An Engineer’s Journey: From BEYA to a Career at Northrop Grumman

Meet Travene Grant, a tool engineer, working as a metrologist. Travene works at Northrop Grumman in St. Augustine, Florida where he uses metrology, the science of measurement, to assist with building aircraft.

 

What was your journey to Northrop Grumman like?

I honestly didn't know much about Northrop Grumman before working here. I thought my passion was the automotive industry. I had an internship in college with a company I thought I wanted to work for, but felt like a number there.

One year, my school sponsored me to attend the Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA) Conference. I entered the lobby at BEYA and a Northrop Grumman representative was there encouraging us to visit their booth . This was when Northrop Grumman had just won the B-21 Raider contract, which sparked my interest. After researching and talking to one of the recruiters, I was more intrigued and ended up having a smooth interview process at BEYA. I believe my personal career goals were aligned with what my interviewers were searching for because I received my offer that day! A few years later, here I am.

How did you get into metrology?

I started off here because management had interest in laser projection, where I use 3D design layouts to line-up brackets and angles. I had a significant amount of designs to do in a couple months and my manager realized I was good at it. We have a group of metrology employees and eventually I approached them and asked if I could shadow them because our jobs seemed similar. They were happy to help me and I heard someone was ready to retire from the group. It was the perfect transition time to shadow and learn. There was 40 years worth of experience they were able to train me with, which was incredible. I really enjoyed learning about it and there is always a need for it on our campus.

In that spirit, how would you describe the culture?

One of the biggest things that drew me to St. Augustine was the seamless environment. There's no difference in how people are treated. Whether you're a junior engineer or one with decades of experience – we're all on the team together. The junior engineers have the passion to learn, the experienced engineers have the knowledge and aren't afraid to pass that knowledge across. A lot of senior engineers have relationships with us, as well as shop floor mechanics.

What's it like to have an organization to support you?

They want me to succeed here. They want me to be comfortable. I received great support from my former manager who introduced me to a lot of people and helped me figure out my best fit.

One thing I noticed coming here is there are managers in my age group, that look like me and have similar backgrounds, which drew me toward staying at a site like this. Northrop Grumman not only promotes the experienced employees, but isn't afraid to take risks and promote someone who is qualified and deserves the job, who may not have years of experience just yet.

What are some examples of creativity to what you do and working in an agile environment?

There's creativity in finding solutions to challenges. Some ways I've been challenged are working new laser projections and finding ways to improve the process. I'm on a team in a supportive environment to constantly succeed, and with that experience around me, I am always motivated.

Many of the engineers around me have been here a long time. They push me and motivate me, but perhaps even more important – they appreciate me.

With all the measurement you have to do, you have to be precise. Does it carry into your personal life?

We want to make sure our product is safe and the best, so we have a lot of tolerances.

I now have an eye for certain things in my personal life through the precision I do at work and look for it in my everyday tasks. For example, I'm looking for a new car at the moment. When I'm car shopping, I notice more critical details like gaps or hinges of doors.

What does your family think of all this?

My family was very happy to hear about this job, after I described what we do and what my role is. I'm a part of a first generation to graduate from college in my family, so it's an honor I can share with them.

Also, I was accepted to UCF for my masters in engineering, which Northrop Grumman is offering to pay for which they're also proud of.

If you were going to talk to someone new about the company, what would you tell them?

There are so many opportunities out there! St. Augustine is a small site, but there's so much opportunity to support it. At small sites, you can grow and build skills you didn't even plan on building. This makes your responsibility on site huge. As an entry-level engineer, I never thought I'd have this much responsibility. It definitely motivates me.

You seem to do lots of serious stuff at work – do you have fun?

We literally just had a basketball tournament fundraiser this morning! My coworkers and I hang out in our collaboration lounge we have on campus and play ping-pong when we aren't crunching on a deadline. It's nice to take a break and enjoy company of people you work with. We also see each other outside of work for social activities like watching baseball games, trivia nights, and going to the beach.

What is the biggest misconception people have about your job?

Probably the biggest misconception a lot of people have is that engineering is boring. People think you're sitting behind a desk buried in numbers. The reality of it is, you get a euphoria from designing just like artists and musicians do, or like a mechanic using their tools. We're able to create a design and watch it go from a computer screen, to being fabricated in a machine shop and going into the hands of a production worker. Not a lot of people get the opportunity to see that. I think it's pretty cool, not boring at all.

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