Bailey Eaton graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Daytona Beach campus in December 2015. She currently works for The Boeing Company as a Systems Engineer.
Discuss your career path since graduating from ERAU and about your current role with Boeing.
After graduating ERAU with my BS in Aerospace Engineering, I began a full time position with Boeing in the Engineering Career Foundation Program. This program is unique because they accept about 40 people each year to participate in the two year program. ECFP enables members to rotate through each of the company’s major business units and requires exposure to each of the four major product life cycle phases; Create, Develop, Produce and Support. After being exposed to systems engineering in a prior internship at Northrop Grumman and to product development at my internship at Boeing right before graduation, I decided that I would gear each of my four rotations in ECFP towards building the skill set of a Systems Engineer. Additionally, I made a goal to explore roles that I knew would help me in the future, but that I didn’t necessarily believe I would want full time – this was the perfect opportunity to gain experience without long term commitment to the role! My first rotation was as a Systems Engineer writing requirements for a team call Airplane Health Management, then I rotated into a Structural Design Engineering role in Commercial Airplanes Product Development, next was rotation in Systems Safety helping develop new design processes for engineers to implement Ergonomics and Safety related attributes into lab test products, then a research rotation doing Orbital Mechanics, writing a patent application and studying the future of space transportation under a Senior Technical Fellow who eventually became my Technical Mentor, and finally my last rotation was on the production line helping build electronic and environmental control systems for the KC-46 Tanker.
All of these experiences added up to a tiny bit of knowledge in a variety of technical areas; my fascination was really embedded in the collaborative part of the engineering process and the rotations helped me build extremely valuable transferable skills – both soft skills like communication, coordination, scheduling, and project management, but also technical skills such as technical documentation and patent writing, inventing technologies, design and analysis skills as well as hands on build experience. I used these as a foundation to search for the role I am currently in as well as a number of networking strategies. Honestly I was pretty targeted – I wanted to work in a specific location, wanted to work on space products, and I wanted to work on cutting edge technology; this was the perfect set up for a job in Boeing Phantom Works.
Phantom Works is Boeing’s rapid prototyping and development organization for Boeing Defense, Space and Security. Now I work on a team in the Space Systems organization as a Systems Engineer. I do everything from payload design, to vehicle level configuration design, strategizing and building responses to our customers to win new business, and most recently leading a small, agile team on a program for a never-before done mission! My role on our team changes often, every day is busy and challenging, but I feel proud to be a part of a team that is shaping and executing on future space technologies.
You completed numerous internships while in school, can you discuss those helped you get to your current position?
Throughout my time at ERAU I completed 5 internships; two at a small start-up company building a composite aircraft, one on a flight test team at Northrop Grumman, one at GE Aviaton as a manufacturing engineer, and right before graduating I completed an internship with Boeing in the Aero, Noise and Propulsion organization where I helped with preliminary design of future test capabilities. Each of these internships added to my skill set in some way – every experience gave a broadened perspective and new technical skills. There are two specific skills things that I specifically can highlight that helped me get the role I am currently in:
First – Adaptability. I come to every project or new program ready to jump in – even if I am going to work on a topic I have no experience in or on a technology I’ve never even hear of (yes – that has happened!). Being adaptable is important because it helps open up more and more opportunities and technical skills! I make sure to jump right into the deep end, ask as many questions as possible, and start to come up to speed to a new team as quickly as possible. Since my role now is in quick turnover programs, this is especially important.
Second – Communication. I cannot stress this enough. I have worked hard to develop both technical and Lehman communication through all of my previous roles. As a Systems Engineer, it is important that I am able to communicate and understand very technical design and analysis but also to be able to relay that information across specialty engineering teams. The rule of thumb I keep in my back pocket is that taking 5 minutes to communicate something clearly (and hopefully concisely) will usually save hours of confusion – it is worth taking the extra 5 minutes on that email! I know that communication skills I proved in my rotation helped me get the job I have today and am thankful for the advise I got from my technical mentor; this is your biggest strength and it will always set you apart … and you need to KEEP working on it every single day!
Finally, I’ll just add that everything you do in life – in and outside of work adds to who you are and what you bring to your career! Get involved, bring your best self to the table – and most importantly when you are being true to your own personality and following your own interests, I believe you will do your best work and find the right fit.
Discuss your involvement outside of the workplace.
