Alumni Career Spotlight: Jonathan Weisberg

Jonathan Weisberg received his Master of Business Administration (MBA) Jon from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in August 2011, and he completed his Bachelor of Science in Tourism and Hospitality Management at Arizona State University in 2007.  Jon is currently a Research and Technology Supplier Management Procurement Agent with The Boeing Company.  Before coming on board with Boeing, he completed internships with JetBlue and the Walt Disney Company, both in finance-oriented positions.  Jon also worked for Mesa Airlines, prior to coming to Embry-Riddle, in crew scheduling.

How did you land a job with The Boeing Company?

Obtaining a full time position at Boeing was not an easy task as Boeing receives hundreds or even thousands of applicants for one position.  For my position alone, there were 1,100 applicants for just 3 openings.  I learned this the hard way as I started applying for positions back in the fall of my last year at Embry-Riddle.  I was fortunate to meet lead Boeing recruiter Mark Lyden who went through the 7 steps to applying for jobs as well as encouraged me to apply to multiple jobs, as in 20+ jobs.  I assumed with having an MBA, 2 years of airline experience, and top notch internships with JetBlue and Disney that I would be a shoe-in for a job with Boeing.  However, this was not the case right away.  Besides applying for full time jobs at Boeing, I also applied to finance and revenue management jobs with major airlines.  By the spring of 2011, I had a few interviews with the airlines, and after applying to over 20 jobs at Boeing, I secured an interview as a Procurement Agent.  I ended up getting the job and started working as a Procurement Agent within Boeing Research and Technology in September of 2011.

What does your current position entail?

As a Procurement Agent within Boeing Research and Technology, I enjoy the daily challenges of solving logistic issues as well as interacting with suppliers and engineers.  In Supplier Management, we are the liaisons working between the Supplier and engineer to make sure the parts I order run on time and all the orders are correct.  I have a broad range of experience having purchased numerous commodities and services, leases, and loans and having negotiated contract terms and conditions.  My favorite parts of this job are: negotiating price to find a best value solution for Boeing as well as our suppliers and traveling to meet with our suppliers face to face.  Being able to work for a leader in the aerospace industry has been a great experience thus far, and I look forward to what lies ahead with Boeing.

While working on your MBA, you completed internships with JetBlue Airways and The Walt Disney Company. How did those experiences benefit you?

Having the opportunity to intern at two world class companies such as JetBlue Airways and the Walt Disney Company were incredible experiences that have helped me in my current role.  Even though both internships were in finance, I learned a lot about customer service as well as building my Microsoft Excel and presentation skills.  While at Walt Disney World, I was working in Financial Operations for the Water Parks and Miniature Golf Courses.  All finance interns were required to work on an individual project and present it to all the other interns as well as finance executives including the CFO of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.  My project was on weather-related studies and how weather during certain times of the year affects our operating income.  My project helped our operations team determine at what temperature the water parks should be closed to save Disney hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

Do you have any advice for business students seeking a career in the aerospace industry?

My biggest advice for students who are sophomores or higher is to get as much work and leadership experience as possible.  The best way to get work experience is to complete summer internships in fields in which you are interested.  Even though you will learn basic theories and learn the aviation industry in school, you will not really understand it fully until you work there.  Plus a summer internship gives you insight into a company and is a 3 month interview that helps you secure a job with that company once completed.  My other recommendation is to network with leaders within the aerospace industry and find mentors.  Most business leaders within the aerospace industry love mentoring bright young minds, especially because they will be hiring these students, and someday these students will be running the company.


Alumni Career Spotlight: Chris Sarna

Chris Sarna, DB 1994

Christian Sarna, DB 1994

Christian Sarna, originally from Coal City, IL, has been an airline pilot for the last thirteen years. He attended ERAU’s Daytona Beach campus and graduated in 1994 with a degree in Aeronautical Science; he then spent several years afterwards as a flight instructor there as well. He has flown for Trans States Airlines, Comair, and JetBlue Airways, where he is currently a First Officer. Christian and his wife, Karen Magnussen-Sarna (DB, 1997/2004), met on ERAU’s yearbook staff and are both previous recipients of the ERAU President’s Safety Award.

