Tickles: Education alone doesn’t guarantee success

Published 12:46 am Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Advancing in life begins with an education, but it takes more than that.

“You have to show up. Get the education, but carry yourself in a way that someone wants to hire you. Get the interview, but study and know what you’re talking about in the interviews so that the interviewee thinks, ‘Yes, we need this person on our team.’ ”

It was being in the right place at the right time that landed Dr. Virginia Tickles a job at NASA, the engineer explained to an audience of youth at First Baptist Church Whatley Street Saturday night.

“My first job was with Magnavox in Ft. Wayne, Ind.,” she said. “I wanted to come south and I heard that NASA was hiring. So I put in an application for NASA, but also for Boeing.

“Boeing hired me on the spot,” she recalled. It was on a Thursday. But on Monday, they instituted a hiring freeze. The person with whom I had a verbal agreement said, ‘But I know someone at NASA.’ ”

That was 29 years ago.

Dr. Virginia Tickles, center, is shown with area youth and church leaders.

Tickles, who grew up in a family of nine in New Orleans, said her parents believed in education, and expected her best. Growing up, she loved math, and when she graduated from high school, there were many scholarship opportunities for women in engineering.

Her appearance in Andalusia was part of FBC’s “Movie and a Message” series, and her appearance was coupled with “Hidden Figures” the move which highlighted the work of three trailblazing African American women of NASA. Tickles said much of what the students saw in the movie was true to life.

“One of the things that was rewarding to me was working in the collaborative engineering center,” she said. “Like in the movie, workers are all in one room.

“But there are rooms where there is still only one black woman in the room,” she said. “The landscape has changed, but it has been slow in changing.”

Movies like “Figures” demonstrate for young people what is possible, she said.

“As I tell my kids, if you don’t have a seat at the table, you can’t impact the decision,” she said. “I challenge all of the students in this room, whatever you want to do, give it your best effort.”

Tickles said when she retires, she plans to teach.

“Because I believe in giving back, and I want to teach people the right way to do things,” she said.

The “Movie and A Message” series will continue in October.