Research, Innovation and Technology


From Mentee to Mentor: Rockwell Automation’s Aaliyah Brown

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To hear Aaliyah Brown tell it, the start of her career in manufacturing was the result of a happy accident.

“My interest in manufacturing actually started accidentally,” the Rockwell Automation quality engineering team lead said with a laugh. “I was hired as a high school intern [at age 16]. I had a lot of different positions within my role, from [learning] how our different products are utilized in the field, to project management, to printed circuit board design. That’s when I really started to dip my toe into manufacturing.”

A quick ascent: After obtaining her bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering technology from Cleveland State University in 2019, Brown—who works at Rockwell Automation’s Twinsburg, Ohio, location—was hired full time by the automation and digital transformation technologies company as a process engineer.

  • Three years later, she was made a quality engineer. Just a year after that, she was promoted to quality team lead.
  • Her meteoric rise is one of the reasons her colleagues nominated her for this year’s Women MAKE Awards, honors given annually by the Manufacturing Institute, the NAM’s 501(c)(3) workforce development and education affiliate, to women in manufacturing who have accomplished remarkable successes at their companies.

The elevator speech: Her day-to-day job may be complex, but for the layperson, Brown can break down her duties in just a few sentences.

  • “Manufacturing quality can be explained as anything that goes wrong within a manufacturing facility,” she said. “My team has to figure out why it happened and how to fix it to make sure it does not happen again.”

Paying it forward: Brown credits a great deal of her early professional success to mentor and colleague Marzell Brown (“no relation whatsoever”), a talent management lead at Rockwell Automation.

  • Like Brown, Marzell Brown is a graduate of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Years ago, seeing a lack of programs in the greater Cleveland area designed to expose youth from traditionally underrepresented communities to science, technology, engineering and math careers, he helped found Brown’s alma mater, Cleveland’s MC2 STEM High School. Later, he spearheaded the internship program at Rockwell Automation’s business engineering unit that Brown completed.
  • “Before I started going to summer camp at a private school, I had no idea what an engineer was,” Brown continued. “No engineers were in my family at the time. I was in the second graduating class of MC2 and about, I think, the seventh cohort of students Marzell brought in.”
  • Inspired by her own experiences, in 2017—while still in college—Brown founded the nonprofit Build Sessions CLE, a mentorship initiative for college-bound STEM students from underrepresented communities.
  • “All of the wonderful things that Marzell did for me and others like me, all of those best practices, those are what I brought over” to my job and to Build Sessions CLE, she said.

Changing perceptions: Brown—who helps lead Rockwell Automation’s annual Manufacturing Day events—believes that if more young people knew what modern manufacturing was really like, they would be much more inclined to enter the field.

  • “I want to reach back … into these high schools, to provide these students with the great opportunities [I had] and show them that, yes, you can be successful here, and manufacturing facilities aren’t dirty and dingy,” she said.

Calling all women: She knows, too, the importance of shoring up the percentage of women in manufacturing in the U.S., which is around 30%.

  • And there’s encouraging news on that front from the Rockwell Automation internship program that launched Brown’s career: If current trends continue, the number of women coming into the company from that program is going to rise, she told us.
  • “[To all the] young ladies who don’t know exactly what they want to do, but have interests—say, sewing or project management or just wanting to help people— there are ways to be able to use all of those” talents in manufacturing, Brown said. “And you can have a very lucrative career here.”
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