104 – I’ll never forget this number and its significance in my life.
In the spring of 2020, I thought I had it all figured out. I was about to graduate from Tuskegee University with a degree in aerospace engineering and I had a job offer waiting for me. Then COVID-19 came and shook the world to its core. It also shook my world to its core. In a matter of a few months, my graduation ceremony turned virtual and my job offer was rescinded due to an "unforeseen circumstance of global impact." I felt defeated, lost. I didn't know what to do.
At the time, I failed to see that the pandemic was affecting everyone – not just me – and I would have self-pity parties. I applied to multiple jobs and was denied due to lack of experience. I moved back home because I couldn't afford to live on my own anymore. I took up a job delivering groceries just to earn a little of my own money. I continued to apply to more jobs, and to receive more denials. Thankfully, I had a circle of support. My girlfriend motivated me to keep trying, and her grandmother helped by sending job openings my way. My mom, the head woman in my life whose opinion I will always cherish, encouraged me to keep going. I would frequently ask her, "Why me? Why do I have to go through this?" She would give me the same answer each time: “be patient.”
I developed a pattern: work, apply, get denied, complain. This went on for an entire year. Then in June of 2021, I reached out to an L3Harris recruiter about a job in California, and they told me to apply. This was the 104th job application I had submitted since earning my degree. This time, I had a backup plan – if I got denied for the job, I was going to CDL school the very next week to become a truck driver. As it turns out, 104th time’s the charm. I interviewed, got the job, and all of a sudden I was driving a U-Haul truck with my car in tow from Georgia to California to work at L3Harris. I had finally done it.
When describing my early career journey, I like to say I took the scenic route. My mom was right about being patient – and my patience paid dividends. I enjoyed my role in quality engineering at L3Harris and my colleagues there who taught me the different aspects of the business and how to garner success with all of my objectives. I thank my hiring manager, for taking a chance on me and teaching me how to navigate the corporate world. I've since transferred to Texas to serve as a mass properties engineer, where I’m continuing to learn and grow my career.
My future goal is to introduce more students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) – like my alma mater Tuskegee – to the positive and inclusive environment that I’ve experienced at L3Harris. I want to find a way to give back, to find a way for other recent grads like me to get their foot in the door. For now, I encourage anyone reading this to keep going, keep striving and to lean on your circle for support. It’ll happen for you too. I am hope. I am L3Harris.