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Got my first job! Working as a mechanical engineer

Got my first job! Working as a mechanical engineer

February 24, 2020 at 12:00pm

In this series, recent grads share their journey to landing that first job out of college. After years of studying and working toward a degree, these Panthers’ hard work paid off. Now they’re paying it forward by letting you know how they did it.

Name: Jean-Carlo Drada

Hometown: Homestead, Florida

Degree/major: Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering

Where are you working? Title? I work at Northrop Grumman Corporation (NGC) as a Path Engineer. 

How did you get your job? I got my job at the 2017 NSBE (National Society of Black Engineers) Conference. I had an interview with Northrop Grumman at the conference and received an offer on the spot.

What was your greatest fear going into your first job and how did you face it or overcome it? I had many fears going into my first job but my greatest fear was not being able to keep up with the technical work and understanding of the job. Overcoming this was a lot easier than I would've imagined.

My first rotation manager was and is an amazing manager. She put me in ALL the training sessions I could possibly take starting off. Technical and nontechnical, I was able to soak up a lot of information. However, not everything came from training. My first lead was very helpful, along with my coworkers, when I stumped on a topic or had a relevant question. With this combination of things, overcoming my fear was a walk in the park. 

What surprised you the most about your first job? Honestly, the people and culture of NGC. Let’s start with the people. They are caring, helpful, willing to go out of the way for you, funny and diverse in all sense of the word. Yes, sometimes we might get on each other’s nerves, but at the end of the day, we have a common goal that we achieve together.

The culture is very important to NGC. You have work-life balance, community outreach events and Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). ERGs are the hidden gem of NGC. These groups allow members to develop and build leadership skills, raise awareness, educate others and contribute to communities, welcoming underrepresented minorities. All I have to say is they are the family I didn’t know I was missing.    

What advice do you have for those beginning the job search process? Two things:

1. WORK HARD! Do not give employers any reason to say “no” to you. I was denied many times by many companies before I landed this amazing job. My GPA was low, I had no internship experience, no co-op experience, no research experience, no project experience and no leadership experience. However, I didn’t let that stop me. I went out and changed all of that.

If I can do that, so can you. I believe in you.  

2. Believe in yourself. Take all your failures as the best experiences and use them to better yourself. It will come together in the long haul.  

What does a day on the job look like? I come into the office to check my emails and make sure nothing urgent is needed of me from a team member. After that, I jump on Creo4, a 3D modeling program, which I am currently working on. I design a concept from scratch needed by my RF (radio frequency) team for an antenna or redesign.

Some days, I’ll work on drawings all day from the things I have designed. Currently, I am working on the structural analysis of something I have designed to make sure it works under the stresses and conditions it needs to pass. Do not forget your usual meeting can vary from program meeting to technical lunch to an ERG meeting. It all really depends on the day.     

How does your job connect back to your coursework? Coursework can be very broad. You learn things that you might never see again. However, it does teach you how to solve problems and where to look. You learn a little about a lot of things. Coursework gives you a data bank to go back to and know where to start your search if you ever need to go back to a topic.

The most relevant coursework I am using in my current field is from the mechanics and materials and mechanical design 1 course taught by Benjamin Boesl, associate professor from FIU’s College of Engineering & Computing. When working with any type of material, you have to understand why it can be used and why it cannot.

How has your transition from school to work? How do you balance your time? The transition was easy for me. I use to get less sleep while studying for my bachelor’s degree. Now I get to sleep more with my 4/10 schedule, having every Friday off. Luckily, NGC is huge on work-life balance. It is pushed on to us to have a life outside of work.

Sometimes we do pull the 22-hour days because things have to get done. Nonetheless, that is not common. Now that grad school is starting, sacrifices are coming and less sleep is on the way. I'll be attending Johns Hopkins University's Whiting School of Engineering as an online student.

What’s been the coolest thing about your job so far? The coolest thing about my job so far has been the rotation program. I have been able to move around the company working on different products in different sector areas like naval warfare, aerospace and now space system. Moreover, being in the Pathways Rotation Program has opened many doors internally and externally to network with people. It has given me a lot of technical exposure, as well as company exposure.

Moving to California isn’t a bad perk either.