Alumni Career Spotlight: Susan (DiLella) Herbert

Susan (DiLella) Herbert, DB 2002

Susan (DiLella) Herbert graduated from Embry-Riddle in 2002 with an Associate of  Science in Aircraft Maintenance Technology. As a student, Susan worked in the overhaul shop at Embry-Riddle during the last six months of her program. She took a job after graduation with Atlantic Southeast Airlines (Delta Connection, now known as ExpressJet), where she was a Line Maintenance Mechanic for a year and half before being promoted to Lead Mechanic in charge of a group of six mechanics. In September 2006, after four years at ASA, Susan left to join GE Aviation in Durham, NC where she has been for the past five and a half years. Today, Susan is an Assembly and Test Technician, assembling the CFM-56 – 5B/7B engines.

What made you decide to pursue a career in aviation maintenance?

When I was a kid, we got to fly a lot; I always loved to fly on airplanes, as it was just so much fun. I also loved to take things apart and put them back together. So when I was deciding what I wanted to do for a career in my junior year of high school, I came to Embry-Riddle and took a tour of the maintenance department, and I knew right away that this was what I wanted to do. I knew I would be good at it, and I would enjoy doing it.

What do you do in your role as an Assembly and Test Technician for GE Aviation?

In my role as an assembly and test technician, I build the CFM-56 5B/7B engine, which entails everything from building the sub assemblies or piece parts of the engine to taking all the piece parts and putting them together to form a core assembly or the entire engine. I have also taken on the responsibility of work station owner; I am responsible for the maintenance of a grind machine, which we use to cut our shroud sub assembly to meet a specific dimension.

Do you have any advice for candidates who are seeking work in the field of aviation maintenance?

My advice to candidates seeking a job in maintenance would be, do not limit yourself to just looking near the area where you live as there are so many opportunities out there that you might not know about. Keep in touch with your fellow alumni; aviation is a small industry, and you will find that networking is also a great way find out about job opportunities.

How has your Embry-Riddle degree helped you in the course of your career?

Embry-Riddle has helped me because employers find it impressive that I went to this amazing school. They know that I received a great education. I have also run into many people in this industry who went to Embry-Riddle, and we enjoy reminiscing about when we were attending there and what teachers we had. Because of that I have been able to network with my fellow alumni.

What are your long-term goals for the future?

My long term goals are to get my bachelor’s degree in Aviation Management and to continue to grow my career here at GE Aviation.


I Have A Business Degree – Where Do I Find My First Career Opportunity??

By Sandi Ohman

An education in business provides a broad knowledge base, which is helpful in transcending across many industries.  However, it can present a challenge – having so many opportunities that you don’t know where to start looking.

To start, here are some questions to consider:

  1. If you have had an internship during your education – did you like it? If so, check out the opportunities at that company or similar companies.
  2. If you didn’t fully enjoy the internship, what parts of the internship did you enjoy?  Try focusing your career search on those aspects.  For instance, you liked the social network & website duties – check into marketing opportunities.
  3. Not having had an internship doesn’t mean you can’t find a career-launching position – it just means you will need to know yourself or do some self-evaluation to figure out where to start.  What do you like to do?  Consider what you liked about other work experiences or the classes you took – what kind of careers include those elements?  This could involve more education specializing in those areas (certificates, graduate degree, another few classes), but that can be a small investment for the work you will do the rest of your life!

Completing your degree at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) doesn’t mean you can only find work in the aviation/aerospace industry.  Your education should have prepared you to experience a shorter learning curve in this industry, but you can definitely cross over to other markets.  ERAU alumni have found their careers leading them into a variety of industries, including the following non-aviation related areas:

Commercial Banking, Consulting, Global Business Environments, Government, Healthcare, Insurance, Military, Sports, Transportation, and Wall Street & Financial Markets

Once you have determined career areas you are interested in pursuing and research the companies in that industry, resume and interview specifics for that industry and start applying.  An internship after college is still an option for many recent graduates.  This is an excellent way to start in a new industry and let the employer evaluate performance before a full-time opportunity is offered.  We hear from employers from non-aviation/aerospace industries that didn’t know about ERAU previously but gave a graduate or student an opportunity and now want to recruit ERAU students/alumni because they are so impressed.  ERAU students and alumni can successfully cross into other industries!

