Visiting his high school alma mater four decades after graduation, Ray Conner, Commercial Airplanes president and CEO, told assembled students at Highline High School in Burien, Wash., that the experience made him appreciate even more the opportunities available to him as a Boeing employee.
“Did I ever think I would be standing here doing this? Maybe as a teacher,” he said, adding that he loved biology while in school and became a fisherman in Alaska. After a lackluster fishing season came back to Washington and found work as a Boeing mechanic.
“I was working on the 727, and that’s when I realized that The Boeing Company has every job that you could imagine,” he said.
Conner’s presentation was part of DiscoverU week where students in the Seattle area get a chance to explore career and college opportunities in Washington state. Coordinated by the Community Center for Education Results, the program’s goal is to provide access to information about local career options and the skills needed to fill those jobs.
In addition to hearing from corporate leaders from Boeing, JP Morgan Chase, Alaska Airlines, Expedia and Starbucks, some students had the opportunity to take part in hands-on experiences, like in the Commercial Airplanes factory in Renton, Wash., where 42 737s are produced each month.
After getting a VIP factory tour and meeting with Boeing team members, Mengkong Tong, a sophomore at Mount Rainier High School in Des Moines, Wash said he is still trying to narrow down his options.
“Once you get the scale of this entire project – making an airplane – it could definitely inspire somebody since they can feel like they’re doing something great,” he said.
Senior Mariam Alkorashy was among the dozens of students who participated in the Conner’s presentation. She asked how companies seek women and people of color.
“I grew up in an Arab culture where everyone stays close,” Mariam explained.
When he was a teenager, Conner said he wasn’t sure what he would do long-term.
He told students how Boeing was the force behind him getting his graduate degree – even footing his tuition bill, as it continues to do for thousands of employees each year. He shared his struggles along the way, including how he was once afraid of speaking to large groups.
“It was just one of those things you had to keep working at, you had to keep practicing,” he said. “Don’t lose track of where you want to go and what you want to do. Prepare yourself. But be the very, very best at what you’re doing now and then the world will open up for you.”
By Josh Green