Kamara Wright’s life has been full of numbers, formulas and logic. Although math has been a key factor in her success, it hasn’t always been her favorite attribute.
“I had a love-hate relationship with math while growing up,” Wright said.
Wright’s parents had her counting at the dinner table when she was a toddler, and by the time she was in elementary school she was considered highly gifted after scoring well on an exam. Her score allowed her to earn one-on-one tutoring in any subject, and her parents chose math.
The tutoring moved her out of a structured math class from fifth to tenth grade, which was good academically, but not so much socially.
“I still loved math. I loved the challenge and immensely enjoyed the one-on-one attention from my mentors,” Wright said, “but loving math isolated me from my peers and so I resented it for that.”
Wright’s resentment for math disappeared quickly after she failed her first class ever, high school calculus. The motivation she gained after failing calculus continued into college, where Wright declared a math major her freshman year and added English as a second major halfway through her first year.
Wright’s first 400-level math class came her freshman year, and it immediately posed a challenge. She started to work with her professor, Judy Walker, more closely after failing her first exam. Walker pushed Wright with new study techniques and a new approach to work.
“Dr. Walker helped to make it fun again to study math, but she also helped to make it meaningful to me again,” Wright said.
Walker’s help pushed Wright to get more involved within the department. She was an undergraduate teaching assistant for Math 106 and 107, and she was also a counselor in the Math Resource Center. Some of her favorite courses were Principles of Operations in Research, Intro to Modern Algebra I (Group Theory), and Math in the City.
Wright graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts degree and was hired into the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) as a part of the Engineer & Scientist Development Program (ESDP). The ESDP is a strong program for college graduates. Employees are given the opportunity to improve their professional skills through different forms of developmental experiences. Participants are required to attend and complete communication, leadership and job training in order to continue with the program.
Over the past three years, Wright has held multiple positions. She started as an Integrated Product Support/Operations and Support Cost Analyst, where she worked on projects that evaluated maintenance costs and were proposed to the government.
Wright creates cost estimates in support of Naval Aircraft programs, and analyzes risks and inconsistencies in acquisitions strategies for the programs. Her job is math-centered, but there is more to it.
“To be a good cost analyst at NAVAIR, you need three primary skills: basic Microsoft Excel modeling skills, a good sense of logic, and great communication skills that help you to gather information, but also you need to occasionally tell people what they don’t want to hear,” Wright said.
Along with mathematicians, NAVAIR hires engineers, statisticians, economists and other types of scientists for positions similar to Wright’s.
Outside of work, Wright stays busy. She has been a jazzercise instructor for over two years. She also continues to read and write in her free time, but a lot of her time is spent with her future stepdaughters, two dogs and two cats.
Wright currently lives with her fiancé in Maryland, and the two are set to get married in June 2016.
NAVAIR has been rewarding for Wright on professional and personal levels. She continues to learn while on the job, but it also reinforces lessons she learned in college – lessons she believes everyone can benefit from.
“When things get really tough that means that something great is just around the corner,” Wright said.
– Robert Vencil