Alumni Career Spotlight: Travis Gonzalez

Travis Gonzalez, DB 2008

We were excited to hear Travis’ story because he is not your typical ATM graduate. Most graduates from the program aspire to become Air Traffic Controllers…while Travis did too initially, things changed for him after his safety internship with JetBlue Airways. In his role at The Mitre Corporation he is able to draw from his Air Traffic Management degree and his internship experience with JetBlue; plus, he has furthered his education in systems engineering to make him an even greater asset to his company.

You majored in Air Traffic Management – what made you decide to pursue a career outside of the FAA?

Working at the Center for Advanced Aviation System Development (CAASD) in MITRE’s FAA research and development center, I am in fact working as one of the main contractors  for the FAA; however, what deviated my initial plan of becoming an air traffic controller was my interest in aviation research and analysis; especially in the midst of a paradigm shift occurring by way of the Next Generation Air Transportation (NextGen). The overall decision to make that change in career path came after a year of working for JetBlue Airways Flight Operational Quality Assurance (FOQA) program which commenced during my senior year at Embry-Riddle. At JetBlue, I assisted air safety investigators and staff engineers in developing metrics and performing statistical analysis on a variety of aircraft parameters that came directly from the fleet for the purposes of identifying answers to critical issues in safety, operational conformance, and internal investigations. After about a year and a half of hands on experience, I decided that the MITRE Corporation with its impressive reputation and wide range of research and development projects, was an excellent choice.

What did you do in the course of the application and interview process with The MITRE Corporation to effectively market yourself as a strong candidate?

I leveraged information obtained from coursework in both my major and system engineering/human factors elective courses, along with the niche skill set learned while working at JetBlue. If there is one piece of advice that I can give an applicant applying to MITRE, it would be to not only focus on your technical strengths, but assess your interest in professional development. Unlike other jobs where you may develop a specific skill set and apply it to or project or job function for the rest of the career, MITRE strongly encourages their educational programs, which sponsor advanced degrees, certifications, or applicable single courses that are extremely helpful due to the different projects you may work on from year to year (see below for more information). I believe the determination for higher learning that I displayed in my interview stuck with those particular managers and was a contributing factor in receiving my job offer in April, 2009. Since then, I have graduated with a Master of Science in Systems Engineering from George Washington University, and am working on my PhD in systems engineering with a dissertation focus on  stochastic optimization in aviation systems.

How has your Embry-Riddle degree opened doors for you in your current role?

In the aviation professional environment, Embry-Riddle is regarded as one of the most respected universities for aeronautical studies. In a competitive job market, where some companies are seeing triple the amount of applications received from the previous year per job opening, it is imperative that you differentiate yourself from the pack, and a degree from Embry-Riddle is a starting point. Secondly, I firmly believe that If I did not pursue an internship during college, I probably would not of had the chance of getting that initial interview in the first place. Proper planning and a clear focus on what career you want to pursue as early as possible, will help you identify a proper internship and get you to the desired end result, which in most cases, is the opportunity to work as a contributing member in enhancing our National Airspace System.

What are your plans for the future?

My plans for the near term future are to complete my PhD in Systems Engineering/Operations Research which I began August of this year, as well as to continually work on interesting research projects that take me to various locations around the U.S. When I finish my PhD and have more of an open schedule to travel, I would like to work in our International division as a country director, which involves identifying and developing innovative system engineering solutions to problems presented by our international clients all over the world.

About MITRE’s tuition reimbursement benefits:

At MITRE, there are three tuition reimbursement programs available to employees that are unmatched amongst the aviation research industry.  Three programs are offered through the Educational Assistance Office: the Basic Educational Assistance Program (BEAP), which reimburses tuition, applicable fees and books to support a planned academic objective in line with MITRE’s work needs; the Accelerated Graduate Degree Program (AGDP), which allows employees to pursue an advanced degree at an accelerated rate by providing time off for studies; and covers tuition, books and applicable fees in full and the Advanced Degree Award Program, through which qualifying employees receive a bonus for completion of their degree. For more information on benefits and additional information on MITRE, please go to www.mitre.org.

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  1. Ready, Set, Go…with a Back-up Plan « Going Places with Embry-Riddle Career Services

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