Endless Opportunities: A Millennial’s View of Engineering

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Ryan Blair started his first semester at Seattle University as a business major. He was planning on studying to become an accountant, but as he went through his first few classes, he could tell something just wasn’t clicking for him.

“It just didn’t feel right,” Blair says. “I love seeing something created from nothing, and knew I needed to study something that was faster paced and more tangible than business.”

Blair grew up loving to watch his dad build things from beginning to end in his construction business, and this interest in seeing things come together structurally after a lot of hard work—plus a bit of urging from a fellow soccer teammate—led him to transfer into the civil engineering program at the university.

Once there, he knew he had made the right decision. “There were challenges and lots of sleepless nights,” Blair explains, “but it was fun and worth every minute.”

One of the most exciting projects was his year-long senior design assinment, where he and his classmates worked on an analysis and restoration effort for the Diablo Dam incline lift located on the Skagit River in northern Washington.

“We worked as employees in understanding the scope of this project and then we worked to solve it from a structural and cost perspective,” Blair explains. “We analyzed the existing steel and concrete material used on the lift as we worked to determine if the material was adequate to use in operation. In addition, we developed design options for increasing the lifespan of the lift.”

During the project, which ended in a proposal being presented to the company, Blair was able to utilize a combination of his business and engineering skills. “My classmates and I worked as a team of engineers with milestones. And I got to use a lot of different disciplines on the job such as cost estimating, structural analysis, tech report writing, business relations, and on-site project management.”

As part of his curriculum, Blair also participated in two internships at The Boeing Company—located just north of where he went to school in Seattle—where he used different analysis programs to calculate the loads applied to the structural members of an airplane.

After graduating in early 2014, Blair was able to turn his internships into a full-time position with the company, and he just celebrated his nine month anniversary as a Boeing structural engineer.

“The people I work with are great,” Blair says. “I admire their intelligence and they are helping me shape my thought process. I am always learning something as I work with them.”

In his current role, Blair analyzes the integrity of the main structural components of the fuselage on existing planes as well as planes in new programs. “We work on combining quality and affordability as we analyze fuselage structures,” he explains.

So what’s in store for Blair in the future? “I have a lot more to learn [at Boeing], but I would like to someday to work in another country,” he says. “It may be Europe…or who knows? I’m taking a backpacking trip to South America, but I do love Europe.”

“The beauty of being an engineer,” Blair continues, “is that the opportunities are endless—both here at Boeing and elsewhere in the world.”

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