Alumni Career Spotlight: Jez Kenyon

Jez Kenyon, DB 2008

Jez Kenyon graduated in December 2008 with a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautics from ERAU, with minors in Business and Maintenance.  Through the Industry/Career Expo in the fall of 2008, she met AMCOM representatives, setting into motion her future career. Jez has since worked with the Career Services Office, representing AMCOM to recruit other graduating students.

Tell us about your experience with AMCOM and how your career focus has changed since graduation

Like many college seniors, my career plans had changed since freshman year. A lifelong medical problem had worsened, making a military commission look much more unlikely, and I had never really formed a solid plan B. I knew I wanted a career that would utilize the skills I had learned in school and make a contribution. As much as I still wanted to work for the Department of Defense, I didn’t know my options outside of commissioning. Knowing I would realistically not be able to get precisely what I wanted, I narrowed my basic criteria down to three things: work-related travel, pursuit of higher education, and opportunities for advancement. When I learned about the opportunities working as an Army Civilian for the Aviation and Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL, it was hard to believe I had found everything I had wanted in a career in one package.

My first two years with AMCOM were spent as an intern. The first year was very training intensive, including four months at Fort Lee, VA learning about Army logistics; base visits; Defense Acquisition University; job series training; and networking. The second year was spent on the job in my assigned office applying what I had learned to my job as an Equipment Specialist.

During the training portion of the internship, leaders from various offices at AMCOM formed a panel to determine which interns would be sent to which offices after completing training. I was selected to work in the UH-60 Technical Data Division, working on a wide variety of technical and maintenance related issues affecting the Black Hawk fleet. Now that I have graduated from the intern program, I am still working in the same office, where I have learned a lot about the business and management aspects of aircraft maintenance and get to work regularly with new technology and deal with military aircraft hands-on.

In the few short years I have been with AMCOM, I have already had many amazing opportunities I never would have had anywhere else. I have been able to travel to many new locations and shadow a SES (Senior Executive Service- Army civilian equivalent of a general officer) for a day, while working on my master’s degree. I have received two significant promotions and participated in several “side-project” assignments, allowing me to interact with leadership and directly support soldiers. One of the most rewarding side projects was participating in recruitment at Embry-Riddle. After learning to be the interviewer rather than the interviewee, I was part of a two-person recruiting team at Embry-Riddle. Hearing students and alumni share their accomplishments and best qualities and then being able to offer jobs to deserving people in a slow economy is a truly gratifying experience. Now that I have the career I had been searching for, I can set my sights on specific positions I want and pursue training and developmental assignments in which I want to participate. Success is my ultimate objective.

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

At Embry-Riddle, you hear a lot about how small the aviation world really is and the notion of “the Embry-Riddle name.” It only took a few weeks of working at AMCOM for me to see how true that is. My intern class had received a pre-brief about an upcoming trip to Fort Rucker. Upon learning that I was from ERAU and had been through the maintenance program, the briefer pulled me aside later to tell me how many unique opportunities I would have throughout my career, given my background. He mentioned that the commander at Rucker was an ERAU alum himself. Fast-forward a few days later, my intern classmate and I were in a conference room at Rucker where the commander had taken the time to brief us himself on base operations. After completing the briefing, the commander left the room for a few minutes, then abruptly came back in the room saying, “I just got off the phone with one of my counterparts at Redstone – is there an Embry-Riddle alum in this room?”  He went on to talk about his time at ERAU and how many successful fellow alumni he had met throughout his career. As I was still homesick for my life at Riddle, it warmed by heart to see that even decades after receiving his commission there, he was still proud of his alma mater. Only three weeks into my AMCOM career, this was the first of many encounters I had with high level leadership that had graduated from Embry-Riddle. Fellow alums are always eager to approach me after finding out I went to their school. Corny as it may sound, there is always an immediate, special connection meeting someone at work with the shared experience and love of aviation.

As promised, the “Embry-Riddle name” does get you places. Having that degree on my resume has opened up doors to new responsibilities and opportunities, often before meeting the person making the offer.

Almost everyone that works in any kind of aviation field, and especially military aviation, knows about Embry-Riddle. Carrying my education with me, I feel like it is expected of me to have a lot of aviation knowledge on a wide variety of aircraft: military, general aviation, corporate, and commercial- from many different aspects- e.g. maintenance, business, pilot’s perspective, safety, materials, etc.- and I am eager to prove them right! Even though I have far less work experience than the majority of the workforce here, I have found that I have much more aviation knowledge than many of my peers. Many universities offer technical management degrees, but Embry-Riddle is the only school that immerses its students in all aspects of the aviation industry and turns out graduates with hands-on technical experience, which is crucial on the job. I 100 percent believe that I received a world class aviation education.

