Below the Surface, a Lot of us Share a Great Deal

Andy Wong

Northrop Grumman Intern Andy Wong on How his Family Background is Driving him to Succeed

By Elizabeth McCann

Andy Wong has wanted to work with aircraft since he was in kindergarten, when his father gave him a calendar with a picture of an F-14 Tomcat plastered above the summer months.

“I couldn’t stop thinking to myself, ‘Wow, I want to do that,’” Andy recalled.

Poor eyesight kept him out of the cockpit, but did not limit his ambition.  Andy chose to study engineering at the University of Michigan in hopes that he can design and build jets. In 2021, he attended a Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE) Conference, where he was interviewed by Northrop Grumman recruiters, the company that built the F-14, and later selected for an internship. The SASE conference also helped him connect to his Asian American heritage.

Andy’s father is a driving force behind many of his goals, and his accomplishments. When Andy was a freshman in high school, his father, who was also an engineer, passed away suddenly. He’d already inspired an interest in engineering in his son; beyond calendars with pictures of cool planes, he’d tell his son about the projects he was working on while they watched TV together on the weekends. When he died, Andy said he came to appreciate the sacrifices his father made, and the hard work that had gone into building a life in a United States.

“My dad arrived in the US with his parents and six brothers and sisters in March 1969 after a about a decade and a half of poverty in China and Hong Kong. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1978 and became a mechanical engineer,” Andy said. “I realized after he died that perhaps even more than my fascination with planes, trains, and automobiles, I owed him a responsibility to ensure that it did not go to waste. I want to be a faithful American, a solid engineer, a loving family man, and above all other things, a good man.”

As the son of a Chinese immigrant, Andy’s Asian heritage has always been a large part of his identity. Attending the SASE Conference gave him space to explore that identity even more and see where he was different and where he was the same as many of his fellow attendees. Andy appreciated the sense of unity throughout the conference. Even though there were times when the conference size was overwhelming, he also found connections.

“Chats opened up where we’d talk amongst one another. Below the surface, a lot of us share a great deal, the same fears, concerns, and goals,” he said. “You can walk your whole life never meeting someone who might be walking the same path, but there, in that moment, you’re having a chat with someone across the country about some show you watched as kids. In that way, I think it really shows how we aren’t so different after all.”

The SASE conference and Northrop Grumman internship are two fundamental milestones that have brought Andy a step closer to achieving his own dreams while honoring his father’s legacy. He said the internship allowed him to work on real projects and gave him insight into how engineers solve real problems. He felt included by leadership and learned a lot.

“I got a chance to work on bleeding edge technology and learn new things every day,” he said of his internship. “There was never a dull day.” –Andy Wong