Jamie Krakover

Jamie Krakover

Title
Structural & Teardown Engineer
Organization
The Boeing Company
Location
St. Louis, MO, United States
Jamie Krakover
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Biography
I am currently an Aerospace Engineer at The Boeing Company working in the teardown lab doing optimal cost analysis. Previously I did structural research and development. I have a bachelors in aerospace engineering from Purdue University and a masters in aerospace engineering from Washington University in St. Louis. I had an internship working on the KC135 in 2004 and started full time in 2006. I completed a 2 year rotation in materials engineering and now continue working as a structures engineer. I love to interact with students and young professionals and enjoy answering questions.
Education
Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering from Purdue University Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering from Washington University in St. Louis
  • I am willing to be contacted by educators for possible speaking engagements in schools or in after school programs or summer camps.
  • I am willing to be interviewed by interested students via email.
Answers by Jamie Krakover

Sarah,
It sounds like you are on the right track to becoming an engineer. Stick with the math and science for sure. Also you can look for extra curricular activities that might increase your knowledge of math and/or science. Robotics clubs, science/math clubs might be good places to start. Talk to your math and/or science teachers they may be able to direct you to some activities of interest. 

As for how long it takes to become an engineer, every person's path is different. But there are some things you can do to help make things go quicker. Take advanced placement and/or college credit courses in high school to test out of classes in college. And make sure to keep your grades up in math and science but don't ignore the other subjects either they are just as important. But the more math and science you have under your belt early on, the easier it becomes later on.

Best of luck as you pursue your path to become an engineer. Keep working hard and you will reach your dream.
Jamie

It's possible that your lack of experience is coming into play here, but it might also be how you are wording your resume and what information you have one it.

Some general resume tips:
1.) Tailor your resume to the job you are applying for. Make sure you list all the skills you have that are directly applicable to the position.

2.) Use their language from the job posting. If they call something structural engineering and you say strength, you may get kicked out of a keyword search because the person weeding through the hundreds of resumes didn't think to look for that additional word. So stick with the wording they use.

3.) Use power words. Led, managed, organized etc. Don't just say you participated in something. If you were the main person working a task then you led it. Take ownership of that.

4.) Include leadership positions in organizations as well as other relevant opportunities/jobs/projects/research etc. you have had. Anything that can help set you apart for other candidates is always helpful. If you held an officer position in an organization, were a TA, or even special projects you worked on will all help build your case as a qualified applicant that will stand out from the pack.

In terms of other things you can do to help you case, check out your local Society of Women Engineers section. Get involved with people working as engineers and maybe one of them can put in a good word for you at their company.

Also each discipline of engineering has organizations, so it wouldn't hurt to network with the organization that aligns with the kind of engineering job you are trying to get. Networking is key in engineering.

But bottom line, you don't have to work as an engineer to be one. If you have a degree in engineering you're an engineer. You did the work to get the degree, so be proud and own it! Then take that ownership to your resume.

Best of luck on your job hunt!

Giselle,
First let me say I applaud you for persevering and continuing to reach for your goals despite the struggles you've faced so far. That is the kind of attitude that will make you successful in your career and in life.

In answer to your questions, if you want to work for an aerospace company, I think your best bang for your buck is going to be majoring in aerospace engineering. While most of those companies hire physicists, they are primarily looking for engineers because the engineering background is going to give you the solid foundation and understanding of the kind of work they do. And aerospace engineering specifically will give you the additional knowledge and background in aircraft and spacecraft that will give you a concrete understanding of the products you will be working on. That's not to say physics isn't important because physics and engineering go hand in hand and if you enjoy physics a double major will only give you an additional leg up. But your best understanding of the product you want to work on will come from an aerospace background.

As for your second question, there is not simple answer. Some people may have an issue with your background and that's okay that's on them. Find the people who like you for your good qualities and your bad. Those that give you a stigma aren't worth your time.

In terms of the third question, I don't know anyone who didn't struggle at some point in their school, career, and/or life. Everyone has hard times now and then, some are better at hiding it than others. That said, I had an extremely tough time in college. Partway through I discovered I had learning disabilities, that had finally caught up to me. And relearning how to learn and effectively navigate school was extremely difficult that late in the game. But it taught me several things:
1.) I'm much stronger than I thought I was.
2.) I can do anything, I just might need to find the way that works for me and it's okay if that way is different than how other people do it.
3.) I shouldn't care so much what other people think. The people I need in my life are those that accept me for my amazing qualities and my faults and don't judge me for either.