Networking is so beneficial to the career search – before and after you have the job!  LinkedIn is an excellent resource for networking, along with professional organizations for that industry.  Check out the ERAU online Alumni directory eaglesNEST and ERAU alumni and Career Services LinkedIn groups to start the networking process.  There is also a list of aviation/aerospace professional organizations on the Career Services website.  There are just as many organizations for other industries as well.

Ultimately, your first career position might not start in the career/industry you were hoping for, but every experience offers learning opportunities (both personal and professional) and a chance to begin molding your experiences toward the career you are pursuing.  Often we tell students, “you get out of it what you put into it,” and this applies for the career search process and the experiences you obtain along the way.  If you are willing to learn new things, improve skills, grow personally and professionally, and continue pursuing your dreams, the likelihood of obtaining those dreams increase greatly!

Sandi Ohman is the Senior Program Manager in the Career Services Office at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.  She has been with the university for over 9 years and has advised students in most all degree areas while in Career Services.  Sandi brings additional experience having worked in the finance industry for over 6 years in her previous career.  She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Florida, and her Master of Arts degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Central Florida. 

Alumni Career Spotlight: Alexander Moerchel

Alexander Moerchel, DB 2004/2006Alexander Moerchel graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with both a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering in 2004 and a Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering in 2006.  Next, he went to England to complete additional policy-related coursework.  While still in the UK, he joined Rolls-Royce and worked his way through their graduate trainee programme, and he was hired full-time as an engineer, contributing to the development of the engine powering the Airbus A380.  He also spent time on the aircraft performance team while at Rolls-Royce.  Last year, Alex returned to his native Germany to work for Lufthansa Technik where he now puts both his technical and business knowledge to work as a sales engineer.

You have had a wonderfully diverse educational and professional career so far, and your successes have taken you to many international locations.  Please tell us what you have accomplished since your time at Embry-Riddle. 

After graduating from ERAU with the MSc in Aerospace Engineering, I enrolled in a Master course on Technology Policy taught at the Judge Business School of the University of Cambridge. The motivation to do this stemmed from the idea of diversifying my thorough engineering background from ERAU with topics focused on the social impact of technology while not losing the technical connection.

After completing the programme, I joined the graduate trainee programme at Rolls-Royce plc in the UK. This programme gave me the opportunity to do several rotations in the company’s civil aerospace division. I was able to gather deep insight into the various stages of the engine life cycle, ranging from turbine design to aftermarket support. Among other things, this gave me the great opportunity to spend three months at the Rolls-Royce field support office in Hong Kong.

Once I completed the graduate trainee programme, I joined the development department for civil large aero engines. There, I became the focal point for the Trent 900 fan module, which is the engine powering the Airbus A380. In this role, I was especially able to develop a good understanding of how components are used by the engine and how they react to the various running conditions.

In 2010, I had the opportunity to join the aircraft performance team at Rolls-Royce. This allowed me to further diversify my technical experience by working on aircraft-engine system integration issues and conducting take-off performance calculations in support of sales campaigns.

During the middle of last year, I decided to move back to Germany. I left Rolls-Royce plc and joined Lufthansa Technik (LHT) in Hamburg for my current role as a sales engineer for aircraft component services. The main challenges for me in this new role are the increased focus on the economics behind commercial aviation, managing customer relations, and the cultural differences between working in Germany and the UK. To sum it up, it’s quite a different world at LHT, but it is exciting and keeps me on the steep bid of the learning curve.

