People ProfilesJune 3, 2024

Meet the young CAD engineer inspiring girls to get into STEM

Rachael Naoum takes her love for SOLIDWORKS from the office to the classroom and beyond.
Avatar Shoshana Kranish

If you met Rachael Naoum in the halls of the Dassault Systèmes office, you’d know you met a SOLIDWORKS expert. Some might even call her a genius.  

What you might not know, though, is how she’s used her passion for the software to inspire others. Or to design her own wedding shoes. 

From high school onwards, SOLIDWORKS has played a significant role in Naoum’s life, perhaps more than she ever thought it would. 

From student to SOLIDWORKS expert 

Growing up in a Boston suburb, Naoum fondly remembers learning to sew with her Armenian grandmother. She’d return home from hours at her house with handstitched dresses for her dolls, cementing a childhood dream of one day becoming a fashion designer. 

At a young age, she developed a love for learning, no matter the subject, from sewing to martial arts, music to physics – activities technical and artistic alike. In high school, the love for the more scientific side of things took center stage. Naoum was invited to apply to the Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science, and since then she’s barely looked back. 

Mass Academy, a technology-oriented school associated with nearby Worcester Polytechnic Institute, offers a program for 11th and 12th-grade students to finish their high school studies and simultaneously start courses at WPI. While at the school, Naoum took a course at WPI called “Introduction to Computer-Aided Design,” in which she learned about SOLIDWORKS for the first time. It was there that she found her calling. 

“At that point, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life. But finding SOLIDWORKS really changed that. Everything suddenly made sense,” Naoum explained. “I liked art, I liked physics, and then all of a sudden there was this opportunity to put both of those together and  make a career out of it.” 

For Naoum, becoming a mechanical engineer was a simple decision, but not one she took lightly. 

From the beginning, she dedicated herself to excellence. In her first CAD class, she did so well that her professor asked her – a high school senior at the time – to tutor college freshmen in the course. She leaped at the opportunity. 

During her studies at WPI, where she completed both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, she landed a series of internships at Dassault Systèmes, including in the education department at SOLIDWORKS and in the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab. Before she even finished her degree, she was offered a spot – created just for her – on the SOLIDWORKS Product Definition team, where she remains today. 

Rachael Naoum (center) at the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab - Dassault Systemes blog

Paying it forward at MassRobotics

While her love for SOLIDWORKS has kept her professional life busy, Naoum’s love for teaching the software never went away. In 2021, she was offered the opportunity to volunteer with the MassRobotics Jumpstart Fellowship as their in-house CAD software expert. 

“I don’t really think the tutor in me ever went away,” Naoum laughed. “I love volunteering with MassRobotics and getting today’s high school girls involved in engineering.”

The Jumpstart fellowship is designed to provide technical training, mentoring, and access to professional networks to high school girls of diverse backgrounds. By taking part, these students are more likely to become interested in and pursue careers in STEM fields. Being taught by Naoum, someone so passionate about her field and work, makes the program even more inspiring for the students in it. 

Rachael Naoum and her Jumpstart students - Dassault systemes blog

“I want to inspire the next generation the same way I was inspired,” said Naoum. “I want to make the opportunities that were available to me available to them too.”

To do so, she’s augmented the curriculum she herself was taught with new knowledge and hopes to show the next generation all the possibilities they can create in SOLIDWORKS and that SOLIDWORKS can create for them.

“I’ve had girls tell me now that they want to become engineers and work in STEM,” Naoum said. “It’s amazing when they show me a completed project or even a college acceptance letter—we need more people out there teaching these students that they can be these things. I was lucky enough to have someone believe in me; now it’s my turn to pay it forward.”

Designing her future 

Naoum hopes to continue expanding her knowledge and furthering her career, mentoring new hires and working to innovate and improve the software she’s so passionate about. 

She’s going on 4 years volunteering with MassRobotics and plans to continue lending her love for SOLIDWORKS and teaching to the program. Taking it a step further, beginning in the fall of 2024, she is set to become an adjunct teaching instructor at WPI for the very same class that launched her career.

But Naoum is more than a teacher. And she doesn’t take the responsibility her roles come with lightly. Becoming an engineer or any kind of professional requires grit and dedication, and she aims to instill in her students the kind of work ethic that’ll help them succeed in her classes and beyond. 

“There are times when you’re presented with a choice,” she tells them. “There is the safe option, and then there is the scary option. Choosing to do something when you’re scared is having courage – it’s being brave. Be scared and do the thing anyway. More often than not, it’s the right decision to make.”

Rachael Naoum isn’t the only one helping reshape the engineering world. Check out some of the other humans driving progress.

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