katherine-kwaterski1Katherine Kwaterski graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Daytona Beach in 2005.  She currently works as the Director of Engineering at Precise Flight, Inc.

Tell us what you have been doing since graduating from ERAU.

After graduating from Embry-Riddle (DB ’05), I was hired at Boeing Commercial in Everett, WA working in the Flight Controls Integration group.  I spent 10 years working in Flight Controls on a wide variety of projects including single aisle Continued Operational Safety Program, requirements development, design, testing, integration and certification of Flight Controls systems for the 747-8 and 737 MAX programs.  At Boeing I was given opportunities to expand my experience and leadership by participating in Lab, Ground and Flight Testing of critical Flight Control systems and earned my Authorized Representative certificate from the FAA in December 2011, and became the lead engineer of the 737 MAX Flight Controls Certification and Safety group.

In February 2016, I ended a 10 year career with Boeing and accepted a position with Precise Flight, Inc. in Bend, OR as the Director of Engineering and FAA Designated Engineering Representative.

You recently made a change in your career, leaving Boeing for another opportunity.  When making a career change, what are some pros/cons with this type of decision?

My new position at Precise Flight allows me to leverage years of experience and leadership at a smaller company which then allows me to have a larger voice in the direction of a company, its product lines and its profitability.  Change is not easy though, especially when the change involves not only a new position with new responsibilities, but also a new company with new processes and products.  While this change was hard and pretty uncomfortable at times, it allowed me to discover my potential and strength as a leader and innovator in the aviation industry.

While a student you participated in an internship.  Did you find this experience helpful when returning to school, and then after graduating?  If so, in what way?

Internships are a great way to try out a company and for the company to try you out.  There is always value added in participating in an internship or co-op.  I learned several lessons from my internships with both Boeing Defense and Boeing Commercial.  The first lesson I took away was that it is not the content of what I learned in school but the application of that knowledge that is so valuable to an employer.  Showing your employer you are a hard worker and adaptable to any situation is what demonstrates your value to the company.

I also learned the value of diversity.  In the work force, there may be people coming together from all different cultural and educational backgrounds to share knowledge.   The diversity of those backgrounds along with the viewpoints of the people who share them are the foundation for innovation and profitability. There is always value in diverse opinions and a company will produce better products because of them.

As an engineering manager yourself, how can a newly-hired engineer stand out in the workplace, especially if they don’t have much experience?

As an engineering manager, the qualities I look for in a new hire are having a positive “can do” attitude and someone who has the capability to work both independently as well as to positively contribute in a group setting.  I highly value the new hire who asks questions, works independently to the point where help is needed, then asks some more questions.  Asking questions demonstrates your interest in the project and your willingness to invest your time and energy to find solutions.  Someone who invests their time in the project tells their employer they value their job and are willing to invest themselves in the company.

Working effectively in a group setting is mandatory.  A new hire must be able to adequately communicate to their peers any issues, solutions, ideas and accolades in a manner that is clear and respectful.

Lastly, I look for a new hire who takes every opportunity given to them and is accountable for their own goals.  Never say no to a project no matter how small.  Use every task as an opportunity to demonstrate your work ethic and gain face time.  These are the best ways to show your employer your value.

What advice would you have wished someone shared with you before leaving ERAU.

Embry-Riddle did an excellent job preparing me for the job force.  If I could go back to when I was a new hire and give myself some advice, it would be to find someone willing to mentor you and to never stop challenging yourself outside your comfort zone.

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