How did you get where you are today?

Starting out as a full-time flight instructor and making $12,000 a year (at the time) requires a great deal of sacrifice. I only  reached my goal of a job with a major airline due to the support of my wife and family.

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

Any degree is nice to have, but a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University stands out on a resume.  Brand recognition goes a long way in the aviation industry.

What advice would you provide to a pilot who is getting ready to graduate and looking for work?

Network! I cannot stress enough the fact that aviation really is a small community and everyone knows each other…or at least, knows your friend, your former roommate, your former supervisor, former student, etc.  You will be asking your teachers, co-workers and flight students for letters of recommendation for various jobs, so stay positive and take names.

What are your plans for the future?

 I can’t wait to take may wife on a vacation to Middle Earth on Air New Zealand.

Alumni Career Spotlight: Gino LeDonne

Gino LeDonne

Gino LeDonne, WW 2010

Gino LeDonne grew up in Port Orange, FL and began flying at the age of 14. He was given free lessons from a retired Army pilot who owned a Cessna 172. In exchange for yard maintenance and basic mechanics on the C-172, Gino was given free lessons up to his private pilot certificate. He then began working on his degree at ERAU while taking flying lessons at the Comair Aviation Academy, beginning with his Instrument Rating all the way to Certified Flight Instructor.

Gino began flight instructing and attending the Embry-Riddle Worldwide campus in Orlando at the age of 19. Shortly after he turned 21, Gino was offered a position as First Officer with the now defunct Comair Airlines. He flew as a First Officer on both the Embraer 120 and Canadair Regional Jet. After obtaining the several thousand hours of jet time, Gino upgraded to Captain on the CRJ at the age of 24.

He began to realize that the schedule that came with full-time line flying, in addition to a commute to New York, was not agreeing with his desired quality of life. After much deliberation and finishing his degree in Professional Aeronautics, he decided to focus on a major job search. This search eventually led to his current position as an Airbus A320 Instructor Pilot with JetBlue Airways in Orlando, FL. He has worked for JetBlue since 2010 and currently resides in Daytona Beach, FL.

How did you land your position as an Airbus A320 Instructor Pilot with JetBlue Airways?

I landed my position with JetBlue Airways by creating a profile on the company website and an account with LinkedIn. Approximately 3 months after creating a LinkedIn account, I was contacted by a JetBlue Airways recruiter and invited to apply for the position of Airbus A320 Instructor Pilot. I applied for the job and asked for a few recommendation letters; with a bit of luck I was interviewed within three weeks. A week later, I was offered the job via phone contact and email.

What does your role as a Airbus A320 Instructor Pilot entail?

My role of A320 Instructor Pilot entails training new and recurrent pilots to the standards of the company/FAA. We are required to teach ground school classes, as well as simulator events. A full time instructor may also fly line trips 2 days per month, so it is really the best of both worlds.

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

Three skills that have made me successful in my career would be: attention to detail, a humble attitude, and persistence. These three traits have allowed me to prevail, regardless of any setback that may have occurred along the way.

Do you have any advice for pilots looking to make a career change?

My advice to pilots looking for a career change would be to branch out and use every available resource. I received wonderful guidance via ERAU Career Services. I also was determined to get outside of my “comfort zone” to gain experience with such things as resume building, interviewing, and communicating with non-aviation employers. Ultimately, I was lucky enough to stay within my career field and obtain employment more conducive to my desired lifestyle.

Co-op/Intern Spotlight: De Paul Sunny

De Paul Sunny, BS Aeronautics

De Paul Sunny recently completed his third semester and second internship/co-op with JetBlue Airways. In summer 2010, he completed an E190 Training Program Developer internship with the airline. The following summer, he went back to JetBlue to complete a one-year stint as a Flight Safety Co-op, which he will continue even after his December 18 graduation with a Bache lor of Science in Aeronautics.

You are on your second internship and third semester with JetBlue Airways. What kind of things have you done in your roles as E190 Training Program Developer and Flight Safety Co-op?

