Mechanical engineer Melodie Seto hasn’t given up on her dream of becoming an astronaut. Melodie applied to the rigorous NASA selection process two years ago, and though she’s fallen short to stiff competition so far, she still dreams of one day going to space. In the meantime, she’s building a wealth of experience and skills through her work at Nevada-based aerospace and defense contractor Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC).
In her engineering role at SNC, Melodie and her teammates develop aircraft technologies that protect the lives of U.S. service members. She also installs aircraft systems and participates in flight tests. We talked to Melodie about her job at SNC, her sources of inspiration, and her advice for aspiring engineers entering the workforce.
What do you do as a Mechanical Engineer at SNC?
As a mechanical engineer at SNC, I build aircraft systems that help protect service members in the line of duty. I’m able to work on a project from various aspects; these include system design, assembly, and testing. When it comes to flight tests, I have the opportunity to visit military bases, work with our defense customers, and install systems onto an aircraft. The technical challenges of designing those systems and implementing them for tests is one of the greatest things I have experienced at SNC.
How can someone just starting their career figure out if a specific engineering program is the right fit?
As a college student or recent grad, I would ask about the kind of work environment a company has and how the teams are structured. Is there a lot of computer work or will you get hands-on experience? I would also ask about the impact a company wants to make on their industry. Asking questions regarding what you are looking for in a company will help you find something that will challenge you and hold your interest.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
I find inspiration through working with my teammates. The ability to work with such intelligent people is really what makes working at SNC exciting. Since the team supports many different projects, there is a wealth of knowledge and a variety of specializations. Much of my inspiration comes from being able to see how other people perform those tasks. Hearing their perspective on a design inspires me to see a problem in a different way, helping me to find a solution to a problem.
What are some of the most memorable experiences you’ve had at SNC so far?
We were in a time crunch to finish a system before performing a flight test for a customer. Under the stresses of schedule and producing a working system, the team worked hard to meet the deadline. It was memorable to see the team’s dedication and desire for the success of the system.
Looking back, how have you grown professionally since joining SNC?
Engineering skills can be obtained by studying, reading, being mentored, and on the job training. One thing I have actively tried to work on are my interpersonal skills, like emotional intelligence. Interacting with people and building rapport helps with communication and collaboration inside and outside the group. It helps move projects along, and I meet people from different business areas and groups that have helped in my career development.
What advice do you have for aspiring engineers?
If it’s what you want to do, just go for it. If I were hiring someone for an internship or their first job out of college, I would say that knowing what the company does is critical. If you have any projects you’ve worked on, print them out and bring them with you. Most of the interns we hire are juniors or seniors who are right in the middle of working on a project, so they have something tangible to share. Beyond that, show that you’re involved in clubs and other activities in or outside of school. Don’t be afraid about your level of engineering knowledge and understand that those skills come with experience.
See yourself building a career at Sierra Nevada Corporation? They’re hiring now, so head over to WayUp to explore open positions and apply!