In the end, it took me a while, but I finally found who I was and became more comfortable in my own skin. And I was much happier for it.

I wish you the best of luck moving forward into college and your career. It sounds like you are on the right track and have the determination required to make it happen. Go forth and be great, I know you can be!

Athira,
Short answer: I think you should stick with it.

Long answer: I'm an aerospace engineer who didn't think physics was her strong suit either. And that's okay for several reasons. First Aerospace Engineering has many aspects to it and not all of them are directly related to physics. I specialized in structures which is based more in material properties and strengths of materials. But there are other areas as well that don't use as much physics or use physics in different ways. Second the physics you take in school vs engineering physics are a little different. Engineering is applied physics which means it is applied to practical real world applications. This means things tend to operate and are analyzed in a manner that is more how you'd expect them to behave. That said, it may not be all physics that you struggle with. There's a lot of different areas, orbital mechanics, circuits, propulsion, design, dynamics and controls, etc. So while one may seem hard to you another may not be as difficult.

Keeping all that in mind, engineering is hard. There will be things that come naturally to you and other things you will have to work at. Physics may be something you have to work harder at. I know I did.  But despite that I'm still an aersopace engineer. So keep trying, ask for help, and you'll get there one day.

Best of luck in whatever field of study you pursue, but I hope you stick with your love of space and look into aerospace engineering. I know you can do it!
Jamie

A'sheria,
There are many challenges that one might encounter as an engineer, but what is challenging for one person may not be challenging for someone else. For me one of the most challenging things is knowing what to do when you get stuck. There isn't a manual you can flip to and get the right answer from. In fact, sometimes the right answer is there isn't a right answer, or the right answer isn't possible right now. Sometimes we are limited by what we and our peers know and are able to accomplish. And to learn how to think around that and figure out other possibilities is extremely challenging. But it's also what makes engineering so interesting and fun. And like anything in life the more you work at something the better you get at it. So something that was challenging in the past may not be so challenging now because of practice.

Thanks,
Jamie

Alvaro,
I know it's a bit different depending on who you talk to, but for me, I knew I had a strong interest in math and science. For a long time I wanted to be a vet but in my junior year of high school I changed my mind. I enrolled in a week long program at Missouri S&T in Rolla and learned about the different things an engineer does. And from the moment they took me in the lab and broke a steel rod just by pulling on it, I was hooked. And from then on it was the challenging problems and the idea that you could create something better that kept me interested. No two days are alike in engineering and that's what makes it so fun and engaging.

Thanks,
Jamie

Daisy,
First it sounds like you have the right attitude and have a great work ethic and a good drive. But it's also important to know we can't excel at everything. There are a lot of engineers that would say they aren't good at math. Like anything we learn in life, some things will come easy and others we will have to work harder at. Knowing what weaknesses you have is a great first step. If you know math is an area of struggle, I suggest getting to know your professors and/or TA's early on in the semester even if the material starts off easier for you. Most professors hold office hours, and they are there to help students. Establishing the relationship early can help you when the material gets more difficult. 

It may also be worth seeking out a tutor. Many schools supply tutors at little or no cost to students. Another option is study groups. I know I struggled through some classes in college, but having study buddies that could help me at times and at other times I could help them was invaluable. 

And last but certainly not least, don't be so hard on yourself. There will be times where everything is awesome and you understand it, but there will also be times when classes get tough. Everyone would be an engineer if it was easy, but it's the ones that don't give up that become engineers. It's okay to fail every once in a while, but it's what you really do with the failure that will help you learn and grow. I know I've learned far more from mistakes I've made then doing things right the first time.

Hang in there! I know you can do it. If you've graduated from a STEM school you are already on the right track. Best of luck as you start college. :)
Jamie

Dominique,
I don't think it is any more difficult for woman to get jobs in aeronautics than it is for men. It's based on the current job market, which currently aerospace engineers are in demand. It also depends on your background and whether or not you are a good fit for the job. They will look at your grades, coursework, internship/work experience, any clubs you're involved in and any leadership skills you might have. 

