Welcome to the STEM Career Highlight Series, which is a Q&A series showcasing the people of Hughes and the STEM path they took to jumpstart their careers and get to where they are today. Through sharing these experiences, we hope to inspire the next generation of STEM leaders and instill in them the same enthusiasm and passion our employees have for what they do.
This week, we’re talking to Radhay, a network support engineer.
What got you interested in STEM?
I’ve been exposed to engineering for most of my life. My uncle was an electrical engineer, and when I was young, I wanted to be like him. When I was a little older, I started building my own computers and writing code in Fortran. My first was an IBM. Since then, I’ve always really enjoyed playing with technology.
Did you study STEM in school?
I grew up in DC in the late 80s, which was a tough time in the city. There were a lot of programs to keep kids off the streets, and I got to participate in many after-school/summer math and science programs. During first 2 years in college, the coursework was challenging and I didn’t like it at first, but I kept getting good grades, so I kept at it and my passion grew over time as I experienced new opportunities.
Eventually, I ended up getting a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Howard University, and a Master’s in telecommunications and computer engineering from Johns Hopkins University. Also, while at Hughes, went to Montgomery College for 2 years to obtain an automotive electrical specialist certificate. I actually pursued my Master’s after I started working at Hughes, and the company helped pay for my advanced degree—one of the perks of being an employee here.
How long have you been working for Hughes?
I’ve been with Hughes since 1996, when I graduated from Howard University. I work with our enterprise customers, helping plan rollouts of Hughes technology, helping in all aspects of customer network rollouts and support). It’s an innovative company pioneering an industry, and this has been particularly exciting for me. I also train our new hires to get better acquainted with the product line, and serve on an advisory group to identify and solve issues when they arise. I still get to be hands-on with our technology, which is what I enjoy the most.
What role has mentorship played in your career?
My mentors have been so important for my career. In high school, my mentors helped me stay on track – they motivated me to stay in school, fill out my college applications, and to keep on applying myself. In order to give back, I’ve started volunteering in programs like the one I participated in. Giving kids someone they can look up to is so important, especially when it’s someone who came from a similar background.
How has working at Hughes encouraged your professional development?
The culture at Hughes makes you want to grow professionally. Everyone is very smart and motivated, and most people on engineering teams either already have, or will pursue their Master’s degrees. That’s actually how I got mine – my mentors here encouraged me to pursue one – and Hughes helped with the cost. The company does a lot to foster growth, and a lot of people take advantage of that.
What’s been your favorite project to work on at Hughes?
My favorite projects are when I get to work closely with the customer, helping them troubleshoot to find any problems and then solve them.
One customer, a state government agency, had been using satellite communications networks to communicate in the field, and were experiencing some glitches. They weren’t sure what was causing the glitches, but thought it might have been the Hughes hardware. We did a lot of testing, and we figured out that the problem was coming from the customer’s existing infrastructure, and not Hughes hardware. That was an opportunity for me to do the things I enjoy most, and it was gratifying to be able to see the project through to the end.
What advice would you give to students entering the STEM field?
I tell the students I have volunteered with not to give up. Some of the classes I took in high school and college were very difficult, and it’s easy to want to give up, but those classes are a ticket to your career. I also tell students to keep learning. You learn a lot on the job and open yourself up to a lot of opportunities. Networking in the field is also the key to building and maintaining a professional circle.