Want To Build Future-Defining Tech In An Expectations-Defying Culture? Work For This Aerospace Tech Company was originally published on WayUp.
AeroVironment is an aerospace company. It’s also a technology company. But neither of those things define who they are or how they work. Yes, they collaborate with government agencies like NASA and the US military like an aerospace firm. But they also innovate quickly; rapidly develop prototypes; and use small, diverse teams to create new technologies faster than the competition—just like many Silicon Valley tech companies do.
So, what’s it like working at a company like AeroVironment? We spoke to some of their employees to find out.
Benjamin Became The Aeromechanical Engineer Of His Childhood Dreams—And Now His Work Is Heading To Mars
“I’ve always been very interested in airplanes and helicopters from a very young age. I started out working on model airplanes when I was about ten years old. I got hooked from that,” Benjamin, now a Senior Aeromechanical Engineer at AeroVironment, tells us.
So, when he was able to work on the Mars Helicopter project—a collaboration between AeroVironment and NASA/JPL—it was really the culmination of a life-long dream. But for Benjamin, the dream doesn’t stop there. He sees even more opportunities for AeroVironment to contribute to the future of space exploration.
“If it’s successful, we’ll be looking into larger helicopters that could also collect interesting science on other planets,” he explains. Plus, Benjamin says, his team’s work on high-altitude solar planes opens even more possibilities—for both their impact as a team and their careers.
“There’s a pretty wide range of applicability there. There are a lot of defense solutions, commercial projects with agriculture. And then there’s the planetary exploration aspect,” he says.
Sara Gets To Innovate Quickly—And Have Fun Doing It
Sara is an Aeromechanical Engineer on a team that—among other things—created a helicopter that’s currently on its way to Mars on the back of NASA’s latest rover. But even though the Mars Helicopter was a collaboration with some of the most important names in aerospace, it didn’t cramp the company’s spirit of innovation, which Sara first learned about as an intern.
“Even when I was an intern, I loved the culture of being hands on, getting to try things and test things and see what works,” she says.
When she went full-time, she was given the same freedom to test out ideas, build prototypes, and see if they could accomplish the seemingly impossible.
“Honestly, I have fun at work,” Sara says. “We get to play in the shop. We get to be really innovative and creative with the things we’re building. We’re given a lot of freedom to try things and prototype.”
Of course, seeing her work land on Mars will be a new type of thrill, too.
AeroVironment Gave Stephanie The Freedom To Discover Her Passions—And The Range To Become An Excellent Engineer
Coming out of college, Stephanie already had a wide skill set—from bioengineering to wing design—but she wasn’t sure what she wanted to focus on in her career. When she read the job description for AeroVironment’s Mechanical Engineer role, she thought the wide range of responsibilities was just a recruiting trick. What it actually was: the perfect way for her to start her career on her own terms.
“I thought that the company had decided to list such a wide range of job responsibilities in order to keep the requisition vague and applicable to any role,” Stephanie explains. “When I had my interview, I asked: ‘So, which of those responsibilities would my role mainly consist of?’ And the answer was: ‘All of them.’”
This proved to be true. Over the next three years Stephanie got involved in engineering drawings, tooling, test plans, fabrication processes, and way more, working on products like AeroViroment’s handheld Switchblade drone. Now, even in a more senior mechanical engineering role, Stephanie is still discovering new passions and skills at AeroVironment.
“I pride myself on my ability to be a ‘firefighter,’ capable of fixing all types of problems as they arise, and that has come solely from working at AeroVironment,” she says.
Natalie’s Career—And Her Expertise—Is Growing Faster Than Ever
“Before joining AeroVironment, I worked as an engineer at one of the world’s largest automotive companies,” Natalie, a Systems Flight Test Engineer at AeroVironment, explains. “So, the overall size of the team was quite different.”
Now that she works at AeroVironment, not only are her projects more engaging—what’s cooler than satellites and spacecraft?—but her work is more involved and requires greater levels of expertise, which she’s building by working with small, collaborative teams.
“Since joining AeroVironment, I’ve had the opportunity to work with various groups and program teams and the responsibility to manage many tasks on multiple programs. This has enabled me to grow my technical and managerial skills through problem-solving, time management, and organizational awareness to effectively and efficiently balance the challenging demands of many projects.”
And this was exactly what Natalie was looking for in her next step. Before joining, she was actually deciding between AeroVironment and another aerospace company but wanted to speed up her career growth. Going with AV was a bet that immediately started paying off.
Kyle’s Work Changes From Project To Project—And That Keeps Him Engaged
“I’m not pigeonholed into one specific discipline as is common at larger aerospace companies,” Kyle says. “My work and my role changes from project to project, and I am encouraged to get involved in what I’m most interested in.”
That probably explains why, in just over two years, Kyle has worked on projects ranging from data analysis to product design. This variety isn’t just good for his skill set; it also adds a sense of adventure to his day-to-day life.
“My role allows ample opportunities for me to attend live flight tests of our products, most of which are local to beautiful Ventura County,” he explains. “A day out in the rolling hills of Simi Valley can be a nice break from the computer screen.”
Besides his technology work, he’s also a member of AeroVironment’s Culture Club, which organizes social events like their New Year’s party and team lunches. Making the culture more welcoming and easygoing is a part of what powers his ability to deliver high-stakes aerospace projects.
“The company knows how important the work we do at AV is, and in turn they truly take care of us,” he says. “I will not forget the first time I heard from a customer that our product saved their life and the lives of their platoon. At AeroVironment, you can feel the difference we are making.”
Multifaceted Teams Gave Hector New Opportunities (Which Led To A Well-Earned Promotion)
Hector started out in a temporary role on AeroVironment’s Service Desk team, responding to customer inquiries and user issues. However, his team’s lean structure and AeroVironment’s naturally entrepreneurial culture led to him taking on a new, critical project.
“My biggest accomplishment is our ticket system as I built that from the ground up and it was my first enterprise-level project, and not just at AeroVironment, but in my career,” Hector explains. “After a few months I was rewarded with a promotion to a full-time role on the Server team.”
This was good news, and not only because of the promotion. Hector was happy to join a team with such a tight-knit, motivated community.
“We have so much pride here! AV truly cares about its employees and our welfare and opinions. From the CEO down you can have a conversation with anyone just by passing them in the hallway. It’s a cultural thing you cannot find at all companies,” Hector says. “Time and time again you’ll even see folks leave but then come back for the people and the culture.”
Make A Difference, Make A Career—And Do It Your Own Way
AeroVironment’s opportunities are a chance to make more than a career. You can make a difference in the world around you. Saving lives, exploring planets, and bringing about the future of flight—these things happen because of AeroVironment technology.
Want to start your career building the future? Check out AeroVironment on WayUp!
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