What three traits or skills have made you the most successful in your career?

Knowing another language to a level that allowed me to use it both in a professional and social setting: the professional bit may be obvious, but from my experience, it’s the social part that makes the difference. Unfortunately, I found that this is also harder to learn due to all the idiomatic expressions that you find in every language. The best way to learn is to get out and interact with the native speakers.

Geographical mobility/flexibility: the meaning behind this is two-fold for me. It is good to be mobile and flexible when it comes to moving somewhere for a new job. It is, however, even better to be unbiased about the destination. For example, before I joined Rolls-Royce in Derby, I was a bit skeptical about moving to the English Midlands. What I didn’t know was that Derby is adjacent to the Peak District, which offers great opportunities for outdoor activities coupled with many traditional pubs.

The eagerness to continue diversifying my professional experiences: customer requirements on large engineering systems such as commercial aircraft become more and more challenging. Simultaneously, facing climate change and other socioeconomic issues, government regulations continue to become stricter. I believe that it is important for engineers in the future to be able to appreciate complexity and interrelations among sub-systems to be successful. The best way to ensure this is to collect a sensible set of different experiences.

What is the biggest highlight of your career so far?

One highlight that I spontaneously remembered when reading the question was standing in the inlet of a Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine mounted in one of the company’s test stands in Derby, UK. We were conducting inspections of the fan blades and tip clearances in-between two engine test runs, which meant that the engine was mounted about 20 feet up in the air.

When reading the question again, however, I have to say that as an aviation enthusiast it is always a highlight for me to go to one of the big hangars on the Lufthansa base and see a Boeing 747 and an Airbus A340 parked side-by-side. It reminds me of why I do what I do in my day-to-day job, which is something that can sometimes be forgotten, when things become a bit more stressful.

What helpful tips do you have for international students seeking opportunities abroad?

It is important to be flexible and open-minded. It makes life a lot easier when going to a foreign country for a new job. I also find it very beneficial to start out your professional career with a graduate trainee programme as opposed to joining as a direct entry. These programmes typically allow you to move around within the company, thus enabling you to understand the organisation as a whole. In addition, and maybe more importantly, you will start with a group of people of similar age, which allows you to quickly build a sizable network, which is very important in the long run.

In terms of citizenship and work permits, I think particularly engineering graduates shouldn’t face too many issues in Europe as long as the company of interest is not fully focused on defence and government projects. Many of the large European aerospace companies realise the shortage of young talent and are stepping up their recruitment efforts. Besides, many of these big players, including Rolls-Royce and LHT, have operations and customers all around the world, so there is a vested interest in diversifying the workforce. The best piece of advice here is to do some research into what projects and/or customers the company of interest has acquired recently and to correlate your own background and skills to that. Good sources of information are the company websites and industry specific periodicals.

Campus Involvement: Step 1 in Building your Professional Network

by Amy Treutel

Amateur Astronomy Club

Embry-Riddle boasts an overwhelming number of student clubs and organizations.  When first starting school here, it is oftentimes difficult to narrow down with what exactly you want to get involved.  With so many options, how do you even begin to choose?  And why even bother getting involved?

The answer to the first question is easy.  Ask your friends, co-workers, and roommates what clubs and organizations they’re in or they’ve heard are interesting.  Listen to what students are talking about in class to know what clubs are most active or do the most interesting things.  Stop by the Student Activities Fair and see what catches your eye.  Don’t just join an organization because you think it will look good on your resume or you think it’s what you’re supposed to be doing.  You won’t be committed to the organization and being a member won’t end up benefiting you.

That brings us to why you should get involved while you’re here on campus.  Besides Embry-Riddle being your home for the next four years, it’s a stepping stone for beginning your life.  The friends and connections you make in the organizations you’re a part of will carry through your entire life.  This is the beginning of building your network!

