Our newest rising star is Brett Hoffmann! After graduating from the Milwaukee School of Engineering in 2015, Brett began working at Rockwell Collins, where she writes software for the displays in military aircraft and leads aircraft support teams. Rockwell Collins is a leader in aviation and high-integrity solutions. Their endeavors include creating new features like touch screen displays in commercial aircraft and working with elements for fighter pilot helmets. Brett is an avid sci-fi enthusiast, collects music, and relishes friend and family time. A transgender person who transitioned on the job, Brett says she experienced few barriers. She lauds Rockwell Collins’ trans-inclusive healthcare and personal support, as well as their strong support of PFLAG and Pride in Cedar Rapids.

Brett Hoffmann


oSTEM’s Diversity and Inclusion Team broadens visibility of our diverse membership by celebrating our Rising Stars. Today, we introduce you to Brett Hoffmann, a proud oSTEM and professional member. We invite you to get to know Brett through the following Q&A, as well as to submit your own questions for her to answer: k.ryder.fox@ostem.org

Q: Tell us a little bit about who you are.

A: I went to school at the Milwaukee School of Engineering and graduated in May 2015 with a degree in Computer Engineering. I am a Fixed Wing Display Applications Software Engineer at Rockwell Collins where I write software for military aircraft displays. I also lead small teams of engineers to support those aircraft. Outside of work, I'm an avid reader with a deep love of fantasy & sci-fi, I play in a weekly Dungeons & Dragons campaign, I have a huge passion for music and collect records, and, of course, I love spending time with my friends and family.

Q: Can you tell us a little about the Rockwell Collins' support of LGBTQ+ people?

A: I think, on the whole, Rockwell Collins as a company is doing a great deal to support the queer community within Cedar Rapids and at large. Rockwell Collins is incredibly supportive of my transition. The company has trans-inclusive health care, so HRT and some surgeries are covered by my insurance. In terms of our community, Rockwell Collins showcases queer employees (myself included) and flies the Pride flag in front of our headquarters during Pride month. Rockwell Collins has also donated money to local PFLAG chapters.

Q: What is Rockwell Collins’ technology emphasis?

A: Rockwell Collins is leader in aviation and high-integrity solutions. Whether that be through the advent of touch screen displays in commercial aircraft, or working with elements for fighter pilot helmets, there are a multitude of avenues that Rockwell Collins goes down in order to be a top competitor in the aerospace and defense industry. We have an entire division of our company that is dedicated to researching new technologies, and do our best to hire incredibly talented people to push our company goals forward. 

Q: What is your number one accomplishment at Rockwell Collins?

A: My P-3 German program. I started on the program 5 or so months into my career. I went from being the lead software engineer to being the overall lead for Displays and delegating tasks to other team members. It has been a great opportunity to see my growth as an engineer in the workplace.

Q: What are you most proud of outside of work?

A: The support that I show in the trans community within Cedar Rapids. I help run a small bi-weekly meeting for trans folks. I actually got plugged into the meeting by just *going* as a questioning trans person. I wasn't on hormones at the time and wasn't even sure if I wanted to transition. I was looking for reassurance from other people's stories and to learn from others. So, I think an example of a person growing more confident in themselves from that meeting would be me!

Q: What does the oSTEM community mean to you as a professional?

A: I jumped at the chance to interface with members of the queer community who are also a part of the STEM community! For me as a professional trans person, it is incredible to meet with other trans professionals and also interface with trans students. It is a great opportunity to come together within our community and not only discuss issues of gender, but also just geek out about science, engineering, and mathematics.

Q: How was it for you to begin gender transition early into your professional employment?

A: I waited probably 2 or 3 months after I was on hormones to finally come out in the workplace, to extended family, all that good stuff. I'm incredibly fortunate to not face a ton of barriers. My major difficulties have come from close family members, as well as people within the office not understanding / caring about the importance of pronouns. When I first came out, I made a decent number of my colleagues uncomfortable. It was difficult for some people to adjust and make the change on pronouns. However, it's certainly getting better as time goes on.

Q: How do you overcome the challenges of misgendering?

A: I interface on a multitude of conference calls, so it's easy for people to habitually use male pronouns with me. I cannot change that, only be the best version of myself possible. What I do have power over, is making sure people know that using proper pronouns is important to me. It's fantastic to have people respect you as a human being. Thanking them for it and telling them how much it means to you creates stronger allies. Appreciating office allies has been the best way for me to curb that issue and to create more of a culture of trans acceptance at the company.

Q: What advice do you have for companies that want to be more trans-inclusive?

A: Establish strong trans health care. At a bare minimum, making sure HRT is covered under the employee health plan is critical to fostering an environment where trans people feel welcomed. Outside of that, just being a strong ally to the LGBT+ community in general. When we can see companies trying to establish an environment where people feel welcomed for who they are, we as trans people can feel more comfortable within the workplace. 

Q: What advice do you have for students and early career professionals who, like yourself, are considering transitioning, but are concerned about their careers?

A. Do what you need to do in order to live your happiest life. Though I pushed all of my gender issues aside when I was interviewing, I was absolutely miserable while living as a man. If you have the ability to transition while you're in school and allow yourself to be truly happy, then do it. The most critical thing that you're bringing an interview is your skillset and your passion—emphasize those in your interviews and your gender shouldn't matter. Your own mental happiness should trump anything else.

We reached out to Brett's team leader, Alec Bishop, who says that he is very happy to see Brett excel, as "her success, in my opinion, illustrates how openness, tolerance, and empathy are truly necessary in the work environment in order to create thriving teams."

Brett, keep shining in your position! 

We thank Rockwell Collins for their support of Brett as well as of our endeavors here at oSTEM.


Diversity and Inclusion needs YOUR nominations for our RISING STARS highlights!

Please nominate yourself or someone else by emailing: diversity@ostem.org