Advanced Education Opportunities Draw an Early-Career Engineer to MITREJuly 2017
Francisco Ramos-Carrizosa came to Boston intending to pursue a master's degree at one of the area's top academic institutions. In landing a job at MITRE, he found a path to achieving his educational goal, contributing to work developing technologies that will have a real-world impact, as well as augmenting his technical capabilities with the tools to lead.
Ramos-Carrizosa was born in Kansas after his parents came to the United States from Paraguay as part of the Partners of the Americas education exchange where his father completed his Ph.D. at the University of Kansas. Reared in the Kansas City suburbs, Ramos-Carrizosa completed his undergraduate work in the university’s mechanical engineering program.
"I came to Boston looking for programs with subjects I was interested in, that were as good as or better than the program I came out of," he says. He couldn't afford graduate school right away. But through an acquaintance, he interviewed at MITRE and joined the technical staff at MITRE’s Bedford, Massachusetts, campus.
As a full-time employee, Ramos-Carrizosa took advantage of MITRE's professional development benefits, which include education assistance. He attended an information session about the Gordon Engineering Leadership (GEL) Program at Northeastern University where he also learned of MITRE’s partnership with the program. The school invited him to apply for one of the 40 openings in the next class.
Managing Humans When Numbers Don’t Apply
Engineers graduating from master's and doctoral programs are more technically specialized than ever. But engineering programs don't help these technical minds understand human behavior. A lack of people skills can prevent them from performing at an optimal level when they begin their careers.
Unlike the typical technical graduate program, the GEL program incorporates leadership development into an advanced engineering curriculum. It attracts candidates from a variety of companies and institutions in the Boston area. Participants work with a professional from the industry, who advises them for the duration of the program.
Upon completion, participants earn a master of science degree in their select discipline, a graduate certificate in engineering leadership, and the title of "Gordon Fellow."
A Challenging but Supportive Environment
MITRE assists Ramos-Carrizosa in several ways. For instance, his graduate degree is eligible for tuition reimbursement. And unlike many of his fellow GEL candidates, Ramos-Carrizosa's industry advocate is also his MITRE group leader, who has been very supportive of his work in the program.
Ramos-Carrizosa's GEL research project is part of a broader initiative under MITRE’s internal research program. The initiative focuses on developing a prototype 3D-printed phased array antenna and integrated circuitry that a government sponsor could build and deploy quickly in the field. Ramos-Carrizosa is performing thermal analyses to determine failure modes to understand what elements would make the technology workable and what level of performance the user can expect.
The rigors of the GEL Program add a layer of intense course work to an already demanding engineering job, he says. That's where the close-knit cohort makes a difference. "In engineering school, we experienced a lot of collaboration and study time with people in the library, but that ends at the library door. I don’t think any of us could survive [the GEL program] on our own.
"We help each other through, because there's a shared interest in each other's success."
After a rough first year, learning to balance the demands of GEL and his MITRE responsibilities, Ramos-Carrizosa is focused on his project and building on the lessons of year one. The program has helped him learn how to manage stress and deal with the unexpected that arises from work, relationships, schedule, or other factors.
"It's been very valuable at MITRE in helping me deal with other people," he says. "It's helping us learn how to behave in ways that get the best out of the people around us, and the best out of ourselves."
—by Molly Manchenton
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