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Person 2 Person: Gretchen McClain

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Person 2 Person: Gretchen McClain (Photo provided by Gretchen McClain)

(KUTV) Gretchen McClain is an engineer and businesswoman who lives here in Utah.

McClain worked with NASA and helped build the International Space Station.

She also made her way into the business world, working with the companies Allied Signal, Honeywell Aerospace, and served as the CEO of Xylem, Inc.

"I've had as many excitements as I've had challenges," McClain said of her career.

She's had the opportunity to work on some of the biggest problems in the world.

McClain graduated from the University of Utah with a mechanical engineering degree, and went to work for NASA.

"I was up against some of the smartest people I knew," she said.

She worked as a systems engineer on the International Space Station, and helped prepare it for its launch into orbit.

One of the highlights of her nine-year career at NASA is the night before her team was supposed to launch the first element of the International Space Station.

They were in Russia in the middle of winter and wanted to touch before the proton launcher before the big event.

"It was awe-inspiring," she said. "And to this day I still look up in the sky and I see that International Space Station and I still have that sense of excitement, confidence, nervousness."

McClain comes from a family of engineers and was supported by her parents to follow that path.

Her father was a mechanical engineer who embedded math and science in everything her family did.

"Both my mother and my father were a big push in terms of math and science and even more so, 'You can be anything you want to be. Whether you're a woman or you're a male, you can do whatever you want and you have to work hard,'" she said of her family support.

McClain's husband is also an engineer. They met at the engineering school at the University of Utah.

"He's been my best supporter, my biggest critic, but always there to support me in everything that I've done," she said.

After spending her career at NASA, in the business side of the aerospace industry, and running the water technology company Xylem, McClain is now back in Utah and is consulting and mentoring others.

"I look at my career--I've had a dream come true," she said. "No one would have ever thought Gretchen as a young girl, coming from Cumberland, Maryland, to be able to be a CEO of a S&P 500. I would have never believed it."

She believes now it's her time to "pay it forward" to young engineers.

McClain also believes that always being in "rookie mode" and being uncomfortable in your position can give you an edge in your career path.

"I'm a big believer that it's the tension between the confidence in your stomach and the butterflies in your stomach that produces your greatest work," she said.

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