What career advice do you have for upcoming or recent grads currently seeking work?

1. Go for experience, not money.  The economy is rough but if you are weighing different options, pick a job or internship with a well-known company or organization, which will look good on your resume no matter where you end up, even if it doesn’t pay the most.  Employers want people that add value to their organization. Bring a wide variety of training, education, and skills that many organizations lack, but that is vital to the operation. As long as you are responsible with your credit, don’t focus on your current paycheck. Focus on self-development early on; you have the rest of your career to make a lot of money.

2. Take schoolwork seriously. If you are still in school, imagine every course you take is the only preparation you have for a job starting at the end of the semester. Even if you are sure it has nothing to do with your future career field, learn everything you can and keep your grades up. Your GPA could be the difference in thousands of dollars in your starting salary or even determine if you get the job or not. College grades do matter.

3. If no job offers, get another degree. The job market is competitive. A bachelor’s degree may not be enough to get noticed by the organization you want to work for. If you haven’t received any offers, look into a Master’s degree (or a second Bachelor’s, if you are unable to get a Master’s).  Don’t pick a degree that sounds fun, choose one that is versatile and will give you the most leverage in the field you are seeking.

4. Don’t limit yourself geographically. The last place I ever thought I would live is Huntsville, AL, but if I had limited myself to staying in Florida or moving back to the west coast, I would have missed out on an amazing opportunity. Even if you don’t like the location, you might have the opportunity to move later on, use the experience for another job or take a position that gives you more geographical freedom.

5. Spend personal time on career development. You should always be honing your skills no matter where you are in your career, but if you are a student or recent grad, use your free time to learn everything you can about your field. Read, research, make connections and find someone to teach you valuable skills. If you can’t bear to deal with the subject on your own time, you may be heading into the wrong field. Experience and knowledge really pay off.

6. Set benchmarks. Make long-term and short-term goals for yourself. Short-term goals should be a stepping stone to achieve your long-term goals. This will help you develop a plan to get where you want and avoid procrastinating. If you have sent out a lot of resumes but have heard nothing back, you may need to change your approach.

7. Prepare for interviews. I’ve had the privilege of participating in several interviews. It’s surprising how many people don’t prepare. Being poorly prepared is obvious to the interviewer, so spend some time on the Internet looking for interview tips and practice your response to some generic interview questions. It is very important- for interviews and personally- to know your strengths and weaknesses. That question almost always comes up in some form or another in an interview. Prepare for this question. Don’t give generic responses about your strengths, really think it through. Absolutely DO NOT say you have no weaknesses. It is not true for anybody and makes you look grossly unprepared. Be honest about your weaknesses, but turn them into opportunities. Tell the interviewer how you work on your weaknesses to turn them into strengths.

8. Pay attention to personal appearance. No matter what we are told as children, people do judge a book by its cover. Even if you have a lot of great qualifications, you need to put your best foot forward to show that you can represent your future organization positively by maintaining a clean, professional appearance. There are plenty of articles to read on personal appearance in the work place and especially for interviews. Take note. Colors that clash, ill-fitting clothes and messy or dirty hair can be extremely distracting to an interviewer and can overshadow your positive features. When in doubt, wear black and keep your hair out of your face. At AMCOM, our mentors always say “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”

What are your plans for the future?

Knowing that I want to stay with AMCOM makes planning for the future much easier. I will be completing my Master of Business Administration degree in Summer 2012, and I don’t plan to stop there. I want to make the most of every educational opportunity afforded to me, and with the Army the options are practically endless. I also look forward to having many more travel opportunities in the U.S. and particularly overseas, both for work and personal travel. I hope to participate in several (voluntary) deployments over the years, as a part of personal and career development alike. I look around constantly for opportunities to better myself as a person, because I know it will help me succeed not only at work but in my own life as well. I have already been blessed with so much: at 23 have been a homeowner for nearly a year, been able to make many trips back home to Seattle and to Los Angeles and live my life independently. I can honestly say I feel completely fulfilled in my career and personal life. I look forward to implementing and fine-tuning my leadership skills as I hold different positions at AMCOM. Being a part of AMCOM has been a gift in many ways, and I plan to seize every opportunity and help as many others as I can, while enjoying this life to the fullest.

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