Interview Assessment 2 - Armstrong Ekpete


Going into the interview, I was trying to discern the differences found the public and private sectors of aerospace engineering. Mr. Ekpete, who currently works for the Department of Defense but interned at Bell Helicopter, said that the biggest difference he noticed was that governmental programs are very focused on saving money because they have tight budgets due to it being publically funded - by the taxpayers. Private companies on the other hand focused on maximizing company benefits and the environment was significantly more stress inducing because there was this pressure to get results fast. He described his role as an engineer as identifying “non conformances,” things that are not where they should be, and finding solutions for them.

One of the big problems Mr. Ekpete outlined was having to innovate technology around plans, basically the science doesn’t exist and novel ideas are necessary to make advances that meet parts of a blueprint. This often results in old blueprints and plans being used for new technology because after all the technology was created for those blueprints. This is where his role as an engineer comes into place because most of the non conformances arise from this.

Another issue Mr. Ekpete talked about was the lack of exposure to engineering. He said that while he attended school he rarely got opportunities in the workplace until he interned at Bell Helicopter. Mr. Ekpete cites this lack of exposure to increased disinterest in the field, since no one gains any hands on experience and is taught in lectures filled with theories. Researching the lack of programs that facilitate this connection between college and the workplace would be interesting.

The final issue Mr. Ekpete stated was the gender disparity in engineering. Both Ms. Van Dellen and Mr. Ekpete urged me to shift my attention to this issue because it affects me personally and my future path. He said that biggest impediment for gender equality is the lack of acknowledgment by those who are the majority - men. Mr. Ekpete furthered this claim by stating that “the numbers simply do not lie.” I think there is a lot of validity in this statement and this further my determination to do an original work on this issue.

I plan on using the contacts I gained through this interview. Mr. Ekpete put me in touch with Mr. Scott Drennan, who was his mentor back when Mr. Ekpete was interning at Bell Helicopter. Mr. Drennan will be hard to get a sit down interview with because he is very busy and often travels due to his position in the company, but I will still reach out to him because he would have a great managerial perspective on aerospace. The business perspective would help me in the future because having business and people skills tends to get you far in your career. Since I would like to reach a position similar to Mr. Drennan’s, I would like to know all the steps that got him there and how I could recreate them to set myself up for success in the future.

I also learned about bachelors to PhD programs. If I end up deciding to pursue the research side of aerospace engineering then this will be the ideal program for me. PhD’s are necessary to gain any critical research positions and respected companies. Turns out, most of the good engineering schools that I plan on applying to have these programs and around half have programs that make graduate school free of charge.

I also plan on exploring and just trying new things. This interview really inspired me to take full advantage of every opportunity that presents itself to me. I really need to try new things because many hobbies can increase my skill set and restraining myself to my comfort zone will not help me grow and simply will be boring.

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