A doer on a mission

At Air Liquide, Vickie manages the investment development process for North America. At ASME, her commitment is to further the professional stature of mechanical engineers by working through the society’s three strategic initiatives in energy, engineering workforce development, and global impact.


Who: Victoria (Vickie) A. Rockwell

What: President nominee, American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME); Director of Investment Development, Air Liquide USA LLC

Where: ASME, New York City; Air Liquide USA LLC, Houston

About: At Air Liquide, Vickie manages the investment development process for North America. At ASME, her commitment is to further the professional stature of mechanical engineers by working through the society’s three strategic initiatives in energy, engineering workforce development, and global impact.

Q. When you first wanted to be something in life, what was it?

A. I wanted to be an astronomer. I grew up in the mountains of Pennsylvania when light pollution was not an issue. The night sky seemed to be so close, you felt that you could reach out and touch the stars.

Q. What changed your path? Or what helped keep you on that path?

A. When I was graduating from high school, girls were not encouraged to be anything other than teachers, nurses, or secretaries, but I wanted to do something different. I kept at it until I found mechanical engineering. I actually was reading the want ads and every job that sounded interesting to me said “BSME required.” I went back to college for a second bachelor’s degree—this one in mechanical engineering—and haven’t looked back since.

Q. What is working well in the engineering profession?

A. The collaboration among the engineering disciplines and related businesses to confront the big issues—to take on the big, audacious problems/grand challenges—the desire to tackle and solve the seemingly overwhelming issues and tending to the small victories. There are a lot of people who have little, and engineers can make a difference in their lives and communities.

Q. What is not working well in the engineering profession?

A. The time it takes to get things moving—finding the common ground—and then staying the course until issues are resolved. Not just writing a report but actually getting your hands dirty doing the work.

Q. What one thing is missing from engineering education?

A. Communication skills—the ability to present and communicate ideas in a concise and articulate manner. My biggest concern today is that students spend so much time on their computers and other electronic devices that they have forgotten how to interact on a personal level. The ability to build relationships is so very critical in business and career advancement. 

Q. What one piece of advice would you give to a woman considering a career in mechanical engineering?

A. Go for it!! There is not a profession more rewarding and exciting. Mechanical engineers are creative and innovative. Engineers work every day to improve quality of life. Their work, innovations, and research drive the economy. They are at the cutting edge of new technologies—worlds we haven’t discovered.

Q. How would your coworkers or clients describe you?

A. I took a quick survey: I am serious, humorous, not a pushover, ambitious (in an inclusive way), persistent, diligent, and organized.

Q. What life adventure is still on your list?

A. I love to travel to new places. On my to-do list is an African safari and a visit to Australia. I need another lifetime to do all the things I still want to do.

Q. What one word best describes you?

A. A “doer.”

Q. What makes you laugh?

A. Little children and baby animals—their ingenuousness and candor crack me up.

Q. What do you wonder about?

A. When humanity will make a real commitment to space and space travel and all the innovation and new technology that will come from it. I really want to be “beamed” up.

Q. Where is the best place you’ve ever been, and who were you with?

A. Two places come to mind: the caves outside of Foix, France, where we saw prehistoric cave paintings, and the majestic Tetons in Wyoming. I was with my husband in both those locations.

Q. What do you want to learn more about?

A. Native Americans—their customs and culture.

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