Norquata Allen ’10 is a quintessential example of the importance of setting goals and seizing opportunities. While many kids spend their summers relaxing and taking time off, Allen spent hers pursuing once-in-a-lifetime experiences that introduced her to new ideas and sparked fresh passions. She developed a love for aerospace engineering; this led her to attend the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she she was a leader within the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). Following graduation, Allen secured a position in a leadership program at GE Renewable Energy, where she serves as a quality engineer today.
Q. How did you get into what you’re doing now? Did you always know you wanted to do something in your field?
A. When I was at GPS, I had two life-changing summer experiences. The first was pilot camp. The Organization of Black Airline Pilots (OBAP) hosted this camp every year in Atlanta, Georgia, on the Delta Air Lines campus for young Black children interested in aviation. Before attending the camp, I had never even flown on a plane. By the end of the camp, I had taken two flights—the first was to the Houston Space Center and the second one I was actually co-piloting the small Cessna plane. I left the camp knowing I wanted to work in aviation one day.
My second life-changing experience was the MIT Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES) camp. This was a six-week immersive experience, where I took college-level courses and became well acquainted with the field of engineering. During the camp I excelled at subjects such as physics, calculus, and electronics, for which I took home the prize for the best final project. That summer was one of the greatest in my life to date, and I owe my engineering career to that camp.
I went to school for aerospace engineering, but by the time graduation rolled around, I had found a new passion. I took a wind engineering course while in undergrad and decided that I wanted to work in renewable energy. I applied to GE Renewable Energy, and the rest is history. I secured a spot in one of their leadership programs and have been at the company since.
Q. Why are you passionate about what you do?
A. I'm passionate about what I do because I help create a product that the world needs. As many people are aware, we are barreling toward a grim future if we do not get a handle on carbon emissions and the excessive degradation we are imposing on our planet by our unsustainable practices. Renewable energy is one way we can help change directions, and I love waking up every morning knowing I am part of that change.
Q. What was your favorite tradition at GPS? Why?
A. It was probably poppyseed chicken … that may not be an actual tradition, but I'm a foodie, and getting the new dining hall at GPS was the highlight of my time there. Other things I enjoyed were pep rallies with McCallie and, of course, May Day. Any opportunity for GPS to put on an event was fun because there was always good food.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you got during your time at GPS? Do you remember who it came from?
A. Probably something Mrs. Walker said. That woman was my biggest cheerleader and so inspirational. She taught me calculus, which helped me through so many courses in college. She was so real about everything and is just a genuine, caring person.
Q. If you could offer one piece of advice to current GPS students, what would it be?
A. You really can do anything you put your mind to. You just have to be smart about it. Find the expert. Ask the questions. And work your hiney off until you get the result you want, but also have fun. Life is serious, but it is also meant to be enjoyed.
Q. Can you point to anything that GPS did to prepare you for your future?
A. GPS came in clutch with college preparedness. My GPS math and science courses carried me through my first year. I was also very confident with speaking and working with people who don't look like me. While I was at GPS, I was the Student Council President, so I was poised to take on leadership roles and was a pretty good public speaker. GPS taught me how to excel academically while taking on several extracurricular involvements. I didn't realize how hard I worked in high school until I got to college and everything was easy … even as an engineer.
Q. What is a GPS girl to you?
A. She is a Bruiser. She doesn't take no for an answer. If she wants to do something, she does it, and she does it with intention and grace. GPS girls lead with integrity, compassion, and might. We are community advocates, and we always give our very best.
Q. Are there any experiences or memories from your time at GPS that really stick out?
A. My friends and I discovered a secret dance studio and spent many activity periods or hours after school practicing the latest dance from a Beyonce video. At one point, we also had a full mixtape created of rap songs we wrote about our lives, which we would practice during lunch. The Black community would freestyle during lunch and bring in cool teachers from time to time. As Student Council President, I worked in the bookstore a lot and loved feeding the hamster and filling up the vending machines. I took developmental tennis and had a blast. Track meets were always fun. African American Alliance (formerly Umoja) meetings were much-needed and a place of grounding for me. I loved Mr. Cook's history class. Any dance we had with McCallie was always a favorite time. Lastly, May Day and graduation were some of the best days of my senior year.