Executive MBA Helps Suellen Dos Santos Frank Grow in Leadership
By Mia Gleason
From a young age, Suellen dos Santos Frank (’21 EMBA) knew she wanted to work in science and engineering, despite being told those weren’t traditional fields for young girls.
The desire to do meaningful work in an environment where her skills were valued eventually led dos Santos Frank to Boeing, where she works as a process engineer in Seattle. But to achieve her full leadership potential at the company, dos Santos Frank realized she needed a solid business background to complement her technical expertise and help her understand Boeing’s overall business operation.
She enrolled in the Executive MBA online program at WSU’s Carson College of Business, graduating in August 2021. She, her husband, and their two children traveled to Pullman to attend the university commencement ceremony and celebrate the milestone in December.
“I’m a strong and motivated woman; I want my children to see me as unstoppable in the workforce despite the challenges I faced along the way,” dos Santos Frank says.
Choosing a Career in STEM
Dos Santos Frank grew up in Brazil. She earned her undergraduate degree in industrial chemical engineering at the University of São Paulo and has worked in Latin America, Canada, and the United States.
“Working for Boeing has always been a dream since I first visited the company back in 2007,” dos Santos Frank says. When she was working in the United States as an au pair to learn English, she toured Boeing’s Everett facility. “I was amazed by the process of building those beautiful birds,” she says of Boeing’s jetliners.
After immigrating to the United States, she received several offers from Boeing. The timing was never right to switch jobs, but she never let go of the idea of working for Boeing.
Years earlier, an experience with a prior employer had taught her the importance of working for a company where her abilities were respected.
At the time, dos Santos Frank was a quality manager for a major manufacturing site with 2,000 employees. But as a 5-foot-tall woman, she was often treated like a child.
“Despite being a successful engineer and manager, I was frequently called ‘sweetheart,’ ‘little girl,’ and talked down to,” dos Santos Frank says. “I was told, by men, that I did not know how to do my job. I realized I needed to find a company that treated their employees with respect and dignity.”
Dos Santos Frank joined Boeing in 2019. Currently, she leads a team of engineers who develop innovative engineering processes for the company.
Taking a Leap of Faith with WSU’s Executive MBA Program
Even before she started at Boeing, dos Santos Frank had been looking into MBA programs, but she wanted the right fit. It had to be a rigorous program that would enhance her experience in engineering and quality management.
She enrolled in WSU’s online Executive MBA program based on its reputation—including its recognition among Boeing employees—and the flexibility that allowed her to continue to work full-time and have an active home-life.
Dos Santos Frank says that the program was a pivotal experience.
“In my previous roles before Boeing, I was highly driven by my background in quality management and chemistry, but I could not always see the bigger picture on the business side. It really hindered me from being successful,” she says. “I often found myself at odds with other managers and struggled to compromise effectively.”
Dos Santos Frank said the Executive MBA program gave her the business perspective necessary to understand the various needs of other parts of the company. The program also boosted her confidence.
“I stand taller now and feel like a giant because the Executive MBA showed me what I am capable of and helped me believe in myself,” she says. “It helped me realize how important leadership is to me, how much it defines me, and how important it is for me to support others.”
“I will always be short,” she says, “but I will never let someone make me feel small again.”
Learn more about the Carson College of Business online MBA programs.