June 2005 
Volume 04, Issue 2 
Special Features

I want to be an engineer

A look at what drives and inspires Boeing technical employees


An 8-year-old girl watched the Blue Angels from the roof of her grandmother’s house in Michigan and decided she wanted to be an aerospace engineer.

A design engineer in St. Louis says he loves working at Boeing because it allows him to contribute to the cause for freedom in the world.

A materials chemist in Puget Sound draws inspiration from seeing her work applied to everything from rockets to helicopters.

A child in Iran decides to make the United States—and Boeing—her home and is now helping C-17 pilots to see thunderstorms ahead with a new radar system.

They are some of the thousands of engineers who are thriving at Boeing and feeling confident about the future. None of which is any surprise to John Tracy, chief engineer at Integrated Defense Systems.

“It’s no contest: Boeing is the No. 1 aerospace company in the world,” says Tracy, who leads IDS’ team of some 30,000 engineers and technologists. “There is no question that this company is the best place to work for any aerospace engineer today. Our products and systems can be found deep in the seas and in the farthest reaches of space. Boeing offers something to every aerospace engineer no matter where his or her interests lie. And when engineers are involved, interested, satisfied and enjoy their work, that’s when they are the most productive. We’re all excited. This is a great time to be in this business.”

Below, Challenge will introduce some of these engineers and technologists and find out exactly what keeps them going at Boeing.

Nikkisha WilliamsNikkisha Williams

At age 8, Nikkisha Williams watched the Blue Angels from the roof of her grandmother’s house in Ypsilanti, Mich. “It was so exciting and I made up my mind then that I wanted to be in this business,” says Williams, a manufacturing engineer in St. Louis who works on interchangeable
and replaceable parts for Tactical Aircraft Programs. “Everyone can drive a car, but not many people have the privilege of being up close to an F/A-18. I’m proud to have a role in its creation.” Williams says she picked Boeing over other possible employers because it had the best diversity initiatives. She adds that despite Boeing’s size, “it has a small company feel to it and I like that.”


Kevin CallahanKevin Callahan

At the root of Kevin Callahan’s passion is total creative freedom. “We have been given a unique opportunity to come up with new ideas and make them work,” says Callahan, a senior engineer at Commercial Airplanes’ Systems Concept Center in Everett, Wash. “We’re working in a place where the process doesn’t weigh you down. Here we generate ideas that go 20 years out into the future—new technologies and trends that affect the building and selling of airplanes. We come up with concepts for hydraulics, avionics, power generation and cabin systems that make the airplanes more efficient, better and less expensive, such as plug-and-play seat power.”


Jean RayJean Ray

Jean Ray certainly has chemistry—both in the lab and with her customers and colleagues. “I’ve worked hard to establish a reputation as being a good person to work with,” says Ray, a chemist in Seattle who was part of the 777 Ozone Buster Team, which developed the aircraft’s ozone converter system. “Being helpful is the best route to repeat business.” Her job is to develop, test and analyze jet fuels, hydraulic fluids, greases and oils. “I have been really lucky,” she says, “because I am a curious person and Boeing has given me lots of opportunities to tackle some difficult problems.”


Ken O’NeillKen O’Neill

Imagine a pilot in combat trying to fly and perform a mission at the same time. What if a computerized system could sense his stress and attention levels and provide him with just the right kind of information? “Sounds like science fiction, and that’s what I thought at first,” says Ken O’Neill, a software engineer who works on an Augmented Cognition program for Phantom Works in Seattle. “While that kind of application is a long way off, we are confident that we can one day be using it for flight training. It’s great to be working for Boeing. We are making investments in the future. Watching things work and fly is spectacular.”


George CampbellGeorge Campbell

Working with a small team pays large dividends for George Campbell, an Aerospace Support engineer and a test equipment software team lead on the Small Diameter Bomb program at the Boeing Weapon Systems facility in St. Charles, Mo. “Because our team is small, we are much more dynamic,” he says. “That helps in effectively checking out the electronic systems of the pneumatic bomb rack that carries and releases the SDB. I like trying to find the root of a problem rather than taking a shortcut to a quick solution,” he says.


Kay BlohowiakKay Blohowiak

Kay Blohowiak works in a Seattle lab, but the results of her innovation are being applied to almost every Boeing product from the Delta IV rocket to the AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter. A Boeing Technical Fellow and materials chemist, Blohowiak has come up with a revolutionary way of bonding materials that takes much of the time, hazards and cost out of building and repairing products. “One day we could be building aerospace vehicles without rivets or fasteners,” she says. “This company makes cool and interesting things that can be seen in all corners of the globe. That’s why working here is so satisfying.”


Ken KatzenbergerKen Katzenberger

“I like working for Boeing because I get to work on some pretty cool products—specifically, fighter aircraft,” says Ken Katzenberger, a design engineer on the F/A-18 Super Hornet program in St. Louis. “I appreciate the fact that Boeing trusts me to get the job done right. This is a responsibility I don’t take lightly. I like knowing that I contribute to the cause for freedom. I like knowing the products we supply give the military the opportunity to complete their missions and return home safely.”

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