Hey there GE Girls! For this perspectives interview, we spoke with Caroline Key, a Senior Staff Engineer at GE Aviation in Cincinnati, OH who has worked with the company for 12 years. Caroline works supporting the CF6 Engines Systems Engineering team. Caroline has a background in mechanical design, and she loves working with a team to take designs from paper to reality. Read on to learn her thoughts about her exciting STEM career!
GE Girls: Hi Caroline! Could you share your perspective on how your education helped you start a career in a STEM field?
Caroline: I graduated from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2006. I chose Mechanical Engineering because I enjoyed physics, and felt that it would leave the most opportunities open to me. Understanding critical engineering fundamentals opens the door to a career. But the most valuable thing I learned in school was how to approach problem solving in a group setting.
One example was in a thermal design class. As a group, we worked through equations to design a heat exchanger. Then we had to write out the materials and instructions on how to build our heat exchanger, which we then handed off to another group to build and test our design. That project was really representative of the real world that I’ve experienced. We learned about how ideas can seem great on paper, and not-so-great when you’re trying to actually make the thing. We learned about errors that can happen because of assumptions & miscommunications, and how important clear hand-offs are between design teams and manufacturing teams. These are all issues that I’ve experienced on larger scale at GE.
GE Girls: That sounds like a challenging assignment! What does a typical day look like for you in your job?
Caroline: I’ve been lucky to work in several different roles within GE Aviation, ranging from part design to engine testing and certification, to building digital tools. There really is no typical day and that is my favorite thing about my job.
In all of my roles, most days are spent talking to people, learning about technologies or processes, and making decisions on how to push a project forward so that we get the best result for both the customer and the company.
GE Girls: What are you most excited about your career and your company?
Caroline: There were a few things that drew me to engineering. One was the challenge of solving a problem. I also wanted to make a tangible difference in our world and to work on something that matters. Engineering opens up those doors and engineers are the ones that solve the world’s problems. When I get on a plane to travel somewhere, I love the feeling that I understand how the engines were developed, tested, built, and maintained. I also love knowing that my colleagues and I are working to make the engines run more efficiently and more safely than ever before.
GE Girls: Lastly, and most importantly, what advice would you give 14-year-old you?
1) Be open to trying new things because you never know what you might learn or really enjoy doing.
2) Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t understand something, there’s probably someone else in the room wondering the same thing. I still have to remind myself of this one every day.