CEET Alum Joshua Ott – How to Make Your First Job, Your Dream Job

What did you do last Wednesday?  For CEET alum Joshua Ott, he got to see his dream becoming a reality, watching the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS), a next-generation communications satellite for the Navy, a satellite he helped build, launch into space. 
(video courtesy of United Launch Alliance )
When Joshua graduated from the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology at NIU, he had a number of job offers.  He had earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering and after taking Dr. Pohlman’s Propulsion class, Joshua had found his calling and began working towards a career in the aerospace industry.  He accepted his dream job at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company building “things that go into space.”  He is part of a rotation program where he changes jobs every six months to a new engineering position working exclusively on satellites. These positions include designing flight hardware and on the assembly floor helping to build military communication satellites.
“I love working with satellites.  Down the hall from my office is a room full of satellites that I can go in and work on, look at, and learn about. It’s hands on and I’m helping build these satellites for our customers.”
But Josh knows that it wasn’t just a degree that got him this position.  He worked hard and took risks. 
“There are nine people in my rotation program.  I am the only one without an aerospace degree or internships in the aerospace industry, but my involvement and my work with student organizations were both able to make up for a lack of direct aerospace experience.” 
“The most important thing to my employer, and most employers, is what teams you have worked on.”  Josh explained that what made him and others desirable were his internships and extracurricular involvements.  Joshua was a Project Lead and President of the EWB at NIU CEET and travelled twice to Tanzania to work on the solar energy project there.  Joshua was also a co-founder of the Motorcycle Club at NIU, NIUMoto. 
“Employers need to know that you can work with people to build something.  It’s important that you have and display those skills before entering the workforce because those experiences teach you everything you need to be successful. If you are that person who likes to work on everything alone, you won’t make it.”
Internships are also an important piece of the successful employment puzzle and should be taken full advantage of.
“I know a lot of people who went home and worked as a lifeguard or did the same job they did in high school every summer in college.  That’s fine, but it doesn’t do anything for a future employer.  You should spend your summers building your skill-set and your resume by interning.  There are paid internships that will give you invaluable experience showing you how things really work, how the work gets done, working on teams, and what it’s like to wake up everyday and have a job.  These are so important when you go to start your first job,” Joshua explained.  “It doesn’t have to be cool or highly technical.  You need an internship because it proves to people you can work.”
Joshua had job offers from both of the companies that he interned with before graduation.
“Don’t wait.  Start Early.” Joshua recommends that you start the job search early.  He started applying early in the fall of his senior year.  He accepted his job offer at Lockheed Martin in March of his senior year, even before his Senior Design Project was presented.  He had multiple job offers at the time and was in the interview process for several more.
Joshua also recommends a lot of research when it comes to the job front.  When he knew he wanted to work in the field of space, he googled “space industry employers.”  He made a list of over 60 companies and began researching them online.  He applied to about 2-3 jobs per company and created a custom cover letter and resume for each job, at each company.  “Build connections and speak to recruiters directly.  LinkedIn can be great for this.”
Joshua wasn’t afraid to take a few risks to get the job of his dreams either.  “Lockheed Martin wasn’t a company that was pursuing our graduates because we are a much smaller school.”  So he decided to go where the big fish were.  Josh drove to Purdue for their Engineering Job Fair.  He met with the recruiter at the event and made his contact there that eventually led to his current position. “I had a friend from NIU who was working on her Ph.D. at Purdue.  She showed me the side doors so I could get in without them knowing I didn’t go to Purdue.”
Joshua gives a lot of credit to his time here at NIU CEET.    

“Being at NIU CEET gave me the engineering training I needed.  I learned about designing and the engineering process.  I don’t use everything I learned because I work in such a specialization, but my time at CEET is what made me realize my passion for the aerospace industry.”
His advice to current CEET students?
“Find out what you want to do and do it.”

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We congratulate Joshua on his major milestone and look forward to 2018, when one of his designs will go space.
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