In Our Own Words – Michael
In our own words
“They encouraged me to earn my master’s degree and the Tuition Reimbursement Program helped make it affordable. Management supported me and allowed me to flex my job and school schedules to meet my educational goals. Aerospace also exposes me to so many experienced engineers and scientists that I’m able to gain the practical, hands-on experience I’m seeking.”
From Academia to Aerospace
Michael Williams, member of the technical staff, Electronics and Photonics Laboratory, Engineering and Technology Group, joined Aerospace in 2003 shortly after completing his bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, knowing he needed to add to his educational experience by gaining practical, on-the-job experience.
Taking a position in the Lidar and Sensor Calibration section of the lab, Michael has been able to work on various research and development projects that have allowed him to accomplish his goal and then some.
His current responsibilities include designing and constructing mobile laser beacon systems that are used to calibrate overhead persistent infrared (OPIR) satellite systems. OPIR satellites serve as early warning systems that detect ballistic missile launches and are therefore critical to national security. Michael is also responsible for deploying laser beacon systems to remote locations around the world and frequently accompanies the beacons while they are being transported via military aircraft. When Michael isn’t working in the lab or performing field tests, he usually attends customer meetings to review past test results and plan future tests.
“It’s a rewarding experience to see what I’ve created, or helped create, in action,” Michael says. “The field work gives meaning to what we do in the labs. Interacting with the customer at the program offices helps me understand how what we do benefits the end goal, national security,” he says.
Leveraging Educational Opportunities
Michael says his years at Aerospace have been filled with opportunities to learn new things while being surrounded by mentors, many of whom have advanced degrees in one technical field or another and are willing to share their experiences. “There’s a real transfer of knowledge from the distinguished scientists to someone like myself who is still honing their technical skills,” says Michael.
It was the educational opportunities offered by Aerospace coupled with his own desire to attain an advanced degree in electrical engineering while specializing in photonics that drove Michael to return to college. “Aerospace was very supportive of my goal to earn my master’s degree while still working. Through the Tuition Reimbursement Program, much of the educational expense was covered, which made it affordable, and my management was willing to let me flex my schedule to accommodate my school work,” explains Michael. He says that now, colleagues and mentors are encouraging him to pursue his doctorate. His response? “I’m not quite ready yet, but maybe a little further down the road.”
Achievement Award Recipient
Michael’s career at Aerospace hit a particularly high note in 2014 when he was among the team members selected for a President’s Achievement Award. This award is one of the corporation’s highest honors. Williams and his colleagues were recognized for “sustaining contributions to the Space Based Infrared System by developing and helping deploy a number of mobile laser beacon systems, which have been critical to the early orbit testing of all U.S. overhead persistent infrared sensors launched and in orbit.”
About receiving the award, Michael says, “It was truly an honor to be recognized for our team’s contributions to critical national security space missions over the past decade.” No doubt 2014 will always have an extra special significance to him.
If the thought of working at Aerospace appeals to you, check out our current openings.