Alumnus Spotlight: Jay Westerwelle
Sr. Flight Engineer, Space Systems Loral (SSL)
A.S. – Computer Aided Drafting & Design, ITT Technical Institute
B.S. – Aerospace Engineering, San Jose State University
Briefly describe your career path:
After ITT Tech, I was hired by a Civil Engineering firm as an AutoCAD Technician. There I utilized my computer aided drafting skill sets to produce commercial and residential development plans. After 5 years at the firm, I had worked my way up to Project Manager. From there I realized that I had the potential to be a successful engineer and so I put myself back through school to obtain an engineering degree in a field that interested me more, Aerospace. In the last semester of the undergrad program, I was hired at Skybox, Inc. (now owned by Google), where I worked as a Satellite Controller Intern in their Mission Control Department. The six month internship provided me the skills necessary to obtain a career position at SSL.
What do you do at work?
SSL is a manufacturer of large communications satellites. I work in the Mission Control Department, as part of a Mission Operations team that flies, tests, and monitors the health and safety of each satellite produced. Once my team’s work is complete, we then hand the satellite over to our customer for long term operations.
What are you most passionate about in your work? Why?
Just the idea that I go to work every day to fly and interact with real, live spacecraft is very exciting. It’s quite the unique experience that very few people have.
How has your SJSU AE experience helped shape your success?
The curriculum and teaching style from SJSU AE allowed me to approach new projects and solve problems differently that others I work with. I feel I am better equipped to take the initiative sooner than others, solve real problems by thinking outside the box, and appreciate success and failure in stride. Additionally the program enhanced the teamwork skills that I already had from previous experiences, allowing me to find more efficient ways of interacting with co-workers to accomplish the same goals.
How are you making a positive impact in the world?
SJSU AE provided me with enough instruction and freedom to explore projects that interested me. And from that I was able to obtain a substantial career of flying communications satellites that provide cell phone and television services all over the world. In turn, this career allows me to give back to the community and so I am active with several non-profit organizations that help enhance and educate people of all ages about launch vehicle technologies, development, and safety. I also now teach AE199 Rocketry as a Technical Elective at SJSU AE, which is completely based on the success of my SJSU AE Senior Project.
What advice do you have for aspiring AEs?
SJSU AE allows its students the freedom (within reason) to explore their passions. So my advice is to aggressively do just that! Work on as many interesting and applicable projects as you can! Your resume should include 2-3 practical, value-added projects showcasing you best work. And so the more you have to choose from the better. Also, your role on those projects is very important; more skill sets is just as important as being a pro at each skill. And lastly, don’t wait until your senior year and don’t focus all of your efforts on campus, get involved early and join groups/orgs on AND off campus that will provide you with a variety of quality experiences.
Anything else you’d like to add?
“Ready your breakfast and eat hearty… this is Sparta!”