Ever since she was a little girl, Tiffany White has dreamed of breaking through new frontiers. Captivated by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie tales, she imagined herself as a pioneer, a Midwest girl of strong heart and spirit, pushing the boundaries of what was known. It’s a deep passion that’s led her through a decades-long career at the forefront of technology and innovation for Rolls-Royce in Indianapolis.
Tiffany’s pioneering spirit grew as she did. Through the ‘80s, she remembered the launches of Space Shuttles, broadcast on television for the world to see. When Sally Ride became the first American woman in space in 1983, Tiffany was hooked on the vision of outer space. “I knew the new frontier was in space,” she recalls. “And I was enthralled by it. Sally Ride was a pioneer, and she was strong.”
After graduating from Purdue University with an aerospace engineering degree, she went right to work pursuing the frontier of space. The Indianapolis location of Rolls-Royce, a global supplier of engines for cars, boats, planes, and more, was the place she could achieve that. She dreamed of becoming a chief project engineer, and she worked her way up the ladder, earning a master’s degree in program management from Penn State along the way. Through her strength, smarts, and hard work, she accomplished that dream. “It took me 18 years to get there, and to get all the skills I needed,” Tiffany said. “And then I wanted to do more.”
Today, Tiffany is the Chief of Business Integration for DaVinci at Rolls-Royce. DaVinci is short for Design and Validate in the Computer Investment, a program that’s changing the way Rolls-Royce designs, builds, and monitors the engines they create through the use of cyberspace and technology. She works with a team of 150 people in four countries on three continents to create advanced simulations of the products Rolls-Royce builds. These simulations, or “digital twins,” track products through their life cycles. “It’s an incredible mind-map of what this product does, and what we can do with all of our products,” she said.
While she’s been supported by her various teams throughout her time at Rolls-Royce, Tiffany quickly noticed that the teams she leads are comprised of mostly men. This lack of women represented throughout her career is what inspires her to commit time, energy, and passion to organizations like Women & Hi Tech, which supports women as they develop career paths in STEM. “Women need a tribe, and Women & Hi Tech offers a place to find a tribe,” she said. “I can find women like me in my stage of a career and beyond. It’s a place where I could have a community to support me, and where I can learn and grow.” Tiffany is the Past President of the Women & Hi Tech Board of Directors and received the organization’s 2012 Leading Light Award for Outstanding Dedication to Mentoring & Growth of Women in Science or Technology.
As she moved up in leadership roles, she also discovered the large gap between women and the CEO and senior management that is prevalent throughout the sector. “One thing that women working in STEM-related fields tend not to have is that as you move up in the ranks, there become fewer and fewer women in the workplace,” Tiffany noted. “There are all kinds of reasons for this, but much of it is that there aren’t a lot of opportunities: not enough mentors or time with senior managers, for example.” As a mentor with Pass The Torch for Women Foundation, an Indianapolis organization that shapes and supports women leaders through mentorship, she works to change that. “One of my big pushes is that all of us should be sponsoring or mentoring someone who doesn’t look like us,” Tiffany said. “And I’m a part of Pass the Torch to do this intentionally.”
She also understands how critical it is to get people thinking about tech earlier in their education so that more women consider a STEM-focused career. Tiffany became an Industry Advisor Board Member for Eleven Fifty Academy to help build a place to foster a new way of learning, inspired by both personal and professional needs. “The organization speaks to me because my autistic daughter wasn’t ready for a four-year school,” she said. “We need a place for folks who are finding their place in the world. Eleven Fifty Academy helps people find their way by helping them learn how to code at a low cost.”
Through her long and successful career and the many organizations she helps lead, Tiffany has come to embody the Wilder pioneer girl she dreamt of being. No matter how far on the frontier she finds herself, she knows who she is and what she values, which has taken her to great heights. “Decide what your values are,” she said. “Decide what’s important to you. Stay true to who you are. And when you’re not sure, stay true to that and move forward.”