Some tips as you move into studying in the field - Look for internship opportunities early. Get to know your professors. Don't be afraid to ask them questions and if you show interest in topics it may open up opportunities for research. Get involved on campus, companies like well rounded individuals. Find study buddies and support networks. SWE is a great resource in college for finding other women in engineering as well as for finding scholarships and internships.

I wish you the best of luck as you move forward into engineering. :)

If you have the desire and the drive to be an aeronautical engineer then be an aeronautical engineer. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't. You can regardless of gender, skin color, religion etc. you name it. Women can be aeronautical/aerospace engineers, I know because I am one.

Will it be easy? Sometimes. Will it be hard? Sometimes. But like anything else in life you wont pick up the skills you need overnight. You will have to study hard and learn them and it sounds like you are more than willing to do that. Don't take no for an answer and don't let some small bumps in the road keep your from your dream. Go out there and be an aeronautical engineer. You can do it. From one aeronautical engineer to a future aeronautical engineer, prove them all wrong. You can do it!

Lily,
Jennifer gave you some great advice. A solid foundation in math and science is extremely important to engineering. I would also add, if you can get on a mathematics path that will get you into calculus your senior year of high school that's extremely helpful toward college classes. Studying hard and keeping your grades up is also important. Colleges will want to see a good GPA and good test scores.

Jennifer's suggestion about getting involved in clubs is also good. Anything STEM related like Science Olympiad, or FIRST Robotics would compliment your studies well. But don't feel like you have to overload yourself with science/math extracurriculars. One or two is good. It's important to be involved in things and well rounded, but they don't all have to be science and math.

I would also emphasize the importance of English and Communications skills. These are often overlooked for engineers, but the ability to communicate your ideas effectively and to write with good grammar and sentence structure is extremely important. If your school offers a class in technical writing, and/or public speaking it wouldn't hurt to get a jump on some of these skills as well.

I wish you luck on your journey to becoming an engineer, and it sounds like you are already on the right track in your hunt to find the right path to travel. :)

Madison,
The short answer... If you are making A's in these advanced classes you are fine. 

The longer answer... engineering is hard and it will be something you have to work at. Sometimes parts of it may come easily for you, and other times you are going to struggle and have to take more time to understand things. Like any new skill, getting comfortable with it will take practice. You didn't just jump on a bike and automatically know how to ride it, and engineering, math, and science, especially advanced classes, will be the same. You will have to study and work at it sometimes. Finding these classes challenging is no indication on whether or not you will succeed as an engineer. Nor does the amount of time it takes you to grasp a concept. Take all the time you need to understand the concepts. Everyone learns at their own speed. In fact, for most people, I'd be extremely surprised if they didn't find the material challenging. If it was easy everyone would be doing it. I definitely didn't find it easy and natural most of the time I was going through school. And if it makes you feel better, I got a D as a final grade in one of my engineering classes, and I am still a successful engineer today. So if you're getting A's in advanced classes don't beat yourself up about things not coming naturally. You are doing fantastic. Keep doing what you are doing and you'll be on the right track to succeed as an engineer. I wish you the best of luck as you pursue college level engineering. I'm sure you will do great things :)

Hi Jessica,
I wanted to add some advice to this. First, sorry to hear about your bad grade. I know that can be tough sometimes. If it's any consolation, I got a D as a final grade in a class when I was studying for my engineering degree and I'm still an engineer today. I know it's hard when you get that bad grade but take it as a note that guides you on what you need to improve upon.

Engineering is tough and we can't be good at every aspect of it right away. It's sort of like riding a bike or learning to swim. You didn't just hop on a bike the first time and automatically know how to ride it. You had to work hard at it and learn how. Engineering is very much the same way.

It's also important to note there is a distinction between physics and engineering. Engineering is applied physics, which is a kind of physics used for a specific engineering or technological application. This is why there are so many kinds of engineers. There's a lot of different kinds of things we can apply these concepts to. So while physics class can help you gain a good foundation toward engineering and it is important, it's not the end all be all of engineering. Depending on which kind of engineering you go into you may need different aspects of things you learn in physics but not others, or in some cases you may not need physics hardly at all (one example is chemical engineering).

While a bad grade can be heart breaking, it won't ruin your career as an engineer. It will just tell you where to start on your learning journey and where you might need to ask for some help to learn the material better. Studying engineering is a lot about learning how to learn the things that will help you as engineer. It's not always about getting it right the first time.

I wish you luck as you continue to pursue engineering. Hang in there!
Jamie