other start-up resources that can be useful for aspiring entrepreneurs. Pamela McCauley suggests giving oneself a timeline, connecting to resources, setting goals, and going for it. With determination and perseverance, individuals can turn their dreams into reality. Taking advantage of available resources and support systems can be the key to success in the competitive but rewarding world of entrepreneurship.
“Having a strategic mindset for personal and business goals is important to stay on course and achieve one’s vision.”Pamela McCauley