Traditionally, aerospace industry interests a lot of Arts et Metiers students. To know more about gadz working in the aerospace sector in the US, we decided to launch “Ad astra: dreams and reality of aerospace engineering”.
Our first interview in this series is with Jean-Christophe Boulon (Me 213)
AFAM: Hello, Jean-Christophe, and thank you for this interview. Your Linkedin profile says that you are in charge of Special projects at Safran Cabin in California.
Please could you tell us more about your job? What do you do every day at work?
Jean-Christophe: Hello and thanks for having me!
The nature of my job is to deliver projects for the VP of Engineering. Our company scaled up from Zodiac Aerospace to Safran, so there are many areas where processes and tools are missing. Lately, I built a tool that lets you track automatically the cost of a physical product directly from the 3D model. The tool merges different cost databases and renders it visually, for the engineers to the CEO.
Because we built a department around it, every day I work I try to build metrics to manage the work inflow and processes.
These days, I spend 20% of my time in meetings to follow the different running programs. Another 20% is spent on responding to emails (people needing training or support).
AFAM: How did you start your career in aerospace engineering? Tell us about your starting point.
Jean-Christophe: In 2017 I was doing research for the Department of Energy in Chicago. My visa time was up, and I found a VIE opportunity at Safran in California. At first the tasks were broad, and then I focused on process engineering and delivering high-value projects. I was lucky enough to work under a very dynamic boss who likes to innovate, and trusts his employees.
I think that if you like to bring value and you find this type of boss, it will go a long way to bringing you work satisfaction.
AFAM: What are the challenges of your job? What do you like most about your job?
Jean-Christophe: Creating a department means building something new, so I cannot benefit from proper mentorship. I also have to fight for resources. Lastly, like most big companies, there is sometimes a lot of work needed to gather trivial information. So proper networking within the company is paramount.
Overall, it's very intense. But as long as I deliver, I can direct my work independently, which gives a great sense of ownership.
AFAM: is there anything you’d like to say about the aerospace industry today: any challenges the industry faces, what are the best professional opportunities today in aerospace you can see and tell us about?
Jean-Christophe: The aerospace industry is diverse : some sectors are very dynamic ( urban mobility, defense..). The aeronautical sector is going through a slower pace, but business is still there.
There are opportunities everywhere: in smaller and newer companies to build the next best technology (A3, Boom, KittyHawk, Joby..), or in major companies to be part of something global (Boeing, Airbus, Safran..). There is a need for digitalization in most of these companies, and a can-do attitude will bring you a long way, no matter what you do. If you bring value and make your job better, success will come naturally.
AFAM: How being a gadzarts helped you in your career?
Jean-Christophe: I got my first internship at Safran Landing Systems thanks to the alumni phone book. I called a director, and he helped me right away.
In my last year at school, I was lucky enough to go study in Brazil with the school, and speaking Portuguese today is a valuable asset. Lastly, I know I can always count on the mentorship of elder gadzarts, while I try to help younger ones. We're the professional equivalent of Elton John's circle of life.
AFAM: Any pieces of advice for our students willing to start their careers in the aerospace industry and for those who are looking for internships?
Quality over quantity. Focus on a couple of companies, identify roles you are suited for, and try to reach out to connections in this company. There is a lot of competition in the US, never be afraid to reach out. Be organized and courageous, as it could be a lengthy process. But immensely rewarding.
Photo: courtesy of Jean-Christophe Boulon
Other interviews of "Ad astra: dreams and reality of aerospace engineering" series:
Interview with Laurène Rokvam (Bo 210)
Interview with Corentin Lazarus (Me 209)