Oftentimes in organizations, you have the opportunity to meet industry professionals, attend conferences, or get involved with professors on campus.  These opportunities all translate into skills that will be useful in the workplace.  You’ll have the chance to get comfortable talking with professionals while still in a student setting where it’s okay to make mistakes; you can learn from watching other people.  Attending conferences is another good way to network and learn how to present yourself in a professional manner.  Getting involved with professors on campus opens up a whole new set of doors for you.  Many professors used to work in the industry and still have many contacts that could be useful to you later down the road.

Even if the organization you decide to become a part of doesn’t have such vast opportunities, it’s still important to get involved and truly be part of something about which you’re passionate.  Being a part of The Avion isn’t necessarily going to directly help you in getting a job as an Air Traffic Controller, but what it does give you are the experiences you need to become a successful job candidate.  Your speaking, writing, and presentation skills will develop and improve drastically, and employers will notice the activities that are on your resume.  They’ll be a great conversation piece during your job or internship interview, and who knows, that just might be the key piece you need to seal the deal.

So get involved and get involved in something that is interesting and exciting to you.  It’ll provide for a great relief when classes get stressful, and all the while you’ll be building skills and experiences that will fit in perfectly on your resume.  You get the best of both worlds.

Amy Treutel graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Air Traffic Management from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and is currently pursuing a Master of Science degree in Aeronautics with a specialization in Management.  She currently works as the Office Associate and has been part of the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Career Services team for five years.

Alumni Career Spotlight: Suzanne (Robinson) Kearns

Dr. Suzanne Robinson Kearns, DB 2000/2002

Dr. Suzanne Robinson Kearns, DB 2000/2002

Suzanne Kearns is a professor who teaches Commercial Aviation Management students at Western University in Ontario, Canada. She is also a licensed airplane and helicopter pilot. She holds a Helicopter Pilot college diploma along with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Science and a Master of Science degree in Human Factors and Systems Engineering both from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Additionally, Suzanne holds a Ph.D. in Education, specializing in Instructional Design for Online Learning. She has extensive experience as an instructional designer and is passionate about innovating human factors and aviation safety training.  She is the author of e-Learning in Aviation, a book published by Ashgate in 2010 and a new iPhone app called m-Safety.

What have you been doing since you graduated with your MS in Human Factors & Systems in 2002?

I graduated with my BS in Aeronautical Science in 2000 and my MS in Human Factors & Systems in 2002.  Shortly after graduating I was hired full-time as a professor at Western University, in their Commercial Aviation Management program, teaching human factors and aviation safety.  After I was hired I began my PhD in Education, with a specialization in Instructional Design for Online Learning, which I completed in 2007.

Since 2007, I have written two books: Canadian Aviation, which is a textbook for university students who are new to the aviation industry, and e-Learning in Aviation.  I have also published four academic journal articles in The Journal of Human Factors, The International Journal of Aviation Psychology, and The Collegiate Aviation Review.  My current project is the development of a smartphone app that delivers pilot safety training, called m-Safety, which will be on the Apple App Store mid-April.

I have been married to Michael Kearns since 2004 and have three children, Katelyn (6), Sam (4), and Andy (15 months).

What has been the biggest highlight of your career so far?

The biggest highlight of my career so far has been the publication of my e-Learning in Aviation book.  This book was published by Ashgate, a highly respected publisher in the aviation industry.  With Ashgate, you have to submit a book proposal and sample chapter which is put through an external review before the publisher agrees to publish your book.  Then comes the hard part – you have to do all the research and writing, which took me about 9 months.

After the book was published, I made connections throughout the industry with people who had read the book and were interested in collaborating.  It’s quite the experience to have people approach you, after having read your book.

What advice do you have for students and graduates who are interested in teaching in a university setting?

Teaching in a university setting offers a lifestyle with unparalleled flexibility.  I always dreamed of being a pilot, as I started flying airplanes and helicopters when I was 15, yet it was not until I completed an internship near the end of my ERAU bachelor’s degree that I realized how challenging the lifestyle of a professional pilot can be (as you are away from home so much).

