Brett Ebert '08
In a series of interviews with notable alumni about their experiences at Assumption, we recently caught up with 2008 graduate Brett Ebert, Aerospace Engineer for Boeing in St. Louis.
Q. What are you doing now?
I’m an aerospace engineer for Boeing. More specifically, I’m in Phantom Works, an organization that acts as a military prototyping and advanced development group within Boeing Defense. I live in St. Louis with my wife, Michaela (Byrne) Ebert, who is also an Assumption graduate.
Q: How did you land your current job at Boeing?
After high school, I knew I wanted to go into engineering, so I headed to Iowa State. Because Iowa State is a major engineering school in the Midwest, many companies come to campus to recruit. When the career fair rolled around a few years into my schooling, I made sure to talk to Boeing, hoping to get an interview. I ended up getting a summer internship working in their defense organization, and I was hooked. Working on the cutting edge of military aerospace was a dream come true. I went back to Boeing during the rest of my summer breaks and started full time work after I graduated.
Q. What made you want to go into Aerospace Engineering?
Growing up, I was fascinated by aircraft and always kept the idea of working on them for a career in the back of my mind. I liked watching documentaries about military aircraft and spacecraft, and I’d always be drawing planes. Once at college, I started in Mechanical Engineering since it provides a broader engineering base and allows you to work in a wide range of fields, including the aerospace industry. When I started with Boeing and got the chance to work on military aircraft, it wasn’t long before I realized I was where I was supposed to be. I still remember the first time I got to go in one of the hangers as an intern. I walked into this huge building, and its one big open room, with what had to be more than 20 fighter jets all sitting in it, ready for final testing and delivery to the military. Seeing these machines up close was breathtaking. I knew I was staying at Boeing, so I decided to round out my education with an Aerospace Engineering graduate degree.
Q. What is a typical day like for an aerospace engineer?
It can vary quite a bit, depending on your role. Right now, I’m involved in a modeling and simulation group, so I spend my day developing analytical models and virtual simulations and using those models to provide data to aid decision making. In other roles, I’ve designed parts, performed testing, and helped with feasibility studies and trade studies. There are a wide variety roles and career paths within the industry, and you could find yourself spending your days anywhere from a fabrication shop to an office, or from being out in the field doing testing to on the road meeting with customers. Aerospace engineers can work on any number of projects, from things like fighter jets to jumbo jets, from helicopters to spacecraft. The products aren’t just limited to planes either, the things we work on can go under the ocean, float on the ocean, drive on land, fly in the sky, and orbit the earth in space. There’s a whole lot out there, and there’s always something new going on.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your career as an aerospace engineer?
The best part of my career is getting to be on the cutting edge of new technology (in other words, just getting to work with really cool stuff). It’s fulfilling and humbling to see the magnitude and importance of the projects we work on. Our products help to connect the world together, keep us safe, and explore the universe. It’s a great thing to be a part of.
Q. What are some of the things you learned at Assumption?
From an academic perspective, I really think my time at Assumption prepared me well for success in college and beyond by providing a solid base on which to grow. While I learned specific things like math and science, writing and history, I think one of the most important things was having learned how to learn. Assumption taught me how to take something I didn’t know and to look at it critically, breaking it into pieces to understand it as a whole. This ability pick up new ideas and concepts has proven to be one of the most important things I took away from my time at Assumption.
Q: How do you feel your time at Assumption has helped you in your career thus far?
One thing that stands out in my mind is that Assumption taught me to be detail oriented. In the aerospace industry, small mistakes can have big consequences, and paying attention to the details is crucial. While at Assumption, I remember some of the teachers being tough about small things like spelling or grammar errors in my writing (thanks Mrs. Luton and Mrs. Tompkins!), or making a point to ensure we used proper notation and showed our work (thanks Mrs. Murphy!). Looking back, I now realize how big a deal those habits are and how important that attention to detail is in my career.
Additionally, being a student at Assumption taught me how to be well-rounded and taught me the importance of being an overall good person. Both inside and outside the classroom, I learned how to be part of a community, how to treat others with respect, how to work as a team, and many other skills that, while hard to quantify, play a vital role in success later in life. These experiences and lessons helped to shape who I am today.
Q: What are a few of your favorite memories from your time at Assumption?
The things that I look back most fondly on are my memories from my extracurricular activities. I really enjoyed my time and involvement in sports and band, and looking back, those are some of my most vivid memories. Things like drumline rehearsals, band trips, cross country meets, tennis matches, and the friends I made (including my future wife) through those activities are the things I think of when I look back at my time at Assumption.
Q: Looking back on your time at Assumption, what are some of the experiences that helped prepare you for what you’re doing now?
While I didn’t realize it at the time, my involvement in sports and band helped prepare me to be mindful in my work. In these activities, you spend your time as part of a team working towards a common goal, and you learn to work with all kinds of personalities. Looking at it now, this skill is important in my career, because I work with a variety of people and we all need to work together to succeed.
Q: Who were some of the biggest influences during your time at Assumption?
Both the math and science departments were big influences during my time at Assumption, and a big thanks to Mrs. Murphy (when she used to teach math!), Mrs. Wallace, and Mrs. Martin for getting me a solid technical base to push me to where I am today. One other big influence whose teaching still helps me to this day is Mrs. Luton. Her insistence on having her students learn the fundamentals of writing and how to convey their thoughts in a concise manner continually affects how I approach getting my ideas across to others.
Q: What suggestions or advice do you have for students who may want to pursue a career in Aerospace Engineering?
It seems like the common advice is to make sure you brush up on your math and science. While this is true and these subjects form an integral part of the education, that’s not the whole picture of how to be truly successful. I feel like one of the lesser known keys to success is to get involved and expand your skills. Get involved in community organizations, join clubs, find a hobby, learn shop skills, and develop your leadership abilities. These are all ways to not only differentiate yourself from the crowd, but to also make yourself a better and more well-rounded person. A big part of this industry deals with working in teams, so developing yourself as a person who can connect with and lead others is critical.
Q: Do you have any last words of encouragement for the Class of 2017?
Every now and then, stop, take a deep breath and appreciate what has led you to be where you are today, and enjoy it. It feels like just yesterday I was walking into Assumption for my first day of freshman year; things have gone by so quickly. It’s important to enjoy where you are in life.
Thanks, Brett. We appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule for the interview. Congratulations on all the great work you're doing!