What is your next adventure?
I am going to Tuscon, Arizona to work as a systems engineer for Raytheon in missile systems. The team I'm working for is the test verification and integration team. Once it's built, we will be the team that tests it to make sure it meets requirements.
What about your next adventure are you most looking forward to?
I am excited about being in a new place. I'm from Houston, so Atlanta was very new when I got here, but now, well, I live here. I know it. I'm looking forward to exploring Tuscon. In a couple of years, I'll probably look into getting an MBA because I think I want to go down the management path in my career, making teams work better. So there's that to be excited about, too.
Did you have any previous co-op, internship, or research experience in this area?
I came to Georgia Tech through the 3-2 program with Morehouse College, so some of my experience came from my time at Morehouse, where I was a physics major. After freshman year, I did a summer internship at NASA in Houston. My team worked with inflatable structures, alternating the string gauge method for measuring strain in textiles. The next two summers, I worked at Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, CA, where I did CAD work on actuators in the space program the first year. I did CAD work on the F-35 weapons integration team the second summer. Getting into aerospace was always the plan, so when I got to Tech, I was wondering how to get involved in research -- I knew I wanted to have that under my belt before I left -- and some upper classmen who had that experience suggested I apply to Dr. Walker's lab. I guess he thought my resume was good enough, because he accepted me. Dr. Walker takes pride in quality work, and he expects that from everyone in his lab. My first semester I assisted a customer in managing the labs's vacuum test chamber. The next semester, I wasn't officially in the lab, but I volunteered my time, sometimes, because it was interesting. We were working on building a stand to go into a test chamber to hold a flow meter.
How did your educational experience at Georgia Tech help you to achieve your goal?
Classes I've taken have all led me to a good place. But I didn't necessarily think they were at the time. I actually picked up more in those classes than I thought. And the way I found that out was when I was talking with Ratheon at a campus career information session, I realized I'd already been doing some of the stuff they wanted. The classes I took in systems and controls - and the control lab - they all made a difference.
Another thing that helped me a lot while I was at Tech and at Morehouse was NSBE [National Society of Black Engineers]. I was president of that group at Morehouse and parliamentarian at the Tech chapter, so it was kind of a good bridge. Being around people who had the same interests was great. And it definitely helped me to meet and network and even a few job offers.
What advice would you give to an underclassman who would like to follow the same path?
The 3-2 program was a great decision for me. I was able to start at Morehouse and finish up at Tech. I felt I put a lot of stress on myself to finish up all of my general education requirements while I was at Morehouse, so when I got to Tech, the only classes I could take were aerospace. One thing I would recommend to anyone who also wanted to do this would be to not take so many classes. Spread it out. It's a marathon, so you have to pace yourself. I kept thinking: five years is a lot of time, I better work hard to get through on time. The last two semesters, I took five classes each semester, and that just doesn't give you a lot of time to digest, study, and learn.
Along the way, keep your eyes open for other things, too. I'm always looking for ways to better myself and to increase my net worth. When I was on internships, all of the people around me were working on a higher level degree. I quickly realized that that's what I would need to get a competitive edge. That's why I'll be looking to do an MBA after a couple years of work.
Note: In addition to walking in Georgia Tech's May 5 Commencement ceremony, Steven Ragland will also be invited to walk with his classmates at Morehouse College's May 20 Commencement.