Diaspora Story:My Journey From Pushing Carts to Designing the Sophisticated C-17 AirPlane
My name is Jesse Wanyika, born and raised in Kenya. Currently I live and work in the United States. But this has taken a journey whose motif I would like to paint.
Growing up in Kenya, my loving parents always insisted on the importance of education. To them, there was no better investment than putting me through to school. My dad would always talk about the value of hard work and integrity. Back then it did not mean much but today I realize that my parents were not saying anything that is out of the ordinary.
I migrated to the United States in January 2008, just as Kenya was teetering into violence catalyzed by disputed poll. My parents had earlier, as I was growing up in Kenya, migrated to the United States in search of a better life not only for themselves but for the children as well. At the time of my relocation, I was a student at Moi High School Kabarak. This means I had to continue with High school education in America.
While the relocation was easy, life in the new domicile was not a walk in the park. First of all, when I went to enroll in high school, I was taken aback to learn that Kenya is listed as a non-English speaking country in the catalog that determines whether your English credits are transferable. To this end, I was required to demonstrate that I could read and write English fluently!
After high school, I enrolled in a local community college. While going to school, I landed my first job at a call center. However, my schedule at school was not as flexible meaning that I had to change the job. It is here that I had to look for a job that was more flexible in terms of time. Healthcare was the only alternative availed to me. At least I could go to school during the day and work the night shift in a home health facility. So I became a care-giver in a home health facility.
Working the night shift, I had to endure the cold breeze and in addition, I would not get enough sleep. If I was not motivated to go to school, one experience as I working the shift invigorated and challenged me to work extra hard in school. It happened that one day, I was so tired having had a long day at school. Nevertheless, I still had to work the night shift. No sooner had my patient who I was tending to gone to sleep, than I also took a nap. While I was enjoying my nap, my patient woke up and started to paint the entire room with his soiled diaper! I remember waking up and on seeing what the patient had done, breaking down in tears imagining what I had to go through to make any single dream that I had become reality. This experience completely changed my outlook on life and made me focused. There was no time to waste. I had to work hard in school.
My hard work was rewarded in 2013 when I graduated from Washington State University in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science degree Computer Engineering. And if I thought it would be smooth sailing after this, I was in for a rude shock.
Right after college, I could not find a job! I moved back in with my parents and got a job at a local hospital, where my job entailed delivering supplies, at the very minimum wage. I was getting frustrated. I thought education was the key to unlocking all doors but the only open door for me was working as a handy man! I was in debt having accumulated student loans. This was not what I expected my life to be
One day, as I was running a cart full of oxygen tanks, I overheard a colleague say, “This dude thought he was clever trying to go to school, he should have just done this from the beginning.” Realizing I had nothing to lose, I decided to move back to my university and seek an internship, and then, perhaps, join graduate school. I remember knocking on the door of my former professor who owned an engineering company and telling him all I needed was an opportunity to get experience. He agreed.
A few weeks later, one of the Project Managers offered me an “Applications and Systems engineering” internship position with pay. I have never had a humbling experience such as this. Knowing this was an internship, I was not planning to stay there long. I actively continued to apply for jobs, while still rethinking about a master’s degree. My goal was to wrap up the internship within a year and then move to Texas for graduate school. I didn’t know anyone there nor did I have a job there but I felt I needed to step up and not get comfortable. Within only a few months remaining for me to make the move to Texas, Boeing Company, known for manufacturing planes, called me for an interview. And oh God is good, I passed the interview and got the job.
Boeing offered me a job in Southern California as a Design and Analysis Engineer in the C-17 Program. The C-17 is a strategic and tactical airlifter developed for the US Air Force. The C-17 is designed to operate from runways as short as 3500 ft. (≈1 Km) and as narrow as 90 ft. (27 m). The thrust reversers can be used to back the aircraft and reverse direction on narrow taxiways using a three- (or more) point turn. (Wikipedia, Boeing C-17 Globemaster III). It is the C-17 that accompanies the President of the United States whenever he has to make domestic and foreign visits, as it is used to transport the presidential limousine (Beast) and other ground transportation details needed for the security of the president. As a design engineer, I get to work on new systems that go on the plane as well as support equipment ensuring health management of the airplane.
I am now looking forward to go back to school and pursue graduate studies. Life is what you make of it and certainly what you do to create your opportunities.
My two cents to anyone is, ‘treat your first like your last –Notorious B.I.G’