Another Men-tor, Starting My Aerospace Career

Larry hired me into Boeing. Recently divorced and with two small boys, I moved to Huntsville, Alabama, to start over. I knew that Huntsville was a Mecca of sorts for engineers. I would imagine the Huntsville area employs more STEMs per capita than anywhere else in the US. I didn’t think finding a job would be very hard In Huntsville. It just took a few months.

The first job I was able to procure was with a consulting firm that had a contract with a chemical plant located thirty miles away from Huntsville. The pay was so-so and the benefits didn’t amount to much more than health insurance, but it was a job.

I continued to look for work closer to home. I had dropped an application and resume off at the Boeing employment office and never expected to hear from them. Then I received a phone call to interview for a project engineering position on the International Space Station program.

The interview was held with three men and me. At one time. I was so intimidated and I’m sure it showed during the interview. I’ve never had a group interview like that. None of the men were managers, which I thought was strange. They inquired about my chemical industry experience, they were curious having spent most of their careers in aerospace. Boeing would be my first foray into aerospace. They were skeptical but I thought, “How hard could it be?”

One of the three mentioned a fourth man was on vacation and unable to sit in on the interview. I made it through the session in not too bad shape and waited. I waited until I forgot that Boeing even contacted me. Then late one night, my phone rang.

My first conversation with Larry lasted two hours, until midnight, that night. He told me the other three men didn’t think I was a fit. Larry thought otherwise. He recognized that aerospace experience was not as important as engineering experience. Through his review of my resume and our discussion that night, Larry saw potential in me that escaped the other men.

Within two weeks, a light year in corporate terms, Larry walked my offer through the halls to obtain the needed signatures and I had an offer in the mail greet me one day. I accepted immediately. My salary and benefits were much better and my drive time was cut in half.

Larry was my lead engineer for the three years I spent in Huntsville. We ended up in several different groups, as the program morphed and groups were folded and new ones formed. Each time, rumors of layoffs abounded, but never came to fruition. Larry, a veteran of the aerospace industry, told me, “If you are going to be afraid of being laid off, then you have no business being in aerospace.” Truer words were never stated. I haven’t worried about layoffs and I’ve not been close to one. Ever. Thanks, Larry.


About stemzandroses

I'm an engineer and writer with a built-in need to share my nearly 40 years of experience working in a male-dominated field with the rest of the world.
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