After you graduate, what is your next adventure?
This summer I'm going to take off and do some traveling. I've been interning or doing research every summer since I started college six years ago, so I figure now's the best time to take a break. In the fall, I will take a job as a consultant for McKinsey in their Product Development & Procurement Fellowship program. That's an executive leadership program where I'll rotate into different business units over the next 18 months.
What about your next adventure are you most looking forward to?
The challenge is exciting for me. You have to put a lot of effort and concentration into working as a consultant, and you never know what you'll be tackling next. The company consults on everything from consumer products to satellites. The great thing is I flourish when I am challenged. I love plunging into a big problem, putting out the fires, and finding the processes that will make things work smoothly.
Did you have any previous co-op, internship, or research experience in this area?
I came to Georgia Tech - and I chose the Aerospace Systems Design Lab - because I wanted to get introduced to different parts of the discipline, including the industry. The research opportunities I got were exactly what I wanted. I started out on a team that was doing hybrid propulsion staging for space travel. Another project had me doing hybrid electric architecture for airplanes. There were two NASA-funded projects - one looking at systems-level modeling for aircraft to see how different technology packages affect their performance. The other had us doing nextgen aircraft modeling for NASA.
How did your educational experience at Georgia Tech help you to achieve your goals?
I fell in love with aerospace engineering when I saw my first rocket launch [at Cape Canaveral] as a kid. I thought I wanted to be a rocket scientist, because that's what I saw that day, a rocket. I didn't realize that aerospace engineering was so broad, with so many applications, until I got into graduate school. I am very appreciative of the school for giving me the opportunities to see where I wanted to go, where I'd fit. Because I was able to do so much systems-level engineering, I began to appreciate higher levels of systems thinking, a skill that is key to what I'll be doing at McKinsey.
I didn't get super involved in clubs or activities while I was here with the exception of SGA. And it's kind of funny how that happened: the first fall of my graduate program, I decided I didn't want to watch the football game on Saturday--- I didn't want to see the triple option strategy on the field -- so I went over to the Georgia Tech gym to play a game of pick-up basketball. When I got there, it ws closed because of the big game. That made me angry. And after talking about it with a friend, we both decided to run for seats in the SGA so we could do something about it. (laughs) We won, but I don't think I ever changed the closure rule. I did have an impact on other matters, like getting money put aside for mental health. Eventually, too, I was elected president of the SGA, a post that I just recently left.
What advice would you give to an underclassman who would like to follow the same path?
I guess I'd tell anyone coming to Tech: don't be afraid to explore beyond where you originally thought you'd study. A lot of people come to graduate school married to an idea, and as that idea gains momentum, they stop thinking about other options. Momentum is great but it also makes it difficult for you to change your path. As engineers, we often think the best way to get from point A to point B is the quickest path. But if you take a winding path -- one like I did, with research projects in different areas -- you might find more things that help you see more clearly where you want to end up. So I'd say 'take a moment to question, to deviate a little. You might find exactly what you are looking for.'