Photo courtesy of NNPA Newswire
By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
Aliyah Powell is not one whom you could sell short.
Idle hands are probably unfamiliar to the senior industrial engineer at Michelin North America in Louisville, Kentucky.
Also, an entrepreneur and fashionista, Powell continues to shoot for the moon, set and break barriers for like-minded African American women.
The University of Louisville graduate and chair of the National Society of Black Engineers started working at Great American Cookies.
At 17, Powell served as an interim store manager with a limited staff.
“We might have two people working in the morning and one person at night. And so, I started to get into the group of trying to figure out how I can make the job more efficient for that one person,” Powell stated.
“I wanted to make sure that they had everything that they needed when they got into work. And that’s essentially the idea behind industrial engineering.”
At Michelin, Powell is certified in Lean Six Sigma, a team-focused managerial approach that seeks to improve performance by eliminating waste and defects.
After earning her certification, Powell moved up to senior progress engineer – one of the youngest engineers and few African American women in the branch’s history.
She has supported plant-wide projects and mentored others through the certification process.
Powell also helps recruit students into the company’s co-op program, which offers internship-like positions where individuals can learn engineering basics.
She credits this program with jumpstarting her professional journey.
That journey was nearly derailed, in large part, because of the lack of diversity in engineering.
“When I started school, I walked in, and all I saw was Caucasian folks, and that’s very intimidating,” Powell recalled.
“I happened to see one other Black person, and it was somebody with whom I went to high school. Instantly, we sat beside each other, and we clicked. But I can, I promise you if I didn’t see her that day. I don’t know if I would have continued.”
Powell now advocates for education, mental health, financial literacy and is passionate about diversity and inclusion.
She serves as a member of Junior Achievement’s Young Professional Board and was most recently named chair of Michelin’s ASRC diversity and inclusion leadership team.
With a diverse professional background, Powell said she has learned how to overcome adversity and capitalize on opportunities as a young Black female engineer.
“I hope to continue growing both with the company and in the community,” Powell said, adding that her goal is to inspire others and impart the knowledge she has learned to future generations of driven Black girls.
Part of her mission is being a fashion leader.
Powell founded Fit Fashionista, an online retail store designed to sell chic exercise-wear.
She noted that Fit Fashionista’s purpose is to provide women with an extra boost of confidence along their fitness journey.
“After all, when you look good, you feel good…even while working out,” Powell exclaimed.
As a youth, Powell struggled with her health, from asthma to developing thyroid issues, which caused her to gain weight.
“It wasn’t until 2019 that I decided to completely dedicate myself to transforming my mind, body, and spirit,” Powell declared.
She said she began eating healthier and doing more exercise.
Noting that she still had not developed the needed confidence, Powell spent time thinking about boosting her self-esteem.
“I’ve always had a love for fashion and, I’ve always used it to express myself, so I decided to dress up and carry myself at the gym, the same way I would at social outings with my friends,” Powell uttered.
“That’s when I realized the old saying ‘when you look you, you feel good’ really does apply. After I started to put more effort into the way I looked and went to the gym, I noticed my self-confidence boosting and my determination to reach my goals. That’s when the idea of Fit Fashionista was born.”
Powell lost 65 pounds and said she took control of her health.
And, like at Michelin and in her entrepreneurial pursuits, Powell is seeking more results.
“Although I am very proud of myself for how far I’ve come, I’m still not quite where I want to be, so the journey continues,” she decided.
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr, NNPA President and CEO, affirmed, “The Black Press of America salutes all African American women entrepreneurs during 2021 Women’s History Month as we acknowledge the 194th anniversary month of the founding of the Black Press. Aliyah Powell exemplifies the interdisciplinary genius and resilience of African American women business leaders across a diverse range economic sectors including the STEM fields of endeavor.”