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I Am L3Harris: Eldon

Corporate Headquarters
May 21, 2024 | 2 Minute Read

Recently, I ran into an old friend from high school, and we naturally got onto the topic of work. When I mentioned I’m a product line engineer with L3Harris, he chuckled in disbelief. “Really, you? An engineer?” he said. 

To be fair, when my high school classmates were picking colleges and career paths, I was intent on playing it by ear. Even if he was a stranger, I wouldn’t take offense to this response. Engineering isn’t a common career choice for Polynesians. When my parents moved here from the Pacific islands of Western Samoa, the only expectation of their children was that they would graduate high school and provide for themselves and their families. If we could find work, they would be happy. I’ve been a construction worker, an aircraft ramp agent and a delivery driver. While these jobs were fulfilling in their own ways and I thrived in them, I felt I owed it to my parents and my children to strive for something more.     

When I enrolled in college to study electrical engineering, I was in my 30s and thus starting the journey later in life than most other students. Adding to the difficulty of this new endeavor, I was also married, and together my wife and I were raising three under three – a girl and identical twin boys. 

When classes began, I quickly felt out of place as a Polynesian engineering student. It was as though all my classmates were natural engineers before we had completed even a year of coursework. After narrowly surviving my second year, I felt discouraged and questioned whether I should continue. I was convinced I was not as smart as my classmates. But I refused to give up and instead decided I must work twice as hard. That meant relying on my wife even more. She prioritized our family while I prioritized my education; while I would get to campus at 4 a.m. and return home at 10 p.m., she took care of our children and our home. Our teamwork and my determination enabled me to stay on campus for hours on end, attending office hours and studying so that I could understand and complete projects in a timely fashion.  

People began to notice I was always at school, chipping away at that week’s assignment. Eventually, a few of my classmates joined me to work through the assignments together, and this evolved into a regular study group. It was surreal to me that the same students I had deemed to be the geniuses of our class were now asking me questions. But even more surprising was that the complex concepts I struggled with a year prior were now making sense, and I was able to teach them to others. That semester was the first time I ever made the Dean’s List, and the following semester I achieved my first 4.0 GPA. 

Today, I am a proud first-generation college graduate with a master’s degree in electrical engineering. At times, I still find myself feeling out of place, but I recall the lessons I learned from college and graduate school: never give up, keep learning, keep working hard and keep striving to be better. Do that, and when you run into a friend from your past, they won’t be surprised by your success — they’ll have expected nothing less.

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I am L3Harris

L3Harris is committed to fostering a culture of inclusion and respect. Hear about our employees’ experiences directly from team members around the world in our “I Am L3Harris” series.
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