I did not dream of becoming a professor, but I am very glad that my path led me here.  As a professor, your workload is distributed 40% teaching, 40% research, and 20% service.  The teaching requires about 6 hours of lecturing a week, plus office hours and grading.  The fun part of the job is the research, as you get complete flexibility over what you decide to explore, and it’s something you can do from home.  My interests led me initially to e-learning and now to mobile learning, which I think has enormous potential to improve aviation safety.  The service component of my job includes running the admission process for our aviation program and sitting on several university and industry-level committees.

For students interested in teaching at the university level, the best advice I can give is to consider whether or not you are interested in research.  It’s not obvious from the outside, but a professor is expected to spend just as much time conducting research as teaching.  Universities place a very high value on academic publications, such as books and journal articles.  As a student, if you want to work in a University, the best thing you can do during your studies is to try and get one or two papers submitted to journals and published.  The saying in the academic world is ‘publish or perish’, which means that if you don’t conduct research and produce publications it’s unlikely you will survive in the academic world.

How have your Embry-Riddle degrees opened doors for you in the course of your career?

My ERAU degrees have opened up many doors in my career, beginning with the ability to get a Master’s degree.  What I mean is that in Canada, most pilot education is at the 2-year college level.  I am an example where it is hugely valuable to have a 4-year university degree in aviation, as it allows you to build upon that education.  In my case, it allowed me to get a Master’s degree and eventually a PhD.

Also, unlike other academic disciplines (such as history or calculus) there is a very “real-world” component to aviation research.  I need to stay on top industry-happenings and trends as well as the academic literature in my area.  Having a degree from Embry-Riddle has given me the foundation upon which to build my career.  I absolutely would not be where I am today without the education I received from ERAU.

6 Ways LinkedIn Can Help You Manage and Advance Your Career

By CareerBliss

CareerBliss is a leading online career community that offers salary information, job reviews, and advice articles to help users find career happiness.

So you’ve created a LinkedIn profile  – you listed your work and education experience, uploaded a photo, wrote a personal summary. That’s pretty much it, right?

Not so fast.

With some 65 million users in the U.S., LinkedIn can be a powerful tool to advance your career – but you have to be an active user to reap the benefits.

Consider these six ways of making the most of LinkedIn.

1. Be a Follower

Is there a particular company you want to work for? Chances are it’s on LinkedIn. Search for companies that you’re interested in and then opt to “follow” them. Being a follower is a great way to keep track of changes and developments in a company (and the more you know, the better you’ll do come interview time), scope out open positions, see who works for the company, and see who else follows it. You can also get yourself noticed by prospective employers by commenting on their posts.

2. Network Through Groups

Whether you’re interested in aerospace or zoology, there is a LinkedIn group for you. Groups are a great place to network with like-minded professionals and stay abreast of the latest trends in an industry.

And when you’re part of a group, you can contact other members directly, whether or not they are in your professional network – so groups are a great way to build new relationships and expand your professional network. Here’s a tip: Don’t join so many groups that you aren’t able to participate in each one a few times per week.

3. Be an Active Participant

LinkedIn is a great platform for getting noticed as either an authority in your field or an up-and-comer to keep an eye on. Contribute to industry discourse by commenting thoughtfully on other people’s (and company’s) posts and share relevant articles and blog posts with your network and groups. If you keep a personal or professional blog, use LinkedIn to drive more traffic to it.

4. Get Introduced

LinkedIn’s introduction feature can help you expand your network and connect with key contacts at companies. If you have a second or third degree connection, you can request that one of your first degree connections introduce you.

When you click on your connection of interest, there will be an option on the right of the screen to “get introduced through a connection.” Choose that option and follow the instructions. Using the introduction feature increases your odds of making the new connection.

