A Letter from DoD STARBASE Graduate Gazment Sosoli

What do you want to become when you grow up? – That is the question we are asked during our elementary and teenage years, and the answer is often influenced by our interests and exposure to what is possible. Fortunately for me, attending DoD STARBASE was the first spark that led me to pursue a challenging and rewarding career in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

A whole new world of possibilities opened for me when my family moved from Albania to the United States in 2005. I was halfway through 5th grade when I enrolled at Driggs Elementary school in downtown Waterbury, Connecticut. I can still remember the excitement when we attended DoD STARBASE because it allowed me to use my math skills and become a problem solver within my team, despite the challenge of speaking broken English. The sense of pride I felt running out in the field to catch the rocket I had built, as it was descending from a successful launch, will always be an incredible feeling for me.  I kept the rocket for months in my room as a trophy.

The experience I had at DoD STARBASE just a couple of months after arriving to the United States amplified my imagination to what I could become and later led me to take on engineering electives in high school. Thanks to an amazing teacher, I was fortunate to compete in the Real World Design Challenge and Sikorsky STEM Challenge as my team designed the fuselage and tail wings of a business jet and redesigned the engine mount of a WWII Vought-Sikorsky F4U Corsair fighter plane that held the Pratt and Whitney engine, respectively. The passion to working in a STEM field kept building up with each STEM project in which I was involved.  This passion led me to successfully earn a Mechanical Engineering degree at the University of Connecticut.

While pursuing my engineering degree at UConn, I interned at Sikorsky Aircraft as a Reliability and Maintainability (R&M) Engineer. At Sikorsky, I played an important role in tracking the S-92 Helicopter flight hours and calculating MTBUR’s (Mean Time Before Unit Replacement) for the S-92 and S-76 helicopters parts, enabling the R&M team to initiate improvement projects.

Now, I’m in the Commercial Leadership Program at General Electric—a two-year program that fosters the development of commercial and technical skills in the GE Power business. I spent the first six months on program as an Application Engineer in Burlington, Iowa where I designed high voltage electrical equipment for critical applications in Oil and Gas, Mining, Data Centers, Pulp and Paper, Renewables, Healthcare, and many other industries. I then spent the next six months as a Commercial Operations Manager in Plainville, Connecticut where I created big data analytics dashboards using Six Sigma methodologies. Now, I’m a Project Manager in Cary, North Carolina and am working with cross functional teams in engineering, product management, and sales, to develop and launch a new equipment visualization product. This will help companies in the various industries reduce their energy use, reduce downtime with predictive analytics, and keep engineers’ safe with remote equipment control. Having the opportunity to work with equipment that brings power to the world is a rewarding experience and I’m thankful for the early influence that DoD STARBASE had on my path to pursuing a career in STEM.

 It is of the outmost importance that young generations learn about STEM and are exposed to STEM related fields through programs like DoD STARBASE because it will help them realize what is possible with STEM so they can drive forward the future of our society.

Posted August 2018

Gazment Sosoli