Considering I work for a company where I can go hop into the factory and see a satellite or fighter jet anytime I want, yeah engineering was pretty worth it and I couldn’t imagine going through it anywhere other than UB. Although the knowledge I got out of my education was invaluable and something I’m still using today, I have to say what really made it worth it was all the amazing people that I got to meet along the way."
What types of work have you performed? What projects have you worked on?
As an intern, I worked on a bunch of different things: thin film solar cell research, manufacturing generators, reverse engineering a forming machine, designing opto-mechanical devices for space/aircraft vehicles. Since joining Boeing, I've worked in Structures R&D and am now in Satellites. In the former I worked everything from Structural Design for an Experimental Space Plane, analysis for F/A-18, vibe test for F-15, and a bunch of different IRAD programs that I can't talk about (feels cool to say that). In Satellite Systems, I'm in an engineering rotation program currently supporting the Space Electronics group.
Basically, I've gone from ignoring the black box that is electronics to now being inside the box. I've largely supported mechanical design efforts for some new satellite proposals. Outside of my "day job", I'm also now the Chief of Staff for the Government Satellite Systems Chief Engineer so I help him out with some strategy work and lots of PowerPoint engineering. But it allows me to get to see a bunch of stuff that is way above my pay grade.
What have been some favorite aspects of your work?
Definitely getting to see some of the cool things that we’re able to do. Sometimes I sit back and think just how insane some of the stuff we’re able to make happen really is. It truly is incredible what we’re able to do when we put our minds and a few equations together.
On top of that, I truly enjoy getting to work with most of my coworkers (there’s always that one guy). Getting to be a part of a team of other people with a common goal everyone is passionate about achieving is really something special. I love getting to learn from the more experienced folks while still getting to help out those with less experience than I have.
What was one of your most satisfying days as an engineer?
Getting to climb up into an F-15 at 4am before starting Vibe test. I mentioned that it'd be cool to get up to the cockpit and the senior engineer I was working with said, "let's do it." Definitely a good way to start the day.
Submitting an invention disclosure for something I worked on.
On a truly challenging series of weeks, getting the nice complement of "I can't believe you've only been here for 4 months, I thought you had been working for at least a 8 or 9 years. It says a lot about your character and your capability that you've accomplished so much already." - from the Chief Engineer of Satellite Systems.
Watching the satellite that I worked on at Raytheon safely make it to orbit and taking a breath of fresh air when the hinges I built did everything they were supposed to.
Oh, and definitely getting to do a 20mi bike ride with Dennis Muilenburg, the CEO of Boeing. It was really cool getting to meet and chat with such an important and accomplished person. He's no joke on the bike either, we pushed 22mph pretty comfortably.
Was it worth it? What has your engineering background made possible for you? What value has it added to your overall life?
Considering I work for a company where I can go hop into the factory and see a satellite or fighter jet anytime I want, yeah engineering was pretty worth it and I couldn’t imagine going through it anywhere other than UB. Although the knowledge I got out of my education was invaluable and something I’m still using today, I have to say what really made it worth it was all the amazing people that I got to meet along the way.
Nothing like a looming final exam to bring people together. Being an engineer has opened so many doors for me and tangentially helped me to get to live in Europe for a while, work on some really cool and important projects, and most importantly, enable me to live the life that I want. Working as an aerospace engineer is not only rewarding and cool in its own right but it’s allowed me to do some of the other things I love like fixing up my bike and hiking in the mountains. So all in all, engineering has definitely been worth it to me. Although be prepared for people to expect you to fix anything “because you’re an engineer.” Fair warning.
What would you say to the first-year students currently sitting in your shoes?
Thinking, "when the hell are my group members ever going to start showing up?"
My experience in EAS140 was…less than ideal, but in all seriousness, it taught me some of the most important skills I have today. It’s not about wind turbines and solar panels and decision matrices (although they’re pretty cool). It’s about being able to think critically in order to be able to tackle ill-defined problems you haven’t seen before. There’s no solutions manual for the real world (although we do have Google) so when you learn how to think and learn in EAS140, it's doing more than teaching you that ethanol is made from corn. So go to class, learn and understand the material (not the tests), and don’t be that guy/girl who doesn’t pull their weight in group projects. But remember to have fun doing it all. Go to parties, hang out with friends, join clubs, keep your grades up, and breathe. God knows if I did it so can you.
Also, keep a mini-stapler in your bag. You’re welcome for all the new friends you just made.