Both the internships have given me completely different experiences in the industry. As an E190 Training Program Developer, I worked at JetBlue’s Flight Training Department known as JetBlue University (JBU) and took on several different projects that ranged from ensuring JetBlue’s compliance with aspects of FAR Part 142 to leading the project on upgrading our training certification system to utilizing the FAA’s IACRA system.

I think the most exciting part of the internship was that I was essentially “checked-out” in the A320 and E190 simulators to provide demos for business partners, crew members and other interns. It also meant that I could use the simulator whenever there were no activity and practice approaches into St. Maarten (beautiful!), fly a VFR trip to Boston from New York, or even see the New York City skyline.

I really enjoyed this internship and wished it lasted more than a summer. But in the end, it provided me with great experience and exposure in the industry and subsequently led to me getting hired as a full-time co-op at JetBlue in the Flight Safety department.

My position as a Flight Safety co-op is significantly different from my previous position. I work at JetBlue’s headquarters in New York on a full-time basis for a period of at least a year. In this position, I have been basically treated as a full-time air safety investigator looking into various flight events that may pose risk to JetBlue’s operation. As such, most of my daily duties include FAA and NTSB notification on events as applicable and performing initial risk assessments on events reported to the department by line pilots. I have taken part in several flight safety investigations where I had to collect and analyze flight data, conduct crew debriefs and coordinate with various departments within JetBlue to issue findings or recommendations to help mitigate areas of identified risk. The investigations conducted eventually lead to corrective actions implemented in various departments and sometimes even industry wide.

Being in this position has also increased my exposure to several key people in various departments because I am constantly in contact with various departmental heads for different events. Since most investigations involve either the FAA or NTSB, the exposure to these government agencies has also been great.

I am also sent to various industry meetings or conferences to represent JetBlue and provide feedback on industry wide actions. This year I was sent to the International Society of Air Safety Investigators Conference in Salt Lake City and also a Runway Safety Action Team meeting in Boston. I have also been able to visit the FAA Technical Center in Atlantic City to get information on an investigation that I was assisting with.

How have you been able to apply your internship experience in the classroom?

During my first internship I was a junior at Riddle and soon after the internship I had to take several classes that were directly related to the projects that I had done during the internships. During my internship at JetBlue University, I had to review the training materials on the Airbus A320 and the Embraer E190. This was a really great project because it essentially taught me the aircraft systems and it helped me in the Jet Transport Systems, Electronic Flight Management Systems and Aircraft Performance classes that I would take later.

On the other hand, since I am doing the flight safety co-op during my senior year and right before graduation, I have been able to apply more of what I had learned in my aviation safety classes such as risk assessment, crash-worthiness and safety in transportation to be better at the internship.

In either case, the benefit of an internship or co-op lies in the work experience it provides. Doing an internship will definitely enhance your view on things taught in the classroom and give a better perspective on the reality of concepts learned in the classroom.

 Do you have any advice for students who are on the fence about doing an internship?

Do it! I cannot emphasize enough the value of an internship! I am sure you have heard this before but I will say it again, an internship gives you a much better prospect of getting employed at the company of your choice after graduation. The contacts that you build during your internships will prove to be extremely valuable and an internship significantly increases your exposure to the industry.

Let me try to put it in perspective. I know several graduates that have wondered why an application to an entry-level job is sometimes rejected because “they don’t have enough experience.” I mean, that’s the whole point of an entry-level position right, to gain experience? Well this is where an internship could really help you out. It’s easy to see from an employer’s perspective how it is so much better to choose a candidate who is out of college with a degree and has work experience by way of an internship than a candidate who graduated, maybe a year sooner, without any experience.

I recently interviewed for a full-time position and I will say that the difference in the perceptions you have and the answers you give before and after an internship are like night and day. You understand the industry better, you know what the hiring manager is looking for, and you have a lot more experiences that you can pull from when forming your responses.

An internship may set you back by a semester or so but if your reason to get a degree is to get a job in your relevant industry, that additional semester you graduated early by will not help.

What are your plans after you graduate this month?

My short term plans are to continue working for JetBlue and gain some more experience. After this co-op is over, I plan to look for a permanent position within aviation safety. I am also entertaining the idea of getting a master’s degree in Human Factors while continuing to build my flight hours.

