As aerospace engineering majors leave the Forty Acres and set out to change the world, they are well equipped to work in a number of exciting technological fields. With such a versatile degree, many of our alumni have gone on to be successful in a variety of careers. Although space is still a destination for several of our graduates, it also serves as a foundation to further explore and solve problems across various disciplines. Designing clean-burning jet engines, advancing the next generation of global communication and navigation, creating adaptable spacesuits, and mapping hurricanes and deforestation are just a few examples of how our alumni have applied their degrees. Yet some of our students are still not aware of the vast number of possibilities their degree has to offer.
When Dan Deans, BS ASE '90 and Vice President of Corporate Development at Millennium Engineering and Integration Company, became a member of the UT ASE/EM External Advisory Committee (EAC), he was given the chance to do what he loves best – serve others. His time on the committee gave Deans the opportunity to speak to current aerospace students, which helped him decide how he might best assist the department.
Deans walked away with two big challenges – one, the aerospace department needed to increase female enrollment and two, he felt the need to find a way to communicate to students the versatility, value and usefulness of graduating with a UT aerospace engineering degree.
"Aerospace engineers have this stigma tattooed in their own brains, that once we graduate we can only work for NASA, or the Big Three," Deans said. "And although those are great places to work, what they don't see is that we tend to be the ones who limit ourselves because there are so many other career opportunities out there."
Deans, who describes himself as not being the best student in the world, used his ability to relate to people and his need to serve others as a platform to start his career. Deans' career has ranged from working as a contractor for NASA Johnson Space Center to being one out of 50,000 employees working at the Dow Chemical Company with an aerospace engineering degree. Over the span of his career, Deans has come to realize "the sky is the not limit to what you can do with your UT aerospace degree."
"I have been blessed to work in the semi-conductor industry, the chemical industry, the aerospace industry and several places in between," Deans said. "Jumping through four different industries in my career has taught me the importance of thinking about the versatility that our degree offers."
As Vice President of Corporate Development at Millennium, Deans is able to use his aerospace background to push business initiatives. Millennium Engineering and Integration, established in 1995, is a systems engineering and integration company that provides expertise in various disciplines through all phases of the systems engineering lifecycle to organizations like NASA, the Missile Defense Agency, the Armed Forces, and other civilian agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Deans' main responsibility is to develop business by convincing organizations that Millennium is the best company for the job. In other words, Deans is responsible for Millennium sales and his degree has made him become uniquely qualified for the job. His ability to apply his knowledge about aerospace engineering to the business of Millennium makes him adept at technical writing, corporate strategic planning and creating new business by demonstrating his expertise in the field.
"My job has allowed me to work with so many different people and spend my time serving others," Deans said. "I love that I'm in a service oriented job where I identify what customers need and then turn around and come up with solutions."
After three years serving on the EAC, Deans wants to give students advice they may not expect to hear.
"My advice to students would be to put more emphasis on developing and using their people skills because at the end of the day that will serve them the most," Deans said. Although Deans knows GPA is important he also believes it should not define a person. Students should strive to become what the baseball world calls a five-tool-player, an overall across the board person or in our case, engineer.
Millennium currently supports aerospace engineering students annually by funding several scholarships. Deans' commitment to serving others has also led him to establish the Catherine Marie Deans Scholarship in honor of his wife, Catherine. The scholarship will be available annually to women in aerospace engineering beginning next year.
"Students – Get excited about aerospace, be appreciative, apply yourself and bleed orange," Deans says. "Don't let the fact that your degree says aerospace pigeonhole you, because you are graduating from one of the best universities in the world."