“If it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going!”. That old phrase among aviation geeks could also pretty much sum up my internship season. I ignored almost every consulting, analytics and coding firm, as well as universities because I wanted industry experience, and was prepared to skip the entire season and wait for Gulfstream, or Boeing to roll around in the Spring. That is, until Boeing showed up in October. Having received glowing reviews of the work environment and learning opportunities from my seniors, I decided to fill the form, which involved turning over my 1-page resume, the one I’d spent the least time on, even though the profile seemed more of a Mechanical Engineer’s forte. I received no word for a long time, and when the shortlist came out I did not feature, which led to some self-doubt, and consternation over having ignored all those companies so far.
It all changed on a sunny November afternoon, when I was handling cribs after conducting the day’s flying sessions. I received an urgent interview call, after being put on an extended shortlist, and turned up outside the placement office in shorts, completely unprepared and unaware of what would be asked of me, for my first ever interview, with my dream company. Needless to say, I was quite nervous, but the interview started with smiles all around and I felt more at ease as it progressed. The questions were of a structured nature, and I could draw on past experiences without having to make answers up. I hadn’t known what to expect from interviews in general, so my approach was entirely by gut instinct.
Somehow everything fell into place, and I found myself walking into the Boeing office on my first day, full of the same nervousness. My first day in the corporate world, and everything about the place seemed a mystery, except the various Boeing airplane models displayed around the entrance. Being able to recall detailed histories of each one lent a sense of familiarity to the proceedings. We were then led into the orientations, where we found ourselves alongside several full-time joinees, including a few people with more than 15 years of experience. One of the main themes was “One Boeing”, where all the different business/service arms operate as one unit, and the variety of people we encountered there was representative enough. Another big theme was Safety, and they demonstrate that it is taken seriously, with every small incident ranging from an uncomfortable chair to water spilt on the stairs taken into cognizance. One small moment of pride for me was identifying 13 out of 15 Boeing products correctly in the quiz, more than double the average.
I met my manager in the afternoon, and was introduced to my buddy and team in the middle of a meeting. They’d already prepared a full statement of work for us, which involved automating certain processes related in designing testing assemblies for structural ground testing of airplanes. These assemblies are called eveners, and are built to exert predetermined loads on the airframe to test the structural limits, and fatigue behaviour of the airframe over repeated loading. Over these 7 weeks, I learnt CATIA from scratch, VB Scripting in CATIA and Excel, what Aircraft Structural testing is all about, and how to really use Microsoft Excel (still debatable) . Test and Evaluation was completely new to me, when I’d spent the past three years focused on more theoretical and design courses. I learnt a lot, and not just about testing but also how the aerospace industry works in general, thanks to also being able to sit in meetings featuring Engineers from Commercial Airplanes in Seattle, despite being a lowly intern. In fact everyone here has done as much as they can to make me feel like I’m as much a part of the team as they are. I’ll admit that in the past 7 weeks I’ve spent a lot of time daydreaming or browsing through the online company library. My manager is also very open to me exploring all the departments over here, and introduced me to his counterparts in Boeing Research, and Flight Testing. The research environment feels more familiar to someone exposed to a lot of academic research, although the fundamental difference is that there’s a higher chance of the research affecting a product in the next decade.
Boeing India could still be likened to a startup in some ways, but operations here are really beginning to take off (pun intended), with new crew joining almost every week. The One Boeing policy showed real substance when it resulted in cross-pollination, the structures teams of all the different units being seated together to enable idea exchange. I received inputs from almost everyone around, and that ultimately helped me do some real productive work, which, if integrated with existing practices, could bring down the evener system design time by almost 90%. I’m really happy that I have gotten to do productive work, as it means I have added to Boeing too, instead of just them having added to me.
If I have one grouse, taking a picture for this article was an ordeal. A photograph must not be taken in the office premises, or have the full Boeing logo on display. An idea involving taking a picture in front of a Dreamliner painting, standing so as to hide the logo was also shot down. Hence the awkward pic in the front lobby.
Bangalore as a city is amazing, and the famous weather is a relief from the hot Bombay summer. I’d heard horror stories about the traffic, and realized that they all are true. I have two sets of cousins here, on opposite sides of the city and I shuttle a lot, and I thus have much more familiarity with transport, and where things are in Bangalore. Instead of going the cliché way and trying to explore the city, I decided to explore other things, and picked up baking along with one of my cousins. I do plan to explore though, especially my home state of TN, since it’s barely a 6-hr train ride away. I’d recommend going around British-era Chennai, Mahabalipuram and Pondicherry in TN. Closer to Bangalore lie the Nandi hills, and at this time of the year the views there could rival any seen in the beautiful North-East. Mysore and Coorg are also worth exploring.
I found the accommodation options wanting, however, and have to spend out of my pocket for food quite frequently. I’ve started missing H3 mess, and PG food reminds me of that dialogue in Kung Fu Panda, “There is, now, a level zero”. Evenings after coming back from work are rather dull, and it’s times like these, when I’m lying on my bed in the PG, scrolling down my Quora feed that I miss campus with all the myriad things to do, especially being able to play the drums. One big recommendation I received from a senior colleague in BRnT, was to pick up the topic of my actual interest on my own in those evenings. If you’re in a core field, some self-learning goes a long way.