What You Missed at the Annual Alumni Industry Panel

Students and alumni gathered on Thursday, November 4, 2011 to hear five Embry-Riddle alums talk about their respective careers and dole out valuable advice for those seeking work in the industry. If you were one of the smart ones who attended, you know how beneficial the event was for job and internship seekers.

Alumni panelists answered questions from both the audience and moderator, Lisa Kollar. After  the 90-minute long panel event, students, alumni, Career Services staff, and the panelists congregated in the COB Atrium to network and talk about job and internship opportunities. Job seekers that attended had the chance to stand out and get valuable facetime with prospective employers.

Panelists included:  

All five panelists did an excellent job of conveying to students and alumni the importance of completing an internship, the value of networking as part of the job search, and the fact that one’s career path may take many turns. They spoke of the Embry-Riddle community and how tight bonds are out in industry. Many said their companies regarded Embry-Riddle candidates as a preferred choice when making hiring decisions. They shared personal insights into their own experiences and offered sage advice to college students embarking on a career in the industry.

If you missed the event, we have you covered. You can view the 2011 Alumni Industry Panel discussion online now (panel discussion starts at 3:27 on the video). 

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

Alumni Career Spotlight: Ken Petschauer

Ken Petschauer is a 1991 Aeronautical Science and a 1993 Master of Aeronautical Science graduate from the Daytona Beach campus. Ken is now the E190 Fleet Captain at JetBlue Airways. Ken shares his experience as a pilot who has successfully been through several industry peaks and troughs.

You can meet Ken and ask him questions this week at the Alumni Industry Panel, to be held at 5:30pm on Thursday, November 3, 2011.

Ken Petschauer, DB 1991/1993

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

The highlight of my career (so far) was being selected as the Fleet Captain of the E190 at JetBlue. This position allows me to use both my educational background and aviation experience to help the company operate a safe and efficient E190 fleet.  My position allows me to create procedures, train pilots, introduce new technology, interact with engineers, manufacturers, and the FAA and still fly the aircraft. The Fleet Captain position is proving to be very challenging and very rewarding.

How has the cyclical nature of the airline industry impacted you and how have you overcome it?

The cyclical nature of the airline industry has had a significant impact on my career. Initially, a “down” cycle in the industry caused significant furloughs which made finding a flying job very difficult upon my initial graduation from ERAU.  It was a future “up” cycle that occurred to provide the opportunity to be hired with Trans World Airlines (TWA) in 1996.  As this cycle continued, it allowed me to gain seniority quickly and fly larger equipment.  The cycle reversed again and led to my furlough in 2003 after the acquisition of TWA by American Airlines. The cycles continued and afforded me the opportunity to be hired by JetBlue in 2004 and once again gain seniority in a relatively quick manner.

The cycles will continue and are inevitable.  We have no influence on them and as such have no control of how or when they will affect us. The best way to endure these cycles is to have a solid background in both education and experience and to seize any and every opportunity to gain more of either.

 What qualities do you value in a first officer?

The most valuable qualities in a first officer would be the same qualities I look for in a Captain or Check Airman.  I could list several but will limit my answer to two for this blog.  A good first officer should be knowledgeable and confident (but not overconfident). Knowledgeable in the procedures of both the safe and efficient operation of the aircraft and the company procedures (Standard Operating Procedures) and confident enough to “speak up” should there be any question as to whether the aircraft is in , or about to be in, and undesired state.

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

My Embry-Riddle education has very definitely opened doors in my career.  I can think of two clear examples.

The first example was when I walked into a flight school looking for a flight instructor job.  I spoke with the Chief Pilot and was asked about my experience and where I completed my training.  I told him, “ERAU” and his next words were “you’re hired, we hire all of you guys”.

My next example was in my interview with TWA.  I had more than the minimum flight time to be hired but was significantly below the average flight time that the other candidates had.  I was also fortunate enough to be younger than most.  The first question asked of me was related to my ERAU MAS degree and why I chose to take that path, as it set me apart from the other candidates.  I have no doubt that my education had an impact in their hiring decision.

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