5. Get Recommendations

Recognition from other colleagues speaks volumes. LinkedIn’s recommendation feature lets you reach out to connections and ask them to sing your praises (or at least say you did a solid job when you worked with them).

Go to the profile tab at the top of your LinkedIn page and choose “recommendations” from the dropdown menu. From there, you can send requests to connections to comment on specific positions you’ve held. Tip: It’s OK to recommend a connection in exchange for a recommendation, but if all of your recommendations are reciprocal, they will carry less weight.

6. Find a Job – or Get Found

Click the “jobs” tab at the top of a LinkedIn page, and you’ll get a list of open positions LinkedIn thinks you might be interested in based on your education, past jobs and profile information. You can also set up job alert emails. Recruiters and companies also use LinkedIn to find job candidates – so make sure to keep your profile updated and relevant.

Alumni Career Spotlight: Razia Nayeem Oden

Razia Nayeem Oden, DB 2003

Razia Nayeem Oden graduated from Embry-Riddle in 2003 with an undergraduate degree in Human Factors. She then continued her education at the University of Central Florida, obtaining a MS in Modeling and Simulation and a Ph.D. in Human Factors Psychology. Razia has obtained vast experience over the years through internships, a fellowship, graduate research, and full-time positions working in a variety of disciplines such as systems engineering, human factors psychology, and research.

What have you been up to since your graduation from Embry-Riddle? 

After graduating in the spring of 2003, I went straight to graduate school that fall. While in school at the University of Central Florida, I worked in two different research labs in the Psychology Department and completed an internship at NAWCTSD (Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division). The last two years of grad school, I worked for a DoD contractor and conducted my dissertation through a contract with the US Army RDECOM. I graduated in the spring of 2008 with a Ph.D. in Human Factors Psychology, and since then, I’ve completed a post-doctoral research fellowship with the Army Research Laboratory and worked at a couple of small DoD contractors.

You have experience in systems engineering, research, and human factors psychology. What has been the highlight of your career so far? 

The most rewarding thing I’ve done thus far is work on products that make it to the military. I love working with the military because I can’t think of a more worthy population to help with Human Factors design principles. In research-oriented careers, often R&D efforts never make it out to the field. The thing I have enjoyed the most so far is seeing products I designed actually get deployed to train and support Warfighters immediately.

What led you to decide to pursue your Ph.D. in Human Factors Psychology? 

After somewhat stumbling into Human Factors at Embry-Riddle, I really came to enjoy it. I decided to pursue a Ph.D. because I saw the usefulness of human factors across a lot of different disciplines. I view human factors as a toolbox with a range of techniques that could be applied in a variety of settings. When you go through a Ph.D. program, particularly the dissertation phase, you really become an expert in the field, and I wanted to get as much education and experience as I could so I could make a difference in human systems design.

What advice do you have for Human Factors graduates getting ready to begin their respective careers in the field? 

The best advice I can give someone starting out in the field is to try to gain as wide a range of experiences as possible. I would encourage new graduates to work on as many different projects as possible so they can find what they enjoy the most and which areas best match their skills. In addition to different projects, I think it’s very helpful to work in multiple industries to get different perspectives on how human factors is used in varied settings.

What are your plans for the future? 

I would like to do more design work across a range of products, as well as broaden my skills in areas like ergonomics. I obtained a Project Management Professional certification last year, so I plan on doing more project management while retaining my technical skills and being involved in day-to-day project activities.

Education without Experience…Think Again!

by Sally Richards

Natalie Spencer at NASA Glenn Research Center

We tend to retain…

10% of what we hear

15% of what we see

20% of what we see and hear

40% of what we discuss

80% of what we EXPERIENCE

Co-op/Internship IS EXPERIENCE!

Experience is the best teacher. Most of us are familiar hearing this American idiom.  An internship experience combined with an excellent Embry-Riddle academic education makes for a first-rate candidate in any job market.

