On this edition of My First Year Out (So Far) we check in with Octavio Araujo, who shares some helpful tips on adapting to an exciting (and challenging) new work environment, learning about airplane structures, and moving to the west coast.
Describe your first year out of UVM:
It’s only been 11 months, or so, but it sure feels like year. I left Burlington shortly after graduation to spend two weeks in Florida with my family before the big move. I had accepted a job offer in Seattle from Boeing without having ever visited the west coast.
I’d say that was intimidating given I didn’t know anybody living there.
Boeing is a big company and I was constantly asking myself if I was going to be up for the challenge ahead, learning how to design plane structures, especially in a place renowned for designing the best commercial airliners.
I had only a vague idea of the team I would be working with, so I didn’t know what engineering topics I would need to brush up on specifically before starting.
It turned out that the team was quite amazing, mostly senior engineers, with the exception of three new hires including myself. The amount of knowledge I’ve gained in these last 9 months is incredible. I’m surrounded by experts in all airplane components, from wings to empennage and fuselage.
I must give credit to all the amazing professors in the school of engineering, who provided me with the tools, knowledge, and experiences I needed to succeed.
The work is challenging, but also rewarding. The designers I collaborate with have a lot of passion for their work. I would say that out of sheer luck I have the best job in the world, but must also admit that I’m really devoting myself.
Sometimes it can be stressful and difficult, days can be long, and due dates too close. I’m back in school for a Boeing/University of Washington certificate in Modern Aircraft Structures, which takes place after work. I regularly take optional training for 8hrs on Saturdays, and during free time I’m trying to teach myself advanced CAD workbenches in CATIA.
I also sometimes volunteer with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers doing high school STEM night.
What was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
I’m most proud of two things. First, I was presented to Boeing’s chief design engineer and given a task by my manager very hastily. I had to read up on some specific material to bring out specific differences between industry standards and in-house standards. I was unfamiliar with both, but brought myself up to speed and was able to deliver as expected.
Second, I’m being mentored by a wing expert at the moment who assigns me work and coaches me through. As a mechanical engineer I’d expect to be doing only strict mechanical engineering. In this particular case, I’ve had to learn A LOT about fire.
As new airplane models undergo FAA certification, different engineering organizations are delegated responsible to comply with all regulations affecting your component. In this case, the wing, is impacted by FAR25.867 which defines certain wing surfaces must be fire resistant.
So I went along and learned [almost] everything about it, from fleet accidents to current regulation interpretations. I (with orientation from my mentor) came up with intelligence over how to achieve compliance and had to present to a committee of technical fellows (high regarding engineering ‘rank’ at Boeing, engineering decision makers).
In both occurrences I was nervous and unsure of myself, as coming into the presentations you’re told “it’s only another meeting in their schedule” but going upon leaving you realizing “this is where careers are made”.
I guess preparing and being able to think on your feet was necessary to overcome these challenges.
What did you learn from this experience?
At the end of the day, you need to be yourself. Bring who you are to the table and let people criticize your work. Take pride in your mistakes, they end up being lessons.
I learned that the only way to get better is by practice and preparation. Burrow like a worm.
Any advice for your classmates?
Convince yourself you can always do better. Everyone is on their own clock, but don’t procrastinate. Do something! Strive to find that which drives you.
What’s it like being on the west coast?
I’m focusing on getting a good start in my career, but whenever I can I try to head downtown and explore Seattle. I’m not the most outdoorsy person, but I’m exited for spring and hiking. I’m making plans for summer, I want to explore the west coast a bit more!
I’m also taking advantage of the Pacific North West and I’ve been able to go on some pretty cool hikes around the area, currently waiting for friendlier weather to enjoy more of the outdoors.