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787 industrial engineer scores on soccer world stage

Randy Espinosa is quick-witted, quick with a laugh and very quick on his feet. He’s a 787 industrial engineer, working in the Everett Modification Center, with a “secret” life as a soccer player who has competed internationally.

“I can remember kicking the ball around at the age of four or five,” said Espinosa. “Not long after that I was on my first team and things took off from there.”

Espinosa is from the tiny island of Guam, an unincorporated territory of the United States in the western Pacific Ocean. He rose through the soccer ranks and eventually made the Guam national team. He played around the world including a memorable game in 2010 against a much higher ranked North Korean team. Guam lost that game, but Espinosa almost scored a goal after making a dramatic sliding steal from an opponent.

“We were a team from a small island trying to earn respect from these powerhouse teams,” he said. “Each play was so crucial.”

Soon after, Espinosa decided to leave the team and his home. His mind was on aviation. He went to college in Seattle and two years ago, the 23-year-old got a job with Boeing.

“Each day there is something new,” he said. “To be so close to the 787 and to be involved in putting it together is amazing.”

Meanwhile, the Guam national team got a new coach and this summer recruited players to compete in special tournaments to raise the program’s profile and world ranking. Randy got a surprise email from the team asking him to come back and try out. He wanted to do it but was unsure of how his managers would respond.

“Jokingly I asked them, ‘Hey, can I go play for Guam? Can I leave the company for a couple of months?’”

He was surprised when they said yes.

“We felt this would be a life-changing experience for him. We realized we had to see if we could make this work.”

“We felt this would be a life-changing experience for him,” said Paul Culler, EMC senior industrial engineering manager. “We realized we had to see if we could make this work.”

They made it work and Randy made the team. Intense practices followed as did trips to the tournaments. The guys beat two teams and advanced to an upcoming tournament where they will take on World Cup-caliber competition. They also achieved their highest-world ranking -- the mid-100s.

“Guam is earning respect,” said Espinosa. “I think other teams are now looking at us as a program on the move.”

Espinosa only committed to a few months with the team -- his career at Boeing takes precedence over soccer, he said. He added that the experience of playing for Guam on a national level in many different parts of the world helped him in many tangible and intangible ways that he brings back to his work at Boeing.

“Understanding diversity and understanding different cultures helps a lot,” he said. “And knowing that Boeing supported me in representing Guam makes me so thankful and proud.”

For example, Espinosa said, "While competing in the Philippines, a country that I have never been to before, I was able to work with new team members from all over the world. It gave me a new perceptive on the power of diversity and how different cultures, ages, and levels of expertise can come together to form a team to achieve a goal,"

Espinosa also likened his team's can-do attitude and challenges to the 787 program.

"The 787 program, similar to my soccer team’s goal, had its challenges but The Boeing Company impressed the world and delivered the first 787 Dreamliner last year. The program is now moving forward as we ramp up rate and introduce the new 787-9 model. With these new challenges and the partners that Boeing has worldwide, it takes acceptance and understanding of diversity to work as a team," he said.

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