Marianne M. So, P.E. joined Honeywell Aerospace after graduating as a Mechanical Engineer from UCLA in 2007. She earned her Professional Engineer’s license in 2011 and has returned to UCLA as a double Bruin for her M.B.A. Marianne is now an Architecture and Product Definition Systems Engineer for Air Management Systems.

Describe your role and what that entails.

My current role is Senior Air Management Systems Engineer for the Platform Systems Architecture Department under Mechanical Systems Engineering and Applications – our department is like this heavenly slice of startup culture perpetually drumming up new programs! I pursue new business capture by designing air conditioning solutions in response to Requests for Information and Proposals from potential customers. After developing the proposal’s win strategy with Marketing and Product Management and Chief Engineer approval, the finalized system design is delivered to the project engineers for estimation.

Is there someone you look to as a role model? Why?

When Clarissa Ward interviews people it’s like she really cares about what they have to say. She’s posing controversial questions to terrorist leaders, for example, – right to their faces while she’s sitting within spitting distance! and although some of the questions are blatantly, “…don’t you think that’s wrong?” the way they’re framed is more like she’s sincerely in the moment and trying to understand their thought process regardless of whether she agrees with it or considering any of the hullabaloo leading up to that exchange. That kind of mental and emotional metabolism seems incredibly mature to me. Also, she comes across as someone who genuinely finds meaningfulness in what she’s doing  – I don’t think it exactly matters what people are doing because I think the meaningfulness comes from how the person understands the concepts of their job and that seems very authentic with Clarissa Ward, like when she’s giving her reports her eyes are all the way open and she’s delivering energetically even if she’s likely just traveled like crazy, followed up on a bunch of dangerous leads, tracked down and persuaded people in hiding to talk to her, and then setup and edited all the shots. Plus she seems to take good care of herself and have a good balance even though she’s clearly putting a lot of effort into her career and is coping with rough and hazardous environments. Those are the qualities that brought me to admire her the most.

What is the best piece of career advice you ever received?

Whenever we were doing the dishes, my mom would always say, “Clean the inside of the bowl first!” If you take care of yourself, then your family, then your team at work, then you’re going to have something you’re happy to give to your customer.

What is one guiding principle that has served you well in your career?

Life is what you make of it. Any time I’ve seen something I’ve wanted to change I’ve made the time to attempt it because if it occurs to you that it’s important it probably is and as engineers we are the people who make this world – we should utilize our talents to create the world we like to live in.

When not working, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?

To me, experiences are the currency of letting yourself love other people. I like to come up with ways to surprise the people I care about – whether it’s learning how to bake something I reckon they’d like or planning a special trip, party, or gift we’d enjoy! I can still remember how delighted my mom was with the trips I planned for our family to Seattle, the Panama Canal, Malaysia, and the Grand Canyon – even though she’d already been to all of those places before – the experiences she shared with me on those trips are memories that continue to make me happy and influence my life.


 UCLA Samueli Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering