Lauren Knobloch: Capitalizing on Opportunities at SpaceX

December 2015

When Lauren Knobloch ('11 I E, '11 LIB) was offered a job at SpaceX, she based her decision to join the company on some advice from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Lauren explains, "In her book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Sheryl writes, 'If you're offered a seat on a rocket ship, don't ask what seat, just take it.' I remembered that quote and thought to myself, 'I have to take this seat on the rocket ship.'"

Lauren, a native of State College, PA, wasn't always convinced she wanted to be an engineer. Fortunately, her best friend in high school happened to be the daughter of Rick Koubek, who was then head of Penn State's Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering. Lauren recalls, "Dr. Koubek made industrial engineering totally relatable to me. He gave me a tour of the department and explained the different career paths I E graduates might take. I was hooked."

At Penn State, Lauren held leadership positions in numerous student organizations, including Career Envoys, the Women in Engineering Program Orientation, and MTM Engineering Camp.

She also capitalized on opportunities to enhance her technical skills, completing a six-month co-op with McNeil Consumer Healthcare and two consecutive summer internships at Accenture.

Lauren notes that her favorite Penn State experience was the spring semester she spent studying abroad at Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier III in Montpellier, France. "Dual majoring in French provided a great opportunity to balance my affinity for the arts with my engineering courses."

After graduation, Lauren began her engineering career in Lockheed Martin's two-year Operational Leadership Development Program (OLDP). She explains, "I spent both years at Lockheed Martin's Valley Forge Campus, first with Information Systems & Global Services, then with Space Systems Company. During those two years I completed a rotation in Quality, Supply Chain, Engineering, and Operations."

Once she completed the OLDP in 2013, she transitioned to a full-time quality engineer position with Space Systems Company, working with the group's SAP system, investigating assembly issues, and leading dispositions.

Aside from her normal responsibilities at Lockheed, Lauren joined forces with two other women engineers to form a grassroots continuous improvement team. She says, "We would ask the other space systems employees to share their ideas for doing things differently. Lockheed took us seriously and allowed us to make changes--big and small--to processes and systems."

It wasn't long before the grassroots team became a bigger part of Lauren's day-to-day responsibilities.

The grassroots effort was likely one reason she caught the attention of SpaceX recruiters.

Lauren connected with SpaceX on LinkedIn and was pulled in for an interview. She was intrigued by what she learned when visiting the company. Lauren recalls, "I was excited about the idea of being part of a startup. I actually wanted something riskier."

In March 2014, Lauren joined SpaceX as a Lean Facilitator. She says, "SpaceX has many different departments and each one has an industrial engineer who steers production-related enhancements, improvements, and changes."

Lauren says her role is interesting because no two days are alike. "SpaceX has so many different projects, and you can really focus on whatever you want to get involved in."

Perhaps even more exciting, Lauren notes, is how much SpaceX has grown in her time with the company. "We like to say SpaceX is like a teenager right now. We're still trying to figure out who we are and what our thing is, and how to do our thing. There are so many opportunities!"

Despite living on the West Coast, Lauren stays connected with her alma mater by serving as a guest lecturer and she recently joined the Leonhard Center Advisory Board.

She says volunteering for leadership roles throughout her Penn State career has helped her succeed in her profession. "Inevitably, especially in engineering positions, you find yourself in group settings where you have to be a team player. You can really be at an advantage if you're not only a team player but a natural team leader."

Lauren will graduate this month with her master's degree in engineering management through Penn State's World Campus.

--Stefanie Tomlinson

lauren knobloch