Kwame Boler is doing a summer internship at Boeing.
His internship is well paid and Boeing pays for his housing. More than that, Boeing engineers are exposing him to the different divisions in the company and encouraging him to apply for a full-time job there after he graduates.
He’s also enjoying living on his own in Washington: Boeing pays for his housing. He’s met many other interns at the company and even met interns at other companies in the region such as Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook. In this interview, he talks about his internship, his studies at NJIT and his future plans.
What group within Boeing do you work for?
The group that I work with is Flight Controls. Although my office is in Everett, I work in both Everett and Seattle.
What is your main project?
I’m basically writing a program that simplifies a test used to ensure that the ailerons
(the movable flaps on the wings of the plane), the lateral controls and corresponding hydraulics for all 747-8 planes are performing correctly. The test forces the engineer to repeat several steps over and over again. By automating most of this test, I’m reducing the test time overall and significantly increasing efficiency. I aim to reduce the current test time by 66%.
How technical is that work?
All of my work revolves around the Lateral Control Electronics in the 747-8 plane. My main focus is automating a Detailed Test Procedure that tests the Outboard Aileron power control unit. By using an Electronic Interface Unit and a series of programs/simulators, I can simulate, re-program, and monitor the spoiler (and corresponding hydraulics) functions; this ensures that they are behaving correctly and records faults. This test is both long and tedious (as it exceeds 100 steps) and can take anywhere from 3-5 hours to complete. But most of the steps are commands that can easily be automated rather than performed manually; by automating the test, I hope to reduce the completion time to somewhere between 30-45 minutes.
Are you learning a lot about Boeing?
Other than this assignment, my other main focus has been familiarizing myself with Boeing as a company and possible future employer. I’ve already scheduled several informal discussions with other employees and managers to talk about their roles and employment opportunities here. As an intern, I am given a lot of leeway and I’ve had the opportunity to go on many plant/plane assembly tours. I’ve also taken several personal and professional development classes. I’m scheduled to go on a flight test in August and to participate in a ground test later this month.
Have you met other interns?
Boeing works hard at facilitating communication between interns (there’s currently over 1,800 of us working this summer). Through use of its internal social network, BeCn (Boeing Connect), interns can post questions, form groups, and organize activities with each other. By using BeCn, I was able to find my roommate as well as other interns that live within my apartment complex; with them I’ve gone hiking, fishing, explored Seattle and plan to go skydiving soon. Also, every weekend I’ve had the pleasure of meeting new interns and trying different things. This summer alone, I have arranged to travel to Canada (Vancouver and Whistler), Alaska, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, and California with other interns. Networking amongst these interns has also provided me with the opportunity to network with interns at other companies in the Puget Sound area. I’ve befriended several Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook interns along with some foreign students from Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Ukraine, Germany and Spain who are studying in America for the summer.
What is the work culture like at Boeing?
Another thing that Boeing strides to do is make you feel as comfortable and stress free as possible. Here they offer professional massages to their employees as well as encourage regular breaks. I was pleasantly surprised to see the NJIT banner amongst all the other college banners at all of our intern based events (especially since I’m pretty much the only one from Jersey here, let alone NJIT). We also have a very loose dress code; most dress in jeans and sneakers every day. There is a rather noticeable age difference here though; most of the engineers here are well into their fifties and have been in the company for 25+ years. As a result of their pending retirement, Boeing is hiring a lot more than it’s done in the past (especially out of their intern pool). Both my manager and lead have told me there is a strong possibility of me receiving a job offer after I finish my internship, so long as I satisfy most of my goals. It’s a well-paying internship and interns receive the full benefits of employees.
Where do you live and what’s the neighborhood like?
I live in Mukilteo, Washington, roughly three miles from the Everett facility (and 25 miles from the Seattle one) so my commute is short. Aesthetically, the state is one of the most naturally beautiful and green I’ve ever seen. Even the air is noticeably better and I often feel that everything I look at could be a screenshot. Many of the people here are active, health conscious and progressive thinkers. Local markets, where the food is organic and fresh, are popular. One of the rather odd things I’ve seen so far was the Fremont fair, where participants generally ride a naked mile donned only in well-placed body paint. As for the weather, it was vexing at first: it rains ALL THE TIME (sometimes as often as 5 times a day), is rarely sunny or warm and the weather changes spontaneously. As a result, a lot of the locals choose to disregard the rain and tend to walk without umbrellas as well as do many things that most people from the East coast would consider unorthodox, like swimming while it’s raining. And when the weather is nice, the locals are sure to take advantage of it.
Last year, you worked a co-op for Toyota. Can you discuss that?
This spring semester, I returned from a co-op with Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America in Erlanger, Kentucky. There I worked within information services in the Business Management division. While there, I gained experience in the project management and financial management fields. My main project there was called Global IT Antenna: it was a horizontal expansion project that focused mainly on idea sharing and facilitating communication between four Toyota facilities.
Talk about how Educational Opportunity program (EOP) NJIT helped you?
I am an EOP student at NJIT, and whatever success I have today I owe to that program and to its executive director, Mr. Tony Howell. He is a father figure to me, a motivator and a coach combined. Dr. Crystal Smith, an EOP adviser, has also been an immense help to me. Whenever I have to make a tough decision, I can hear her voice in my ear, telling me to think and make the right decision. She also helped me to take the Boeing internship. And my fellow EOP students are my second family. The EOP class I started with here as a freshman has a very close bond.
But you also work for EOP, don’t you?
For three summers, I’ve worked as a resident assistant for EOP. Each summer, EOP brings in a freshman class and helps them catch up academically since many of them come from high schools that don’t prepare them for college. They call it an academic boot camp. I live in the dorm with incoming EOP freshmen and help them in every way I can, academically, socially and professionally.
How do you think the internship at Boeing will help your career?
Interning here gives me the chance to be hired by Boeing after I graduate. And since Boeing is one of the best engineering companies in the world, working there would satisfy my greatest desires. The internship is also giving me engineering work experience, which will significantly strengthen my résumé. But more importantly, the internship has shown me that there is work out there that is meaningful and also very enjoyable.
By Robert Florida