Want Your Career to Fly? Do Not Be Afraid to Ask Says Aviation Executive


Boston University's (BU) Jump-start Your Job Search tracks down successful alumni and interviews them for practical advice, tips and lessons they can share to university students some of whom are making career plans, looking for internships and starting their job hunt.

This latest interview features GE Aviation Executive and Engineering (994, 1997) alumnus Jose Calderon.

Jose said he's always been fascinated by flying things: planes, rockets and even birds which is why he took up aerospace engineering. He also took up aeronautical and astronautical courses in his undergraduate days and eventually took his master's degree in mechanical engineering.

In 2001, Jose Calderon joined the General Electric Aviation and has done quite a lot of work that involved jets and choppers and even inspection technology that gave him a lot of technical and operational experience.

At present, Eng. Calderon is in charge of the company's F404 Hornet customer programs. A multi-million dollar component of GE's Aviation business that involves providing engine parts to military aircrafts used by the US Navy, the F/A-18 fighter jets. Their company also cater to other countries' military forces and of their foreign clients include Canada, Switzerland, Australia, Spain, Kuwait and Malaysia.

A running enthusiast, Jose spends most of his time running when he's not working or with his family. He said he's run 5 races including 3 Boston Marathons.

Here are his thoughts on BU's questions:

A career in aviation requires...

A strong technical background. According to Eng. Calderon, now that he is working more on the business side of the job, his experience on the field makes it easier to understand his team and it also helps when dealing with customers.

A quality he looks for when hiring:

Decision-making or leadership role and practical experience. It's not that he is looking to hire a boss but he wants someone who can show him how they think. He is also looking for someone who knows more than what the book says, again, that someone doesn't need to be an expert but he prefers someone who's already had a work experience on the field. Someone who's had a summer job or been through an internship is a good candidate.

During job interviews, he asks...

Hypothetical questions, questions from their personal experiences and the roles thee performed in a previous job and the expectations or deliverables from the role.

An advice for a new engineer for day 1 on the job and 6 months after:

"Do not be afraid to ask." Eng. Calderon says it's applicable for both situations. You will be surrounded by people who are very much familiar with the job and have been knowledgeable for doing it for quite some time and they will understand if you don't know. Six months is still a short time to learn everything so it's still okay to say, "I don't know."

A career mistake and a lesson learned...

Jose Calderon said he had too much faith in his people the first time he got a team lead role at GE. His overconfidence caused delayed in finishing the jobs because he spent less time talking to his people and asking about their work. As a team lead, trusting your team is important but make sure that the work is being done.

The greatest influence in his career is...

Steve Leary, his second manager in GE. According to Jose, Steve knew how to treat employees and customers really well. Leary recognized people for their work at also admonished them for the work that didn't get done. Jose also credits Leary for helping him grow by giving him plenty high-profile work.

Career plans during his BU days:

Eng. Jose Calderon said he didn't have any specific job description in mind. All he knew was that he wanted to be in the aviation or space field because of his fascination with flight. While he was in college, changes in global politics - the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Soviet Russia - greatly affected the aviation job pool and he wasn't able to join the industry immediately after graduating. His first job was with an air filtration company.

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