A Curious Mind
By Gina V. Ramsey
When Mike Bryan was a kid in Gulfport, Mississippi he spent his time daydreaming about Star Trek and taking apart radios. Yet admittedly school was ‘never his thing,’ so instead of taking a traditional route towards college, Mike weaved his own path.
“I took my GED and joined the Marines,” he said.
His 6 years in the infantry brought Mike to Camp Pendleton, during which time he served in the Gulf War. After that, he tried his hand as a stockbroker for a year; had a brief stint as male model and actor; and directed Black Box Theater. He then went into maintenance work for over 10 years, using the skills he learned in the military, and even running his own handy man business. During this time, Mike met and fell in love with Linda who was studying to be a lawyer. Eventually the pair moved to Long Beach when Linda was offered a job. The beautiful weather and open space made the decision to settle here an easy one.
It was while Linda was pregnant with their second child that Mike gave school another chance.
“In my early 30’s, I decided to go back to school, and when pressed for a major, I thought to myself, I like to build, and I like space, so naturally the aerospace degree was a choice,” Mike said.
He attended Long Beach City College for his general studies and transferred to Cal State Long Beach, earning a degree in aerospace engineering. And soon after, this self-proclaimed ‘school isn’t for me’ guy, decided to return to Cal State Long Beach to earn his MBA.
“Both are fine schools and very affordable,” he said.
Being raised by a single mother, Mike never imagined he’d be where he is now. He has been in aerospace since 2012, and in his current position for just over 5 years, providing customer service to all major airline companies, helping airlines meet Federal Aviation Administration safety standards, and advising them on how to install new airplane products.
Some of his duties have him in front of a screen or on a phone in constant contact with these companies, but occasionally he will need to travel nationally and internationally, like he did a few years ago to Qatar. Aside from his engineer duties helping international customers retrofit airplanes, Mike uses these opportunities to also ‘bridge cultural divides.’
“The airline industry is just like any other customer driven industry,” he said. “Customers will have needs beyond the end product, and the companies that strive to meet those needs will be creating a lasting valuable relationship that [is beneficial to both].”
For customer support engineers, such as himself, Mike believes the ‘future is bright.’
“As airline products become more complex, customer support will always need to be up to date on the latest products and tools to better serve the customer,” he said. “Most people think of engineers as designers and that is where the action is, but [customer service], support has, and always will be, an industry of constant change and growth.”
The rich history of aviation manufacturing in Long Beach still attracts those with curious minds that gravitate toward how things work.
“For [students] interested in pursuing engineering, I suggest attending science fairs and some of the great academic camps [in the city],” Mike said. “For the older kids, take an early college level class offered at LBCC.”
He also suggests looking into aerospace companies’ outreach groups that may offer 3D printing and robotics, as well as seeking a high school science pathway program.
“Being an engineer is about being curious about how something works,” he said. “if you have that, don’t lose it.”