Ai Thai

B.S.A.E. 2019

What is your next adventure?

I will be returning to Delta, where I have been interning, to work as a project and reliability engineer in their new predictive maintenance initiative within Delta. I will also be starting a graduate program in data analytics in ISyE so I can learn to do my job even better.

What about your next adventure are you most looking forward to?

I'm excited because I will be working with a fleet of 500 aircraft and different people from different airlines. Each person has a different work dynamic -- something I can learn from. And it will be a challenge to communicate because I will be working with people who don't get paid by me [Delta] but they will have to listen to me. I am looking forward to making that work.  Also, it will be exciting to make an impact. Delta is in the forefront of using data analytics, and I'll be working with a great team. But I know that big data does not automatically mean great analytics. That will be my job, to make those analytics meaningful.

Did you have any previous co-op, internship, or research experience in this area?

I wanted to be ready to take on an internship like the one I got at Delta, but I did not have work experience. So I started, sophomore year, by contacting someone I knew at Vietnam Airlines to see if I could learn what they do. When I got there, I moved to a city I did not know, a city that scared me, really. They did not have a formal internship program, so I had to make my own learning environment. I introduced myself to everyone I could so that I could learn what they do. It was very bureaucratic, but I was persistent. I learned to be very persistent and to have confidence in myself. I began to see that i love learning and that I can adapt quickly to different environments, so it made sense that I should be more confident. Eventually, I spoke to the head of the maintenance control center, who helped me to get rotations in eight different departments over the three months I was there. The experience really helped me when I went on to interview for an internship at Delta. I asked good questions and had some answers for the questions they asked .

In the Fall of 2017, I co-opped at Delta as a repair process engineer and in the summer I got another co-op as a repair development engineer doing cyclic oxidation testing of low-pressure turbine blade coatings.  In the Spring of 2019, I co-opped as aa project engineer, managing a repair project for the CFM-56 engine. That led to another summer co-op as a reliability engineer in the summer of 2019.

How did your educational experience at Georgia Tech help you to achieve your goals?

I got involved with other things on the side, while I was taking classes. When I got interested in personal aerial vehicles, I got involved with the team that was designing a vehicle for the GoFly Competition. I built a dynamics model that predicted the power required for the vehicle they were designing for the competition. In the evenings and on weekends, when I was co-opping at Delta, I helped build a small scale wind tunnel to test the aerodynamic co-efficient of a ducted fan system. We started out that project not having any place to work, but we did it because we persisted. We ended up using a friend's garage. The experience was good because it taught me to think outside the box, to take initiative, to make things happen any way you can.

What advice would you give to an underclassman who would like to follow the same path?

If you have been admitted to Georgia Tech, Georgia Tech has resources that can make you successful. You have to reach out, ask people who can teach you things. And then you must work hard.

All of the challenges I had at Georgia Tech were there to make me stronger, to handle bigger challenges in the future. You have to believe that you will learn from the things you don't know. I used to not communicate well - not because of my accent, but because I lacked confidence. At Tech - in my co-ops and in my interactions with professors - I saw that a lack of confidence would make people not give my opinions the respect they deserve. That motivated me to work harder on my communication. I am glad that it motivated me.

If you are a first-generation college student, like I am, there are some questions, some things, that might be new to you. For instance, I did not really understand what they were talking about when they said I should network with people to find out whether I would like a job. Why would I need to know whether I liked it? It's a job. That's not something I had questions about.

But I took that suggestion, and I feel that I learned so much from talking with mentors. I began to realize how important it is to fit into a job, to feel like you are a part of the team. It has made me very excited about joining Delta as an employee when I graduate.