#PeopleofSTEAM: Meet Sarah

Sarah is a Senior Product Manager at FIRST® Strategic Partner John Deere working on the autonomous tractor. As a FIRST alum of all three programs, she enjoys working with John Deere teams from different areas such as marketing and engineering and finds the collaboration very similar to her experience in FIRST. Sarah also uses her FIRST and STEAM skills such as CAD, geometry, and software everyday as she works on the perception system of the autonomous tractor, which makes sure that the tractor detects and stops for obstacles in the field. Keep reading to hear more about Sarah’s journey with STEAM!

FIRST Staff: What is your favorite part of your current role?

Sarah: As the interface between engineering and the rest of the organization, I get to work with people in every role imaginable. Working across marketing, other engineering groups, legal, user experience, and our field team makes every day have new and exciting challenges. Each day looks incredibly different: one day I could be meeting with VPs to get a new project off the ground and the next day I could be in the field working directly with the product. I love the variety and getting to talk to so many different people about our product!

FIRST Staff: What is the hardest part of your job?

Sarah: There is so much information available today. A big part of my job is taking all the information out there about relevant fields (autonomous vehicles, machine learning, agriculture, weather patterns, etc.) and condensing it down to what the engineering team needs to make the best possible product. Taking in all that information can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming, but it’s also a lot of fun to learn something new every day!

FIRST Staff: How do you use STEAM skills in your everyday work/life?

Sarah: Working with the engineering team, everyday I’m putting STEAM skills to use. On any given day, I often have conversations about the software, sensors, geometry, CAD, mechanical components, and electrical systems that go into the autonomous tractor. My background in software engineering lets me quickly understand engineering tradeoffs and help the engineering teams prioritize different requirements. It’s the exact same skills you learn by doing FIRST!


FIRST Staff: Can you share your thoughts on the impact of your personal/professional work in STEAM?

Sarah: My job is to take 21st century technology to agriculture so we can sustainably produce the food required by billions of people around the world. It’s an incredible privilege and responsibility and what makes my job so very rewarding.

FIRST Staff: Who is a “Person of STEAM” who inspires you?

Sarah: It’s the ultimate cliche, but my mother. She worked as an engineer and entrepreneur for decades and even has one of the foundational patents for the internet! More recently, she has served as the Director of FIRST Australia and Senior Regional Director for FIRST® Robotics Competition in Northern California. Watching my mom excel in her career and give back inspires me every single day.

FIRST Staff: Do you have a message you want to share for students who are participating in FIRST today?

Sarah: This truly is the hardest fun you will ever have. The experiences you gain through FIRST will set up so many things later in your life. The connections you make will set up your future career where you will run into so many FIRST alumni. Dive in with both feet and in the words of Ms. Frizzle, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy.”


Are you a person of STEAM? Share your story with #PeopleofSTEAM on social media or send us your story at marketing@firstinspires.org.