I truly believe that everything you do in life (both inside and outside of the workplace) adds to who you are and what you bring to your career! First things first – I always make sure that the work I do and the products I deliver to my team are high quality and that I am a positive contributor to the team; I think its important to remember this first and foremost. After that, there are SO many ways to contribute to the team aside from your technical responsibilities. I am a very busy person outside of work; right now I am enrolled my master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University, I teach Barre and Yoga and I spend my free time exploring the mountains outside of the city! While it may seem like stretch to some, the principles I learned becoming a certified yoga and barre instructor have become incredibly valuable to my career as an engineer as well – especially while leading a team. Most notably, I’ve had the opportunity to take my mentor up on his advice to continue building on my communication skills; I am able to instruct and communicate verbally in a concise fashion, I have been educated on trauma informed communication and inclusive language, and on a daily basis i get the opportunity to practice commanding the room, working on my “stage” presence and understanding how to communicate to an audience!
Throughout the last few years, I’ve also had the opportunity to recruit for Boeing, be a mentor to students the the Boeing Co-Pilot Program and to new employees at Boeing, and I’ve taken an active role on my team to make sure that new employees get mentoring and networking opportunities as well as technical exposure to a variety of engineering roles.
The biggest piece of advice I have on this topic is to just do what you love! Along the way challenge yourself to figure out how those things that bring you passion can be applied to your career and to your team.
Having been a student at Riddle and returned to recruit here, what advice to do you have for students to stand out?
Just be YOU. Before you start preparing for the career expo – or any networking event, take some time to think about who you are; I mean who you are as a person not just as an engineer. What traits or qualities would you want somebody to think of when they hear your name? I really believe that when you embrace your true personality and present your honest strengths (i.e. not just being amazing at aerodynamic analysis etc) you will find a role and company that are a great fit. Think about how you can weave in aspects of your personality and your unique attributes into your elevator pitch, interview answers, or other conversations and networking opportunities. Figure out what separates you from the people you sit next to in class, and why that should be important to somebody looking to hire.
Come prepared and be very professional. Embry-Riddle is an amazing school! When you spend every day surrounded by the aerospace inspired campus and thousands of other students that love aerospace as much as you do its easy to forget that this place is UNIQUE! Because of this, everybody is vying for similar positions and many times there are only a small number of positions open at a company or allotted to hiring students from a specific school. I suggest working with career services to learn about the hiring process of a specific company if you have a specific company you dream of working for. Boeing is an example of a company that has a very specific hiring and recruiting process and many other companies have similar processes; the STAR formatted interview and the types of roles that recruiters are hiring for are important to understand. Make sure your resume is reviewed, that you come prepared with an elevator pitch and some talking points and questions, and practice! The more prepared you are, the easier it will be to take a deep breath and hit the career expo out of the park!
Remember that nothing is permanent. The career expo and internship/full-time job search can be extremely stressful – and scary! Just remember that this is only one of many phases in your entire career and you have already come a long way. I think it is really important to view the recruiting process as a stepping stone to the position you want a few positions from now. Its very unlikely that the first internship you land is what you’ll want to do for the rest of your life, or that what specialty you’re interested in now in college is what you’ll find intriguing when it is applied to industry. Graduating and starting your first job are a huge step! But by no means is this the last step – think about what you’re looking for in life (family, location, job, extracurriculars) and formulate a plan that will help you get there eventually. My advice to all students is to jump on any internship experience you can if you haven’t yet had an internship; this is a foot in the door in the industry – from there, network like crazy to learn and find out what you’re passionate about!
What aspirations do you have for your future?
This is a tough one! My most important aspiration is to always be in a position where I’m doing something I believe is valuable and that I’m passionate about. I know this can change over the years, so I want to make sure I never feel like I’m settling or just getting by. If I find myself in this position in the future (its already happened once!) – its okay, it just means its time to review where I’m at and look for something new.
Now – for a few more tangible aspirations. In the near term, I’ve just become the lead of a program team and I can’t wait to execute on our mission, I hope to be a major contributor on future Phantom Works acquisitions, and one day I dream of working a launch!
As for the long run, I am keeping my goals pretty nebulous at the moment – I love creating a vision and leading teams so I have aspirations to become part of Boeing’s leadership team if I decide to keep my career at Boeing long-term; otherwise I have a little daydream which includes opening my own aerospace business in a remote mountain town… I’m thinking that a couple quick powder turns in the morning before a day of building satellites sounds pretty great to me.