Five things that every engineer should know

Five things that every engineer should know
Atlanta, GA

Five things that every engineer should know.

NOTE: The following is part of an ongoing GT-AE series called "Five Things You Should Know" which extracts pearls of wisdom from friends and alumni of GT-AE who are working the multifaceted field of aerospace engineering. This installment was culled from a Jan. 23 visit by three very generous Lockheed Martin engineers: Dan O'Rourke, Julie Whitehead, and Jeff Baldino. The trio came to Georgia Tech as a part of the School of Aerospace Engineering's Student Advisory Council (SAESAC) Career Night.

Julie Whitehead
Director of Air Vehicle Systems
Lockheed Martin

1. Build up your "work equity."

"If a colleague comes to you and asks you to do something extra, say 'yes.' It matters. A lot," said Whitehead, Lockheed's director of Air Vehicle Systems. "Every assignment that I was asked to take on, I said 'yes' to. And it built my reputation for having a good work ethic. At Lockheed, they notice who's coming in on the weekends to do extra work. They remember the people who are willing to go above and beyond. Those are the go-to people, and they move ahead."

They also remember the ones who don't.

"Someone actually said they couldn't stay late to work on a project because they had a kickball tournament," she added. "A kickball tournament."

2. Hone your basic engineering skills.

"With my background in mechanical systems, I was working as an air vehicle deputy, but when they had a hole for the C-5 avionics director, they called on me to fill it  eventhough I had no background in electronics,"  said O'Rourke, GT '82, who is now the chief engineer for the C-5.

"They had seen how I approached problem-solving on other tasks, and knew I had a solid foundation as an engineer, so when they were behind schedule and over

Dan M. O'Rourke, GT '82
Chief Engineer, C-5 Program
Lockheed Martin

budget, they figured I could handle it."

3. Know what you don't know. Then find someone who does.

"This relates to that last point," said O'Rourke. "When I started working as the avionics director, I knew what I didn't know and I was ready to find people who could fill in the holes. This is critical at Lockheed, because we have to work as a team. You have to be able to identify the resources you need and then be ready to activate them."

4. Time. Management.

"When I decided that I wanted to go back to graduate school, I had a full-time engineering job at Lockheed," said Baldino, BSAE '10 MSAE '13, an engineer on the C-5.

"I knew there would be  times when I'd have to work late and no one was going to care if I had a test the next day or a lecture to attend. If I wanted to go to school, I had to make it work around my job."

Jeff Baldino BSAE '10, MSAE '13
C-5 Engineer
Lockheed Martin

Baldino forged ahead in his GT-AE graduate program by switching between on-campus classes and distance learning.

"If I really wanted to take a class, but it only met at noon, I found a way to take it online so that I could watch it when I got home from work," he said. "I'm not going to tell you it was easy, because it wasn't, but I learned how to manage my time really well. Now that I'm finished with my masters, I have more time than I know what to do with sometimes."

Another perk: Lockheed helped him pay for his schooling.

5. Did we mention the part about always saying 'yes'?

"Building up work equity really builds your credibility," said Whitehead. "I can't emphasize enough how important it is to take new assignments and, then, to learn new skillsets. You will be learning throughout your career, and you want your colleagues to see how well you learn."


The man underneath the screen images is Dan O'Rourke, GT '82. After addressing students for an hour during the Jan. 23 Career Night event, he spent almost an additional hour answering questions from GT-AE students.