Alumni Spotlight: Tanya Wenneman

  • Place of Employment(s) and Title(s): 

    • Uber ATG - Program Manager Safety Management System

    • Jet Blue - Safety Evaluation and Audit Program Analyst 

    • Mountain Air Cargo - Safety Manager 

  • What are your academic degree(s) in and what year did you graduate? 

    • Graduated in 2015 with a Master of Science in Aeronautics with specializations in: 

      • Human Factors in Aviation/ Aerospace

      • System Safety in Aviation/ Aerospace 

    • Graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautics with a specialization in Air Traffic Control 

  • What inspired you to become involved in your industry/pursue a career in your field? 

    • My original inspiration for pursuing a career in safety and human factors in aviation started with two classes offered by Kent State (when I was going for Air Traffic Control), taught by Raymond Weber. Those classes were 1. Human Factors in Aviation and 2. Safety Theory in Aviation. These two classes lit a spark and my interest in safety - I always had the overarching goal of “helping people”, I just wasn't certain of the path to take to achieve that goal until sitting in those classes with Ray Weber. Upon graduating from KSU, I immediately enrolled to obtain my masters in system safety and human factors, with the intent of working on implementing SMS in either the airlines or airports. 

    • After a few years of working for 2 different airlines, the opportunity arose to work for Uber ATG, where I would be part of a team responsible for implementing an SMS in a new industry (the autonomous vehicle industry). One of the goals, as a part of the mission towards building autonomous vehicles, is to save lives - over 37,000 people lost their lives to vehicle accidents in the year 2018 alone. Knowing that SMS has fostered a significant change in aviation safety since its inception and implementation, this is what inspired me. I knew that SMS could make a significant impact on an emerging industry (autonomous vehicles), so I wanted to be a part of implementing SMS in the industry, knowing it will one day change the world. Autonomous vehicles are coming, it is not an “if”, but instead, it is a “when”.  Knowing my work could contribute to the safety of autonomous vehicles, and help to pave the path for safety in a new industry, and encourage other organizations to also implement SMS (as the entire world will be impacted by this emerging technology), is all it took for my to take on this opportunity. 

  • What is the best part of your job? 

    • Working with all areas of an engineering organization to stand for safety. So many considerations are taken when building self driving technology, and ultimately, just like with aviation operating aircraft, operation of autonomous vehicles incurs some risk. I really enjoy building safety risk management methodologies that support my organization in understanding the safety risk of our technology, and making decisions about them. I have learned so much already at ATG, and the best part - SMS can be designed in a way that supports any type of industry (be that aviation, maritime, nuclear, and autonomous vehicles), and in my position I can help generate creative solutions to meet my organizations needs while standing for safety. Last comment on this - in a new industry such as autonomous vehicles, anyone’s accident is everyone’s accident, everyone is impacted by it. So having a hand in moving the whole industry in the right direction, to prevent future accidents and share safety information with other organizations (like the airlines do), that also gives me purpose and continues to ignite my passion for safety; saving lives.     

  • What are your long term career goals? 

    • Long term, I would love to be involved with broadening the application of SMS to other critical industries. We have evidence that SMS has had a significant impact on aviation, which in and of itself has risk. So any other industries that do not currently use SMS, I would love to continue to help lead the charge in getting other industries to take a thoughtful look at SMS, and start implementing it. 

  • How has your time at Kent State influenced your career aspirations? 

    • My time at Kent State had a large impact on my career aspirations. Although I enrolled at Kent State with the intention of becoming an air traffic controller, my horizons and passions were broadened because of the additional courses I took (outside of primary ATC classes). Specifically, Safety Theory and Human Factors. Without those courses, I would not have “stumbled” upon my passion for safety and human factors, and I may not have strayed away from ATC at all. Although I did need to take additional time to acquire a Masters degree in my chosen fields, I would not have taken that step had KSU not introduced me to safety and human factors. Additionally, the professors I worked with at KSU were all driven to supporting my learning and success. I still keep in touch with fellow alumni and previous instructors to this day. 

  • What was your favorite course of study when you were at Kent State? 

    • My absolute favorite courses were Safety Theory and Human Factors. 

  • What are you most looking forward to seeing in the future of the College of Aeronautics and Engineering?  

    • Having worked in the AV industry for over a year now, I would love to see the College of Aeronautics and Engineering expand their coverage of degrees and courses/information to emerging industries (such as autonomy). This could be applied to autonomous vehicles, drones/ unmanned aircraft, and VTOL aircraft. When I was a student, SMS was not a focus of study (I had to go to Embry Riddle for my Masters in order to obtain this as a specialization). However, looking towards the future, I think SMS and autonomy really will expand within Aviation, and to other industries as well, and it would benefit the University and its students to pave the path for this expertise. 

  • What is a fun fact about yourself? 

    • When I am not working, I thoroughly enjoy boating, going jeeping, and traveling! And the work I have done, and am doing now helps to make the traveling I want to do a little bit easier and safer! 

  • What is your biggest accomplishment to date? 

    • My biggest accomplishment thus far would be working with a team to build SMS in a new industry. It has come with many challenges, but overall, has felt like the most success for the industry and the future world. 

  • What is one piece of advice you have for our current students? 

    • My best advice: You will have a plan mapped out for your future. You will think you know exactly what you are going to do, but life doesn’t happen in a straight line. You will have ups and downs, you will have failures and successes. Overall, if what you are doing brings you joy and continues to ignite your passion, keep going. To take a quote from one of my favorite speakers, Simon Sinek,  “Working hard for something we don't care about is called stress; working hard for something we care about is called passion.” Find your passion, it is never too late!

POSTED: Monday, November 16, 2020 - 11:10am
UPDATED: Monday, November 16, 2020 - 11:13am