Mihaylo international business alumnus Christopher Stewart ’15 hopes that his internship at NASA’s Johnston Space Center in Houston will launch his career, which combines business education with engineering goals.
“Working for NASA has been a lifelong dream,” says Christopher Stewart ’15. “I realized I wanted to commit myself to aerospace in my junior year of college. So after finishing my business degree at Mihaylo College, I packed up and left California for Texas to pursue a more technical background.”
In March, Stewart began an internship at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, involving the design and creation of self-driving vehicles. NASA and commercial manufacturers have been collaborating on the development of driverless technology that can be used for passenger vehicles as well as space vehicles for planetary missions to Mars and elsewhere in the solar system.
From International Business to Engineering
When Stewart committed to an aerospace education, he faced challenges translating his business experience to the engineering field, yet he found his schooling was still invaluable. “My degree got me a job at a local engineering company here in Houston and has provided me with the ability to earn a living wage and gain experience in the field,” he says.
“My international business degree was an enormous help, because I feel that as the world moves forward we are going to need more and more people who are financially literate and able to speak with people from other nations,” says Stewart. “I think that combining a business understanding with a technical background is going to be an incredible asset to the aerospace industry, because we are seeing an increase in technical jobs. But also, at the end of the day, a business is a business and will need people who can run it.”
Stewart’s Big Break
For Stewart, getting his foot in the door at NASA began with networking with a community college instructor in the Houston area. “Shortly after moving to Texas, I started networking to see who I could get involved with to better my odds of getting in the door with NASA,” he says. “I found a professor at a local community college who was participating with a small group of students in a nationwide NASA-sponsored robotics competition. I instantly knew this was my in and got involved.”
While Stewart was not adept at coding, he was able to conceptualize the plan and make it understandable. With his help, the college’s team won seventh place. “It was good enough to raise an eyebrow for the professor leading the team,” he says. “He offered to recommend me to some people at NASA, which led to my internship at Johnson Space Center.”
Since 2015, Stewart has been working on a second undergraduate degree program at the University of Houston in mechanical engineering. He hopes to pursue a graduate degree after he completes his current program in 2017 to better position himself for a career in the field.
Advice for Students
“If there was one thing I would recommend to anyone who is trying to do anything in life, especially those who are just graduating or will soon be graduating, it is make a plan,” says Stewart. “A goal is nice, but a goal doesn’t get you to where you want to go. Now admittedly, your plan might fail. My first several plans failed miserably. But I kept trying; I wanted it bad enough that I wasn’t willing to give up.”
While realizing that science and technology companies often require a technical background, Stewart encourages students not to discount these positions if they have business degrees. “The world runs on business and there will always be a demand for people with a business degree,” he says. “Organizations such as Space X, NASA, Boeing and Lockheed are all businesses and need to be run by business-minded people.”
Stewart notes that academic and work experience needs to build on each other. “Don’t have experience that is dead weight, and make sure that each opportunity you pursue can lead to another opportunity in the same direction.”
Stewart’s journey shows that a business degree can take you anywhere.
To search for careers at NASA, check out the agency’s OSSI website, which is the organization’s main recruitment forum for undergraduate and graduate students.
Students interested in aerospace might also consider participating in Mihaylo College’s annual Boeing Case Study Competition, in which teams of students develop financial and business plans that are judged by executives of the aerospace company. For more information on this annual event, contact Mihaylo Career Services at 657-278-8738 or visit them at SGMH 1409.