But you’ve been thinking about graduating without any practical work experience, without real world experience, without hands on experience. THINK AGAIN!

“I just want to graduate in 4 years.”

“I didn’t have time to apply to companies…I was so busy with my classes.”

“My parents just want me to finish school as soon as possible.”

“I just want to get out of school and start making money.”

“I’m tired of going to school and just want to start working in my field.”

Are you guilty of any of these thoughts?  Although these plans can make sense for some individuals, the plan to do an internship will prove to be more valuable. Don’t skip doing a co-op/internship because you’re in a rush to graduate.  You’re going to be out of college for most of your life.  If you graduate with less experience than your peers, your job search may be tougher and you might regret it.

The reality is, “Do you have an offer on the table for a full-time career opportunity when you graduate?”  If not, an internship experience will help you gain that competitive edge over other students when applying for full-time opportunities.

You already planned to spend 4 or 5+ years to earn your college degree.  Wouldn’t an additional 4 months of experiential education and time spent working with professionals in an industry/organization environment actually add an additional component to your value as a future candidate?  Wouldn’t the experience make you stand out from the crowd in the recruiting process?  You can see how academics and practical experience are intertwined.  You will understand concepts better from both perspectives, therefore making you a better student and a better employee.  Those few months of practical experience can favorably impact your classroom studies and future career since an internship experience will allow you to build your contact network and provide positive reinforcement.

Employers want to hire graduating students who have career-related work experience during college and experience that exposes them to professionalism and to how skills and ideas are applied in the real world. Think of it this way; you will already have a professional experience in industry and have the ability to work in a team environment towards a common goal.  Employers will see you have already made the transition from student to professional and will not have to start from the ground up.  You have already attained the next level and saved the company money in training costs.

When other graduating seniors are still having their resumes critiqued, and going through the “7 Steps to Use when Applying Online,” or attending Career Expo, just think, you may already have been hired by the company where you did an internship.  Now you can spend your last semester concentrating on achieving superior grades in your final classes and projects.

Do you have a dream job or dream company in mind that you want to work for?  By successfully completing an internship, you have just put yourself in a category above all other graduates with a similar academic skill set and diploma whether they are from Embry-Riddle, Purdue or FIT.  You have EXPERIENCE.  In an interview, you now have real industry projects and situations to talk about with that company’s hiring manager.

Participating in a Co-op or Internship experience can open doors to the world.  As an intern you may have the good fortune of attending meetings with the executive board…can you believe it?  A special benefit of your internship could include a connection to the decision makers of the company.  How else could you have gotten this opportunity as a college student if you were not participating in the company’s internship? You are getting experience in a corporate culture, building your network and making contacts with industry leaders, all important pieces to a successful career.

A former intern sums it up best. “The fundamentals and theories are important and essential for getting any position, but experience is also necessary.  While I am aware that most students do not want to postpone graduating a semester later than originally anticipated (I was one of those people not too long ago), it is completely worth it!  You go to school to get a job—if you’re being offered job experience while you are still in school—there is no reason to decline it.  I have many friends who were extremely successful in school, but they have graduated and cannot secure a job because they lack experience.  An internship gives you exactly that!”

If:  Education + Experience = Excellent Candidate; Then: Education + Internship = Success

Sally Richards has 30 years of experience in higher education with a proven track record in Career Services. Sally started her career with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Aeronautical Engineering Department.  Currently as the Career Services Cooperative Education/Internship Program Manager, she manages and facilitates operations of the Co-op/Intern Program for the team of Program Managers and ensures adherence of Co-op policies and procedures while overseeing conflict resolution for co-op situations. Her credentials include aviation/airline industry experience in flight recruiting, maintenance planning and passenger service with two major airlines and one regional carrier, as well as studies at Kent State University in Ohio.

