GE would not be the company it is today without its employees. From working mothers to U.S. military veterans, GE has a diverse team that should be recognized and celebrated. So, we created a series called the “Quick Six”—six questions we are asking employees to help us learn about their talents and backgrounds.
In our next installation of Quick Six, we sat down with Omar Waller, a software engineer in the Edison Engineering Development Program (EEDP), who works with the Flight Management System team in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Tell us a bit about your role and what you do.
This rotation I am a software engineer on the User Interface Team for the TrueCourse Flight Management system. My team and I are currently building a flight management system user interface for Comac’s C919 Program.
On a day-to-day basis, I code what we call “widgets.” When the pilot is entering their flight plan details, each of those entries on the screen are captured using “widgets.” I also work on defining what is happening in the code and formal documentation. We have a delivery with our customer Comac—a Chinese commercial aircraft corporation—with a tight deadline in March. They need a demo of our flight management system and expect a few core features to be done. It is a big milestone for us.
Tell us about your engineering background. What in your life inspired you to want to become an engineer?
My dad was a plumber; he owned his own business. I would always go to work with him and hold the flashlight. This is where I got an introduction to how things break down and what sparked an engineering mindset. I did a summer program at Tuskegee University in Alabama while I was in high school and I learned about all the disciplines of engineering. I always leaned towards electrical engineering.
Tuskegee is a historically black college. Both of my parents attended historically black colleges as well; my mom went to Spelman College and my dad went to Fisk University. They encouraged me to go to Tuskegee and I really enjoyed it. It was a great experience for me.
In college I interned at GE Aviation as a sophomore going into my junior year. I learned about the Edison Engineering Development Program and sure enough EEDP became the leading factor for me coming on-board at GE. All the facets of the program appealed to me; I always desired to further my education. I can do all of this in three years at GE: I could work, I could save money, continue paying off my student loans and a Master’s degree.
What is the Edison Engineering Development Program and how do you see it benefitting you in your role as an engineer?
I am in my third and final year in the Edison Program. Each year we rotate to a new team and work on a different project. Through Edison, participants can earn their master’s degree. I just finished my full-time semester at Marquette University. When I graduated undergrad, I did not know how to code. I chose the software route, which was a big jump for me. I used a lot of online resources and I took extra online courses in coding; all this extra work helped open a whole new industry to me. Edison gave me the opportunity to go down that path instead of just sticking with what I learned in undergrad.
Aside from that, the Edison program provides opportunities for full year courses focused on different topics in engineering. Also, I got to go on my first international training trip through the Edison Program. We went to Querétaro in Mexico. It was a week of learning all about the engineering design process. It was a great experience to get exposure and learn from those whose culture is completely different from mine. We had a fun time in Mexico and we even got to tour a little bit.
What is the most exciting aspect about the work that you are doing?
For me, it is knowing that all the widgets that I am making go in the airplane and the pilot is going to interact with them. That is the coolest part about working on the user interface team—you get to see the tangible results of your efforts. Whenever you leave a plane and peek into the cockpit, you can see those widgets that you worked on. You could probably talk to the pilot and ask, “Did my feature work correctly?” I think that is great.
I have really found my niche in aviation. On a day-to-day basis, I am inspired because I know that people get on these planes and pilots interact with this software. We have a small team, so each of us must be highly accountable to each other. I’m always motivated to carry my weight.
Do you have any proud accomplishments that you are willing to share?
In my first week I was able to deliver a widget. Whenever a pilot is entering in information about their flight plan from one city to the next, they enter in performance characteristics of how they want to fly the plane. One of those performance entries is something called the “cost index,” which is giving the opportunity for the pilot to decide whether they want to go quicker and use more fuel or go slower and use less fuel by how aggressively the autopilot controls the plane. This widget allows the pilot to enter in a number that controls how aggressively the plane can be flown.
Do you have any advice for a budding engineer who might be interested in working at GE Aviation?
The Edison Program is a dream opportunity for someone passionate about engineering and/or aviation. When I graduated I had no idea what I wanted to do but getting involved helped spark an interest in aviation for me. After diving deeper into avionics, I have found my spot on the Flight Management Systems Team. Something I would recommend to someone interested in working at GE Aviation is that if you are not sure what you want to do, apply for the Edison program so you can diversify your roles and disciplines. Getting involved is the perfect opportunity to learn about the options you have for your career.