Co-op/Intern Spotlight: Brian Smith

Brian Smith, Senior, BS AE

Brian Smith, a senior in the Aerospace Engineering program, still has two months left until graduation, but already has a full-time job offer thanks to his rotational four-semester stint as an Engineering Co-op at Gulfstream Aerospace. With over a year of experience working in various areas (Powerplant/Environmental Control Systems, Advanced Composites Technology, Structural Testing, Stress Analysis) within the company, he also has a sense of what he wants to do with his Embry-Riddle education. When Brian isn’t in Savannah, he works both in the Career Services Office as a Student Assistant and as a Teaching Assistant/Peer Mentor in the Department of Freshman Engineering at Embry-Riddle.

Tell us about your co-op experience at Gulfstream.

My experience started at the Industry/Career Expo during my freshman year, where I found Gulfstream at their booth winding down on the second day.  I grabbed the requisite freebie (a Rubik’s cube), and asked them what they did.  I heard about their products and their co-op program, and he told me to apply back the following year, which I did and landed the job.

When I got there, nearly everything was taken care of for me.  Lodging, work schedule, orientation, etc.  They told me where to go the first morning, gave me a map to get to the check-in, and walked me through the location with the rest of the first-time co-ops and got me situated in my office.  And every semester for me was as smooth as can be.

My semesters were spread across 4 different departments, each of which made me feel as an integral member of the team. They went to great lengths to give me meaningful work and left me to do independent work while doing their best to be available as a resource for help.

However, as each department (ECS & Powerplant/Adv. Composites/Structural Test/FEM & Stress Analysis) knew that I had experience in prior semesters, my responsibilities grew.  I was looked to and referenced to incoming co-ops as a resource for information in the co-op world and expected to be more competent as my job tasks became more in depth and directly affected tasks of the full time engineers.  The point of mentioning this is how with this company, and most of the others I’ve heard tell of, utilize their co-ops as critical members of their project teams. You should expect to have responsibility and a direct effect on your company.

In what ways has your co-op experience impacted your college experience?

College has become both easier and more difficult.  Easier in that with first-hand knowledge of aircraft and manufacturing methods in the real world, you can understand some of the things a professor says that would normally pass over your head.  It also makes it easier to organize and run class projects, as the experience you gain in teamwork in the workforce very easily translates to classroom leadership.

However, it can become difficult in that some things you learn in school are in no way relevant to the actual work you will likely do outside of school.  This is a true fact, and though some people will object vehemently to this, in my experience it is 100% true.  However, keeping the mindset where you’re “learning to learn” can help get you through those harder classes.

On the whole, there is nothing better to help your college career than a co-op. Confining yourself to a classroom is a quick way to a sheltered outlook, and nothing is more unappealing to a company than someone who is a drone and cannot think; they have computer programs for that.

What would you say to students who are on the fence about doing a co-op or internship?

I would say definitely make space in your college plan to do at least one internship if possible.  It can be fit into a summer, and the experience you gain far outweighs any cost you may incur; you’ll likely be paid.  There are no genuine reasons I can think of to not do one. At worst, you find out if the actual job is something you won’t enjoy and move on before burying yourself under a completed degree.  At best, you lay the foundations for your dream job and have security in your final semesters knowing your future is secured all while being more knowledgeable in class and likely a bit richer.  It’s a no brainer.

Is there anything that you would do differently if you had it to do all over again?

I would have done more to learn about the physics of aircraft and structure than looking like the noob that I did at first.  A bit of eagerness and more independent study on aircraft physics would have gone a long way.  It places you a bit behind the curve of where full time engineers are, but it’s possible to catch up.

Go in enthusiastic, be open to new ideas and be prepared to swallow your pride.  No matter how smart or clever you think you are, there is someone you will work with that will blow you away.  Be prepared to accept other ideas and have yours shot down, and don’t take anything personally.  It is the bottom line that is cared about most, not feelings.  But by meeting this different perspective head on and embracing it, you will go a lot further both professionally and socially.

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