Tell us a little about your career and family journey and how that ties in to aerospace education?
My family and I moved to Washington State in 1969 and to Seattle in 1972, which was the height of the great Boeing bust, so from our earliest days it was crystal clear how important the aerospace sector was to the state and to this wonderful place we call home.
My career journey began with 20-years in the health and human services non-profit sector where I saw the leadership of Boeing executives serving on boards. When I led the United Way campaign, it was the incredible generosity of Boeing employees via the Boeing Employee Good Neighbor Fund (as it was then called) that drove home the point about how the great jobs the industry created also helped to make for healthier communities. Later, I served as Deputy Mayor of Seattle and then CEO of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce and came to see the depth of the sector beyond just Boeing. From small manufacturers in the Sodo area of Seattle to the aerospace suppliers in Kent, Everett and beyond, even as the economy rapidly diversified with software, gaming, Amazon, Starbucks, Costco, etc., the aerospace sector continued to offer the region wonderful jobs and the chance to invent the future of travel, including space travel, over and over again.
How did you hear about RTC?
My last six years of full-time work were spent at Boeing as the Vice-President of Global Corporate Citizenship and State and Local Government for the Commercial Airplane Company. During that time, I came to more fully understand the global opportunities presented by the sector and had the chance to participate as a leader in helping aerospace education grow and thrive. It was during my time at Boeing that I first visited Renton Technical College and began to learn about the wonderful work that happened on campus. It was very gratifying to me when my son Rob began working at RTC to help lead the successful implementation of the Air Washington training program. Now that he is serving as Associate Dean of Workforce, Trade and Economic Development it feels a little like I have handed the baton off to my son who will take the work I have done to help the aerospace sector be strong and take it to a whole new level.
What do you hope to see achieved with the Watt Family Aerospace Diversity Fund?
My wife Juanita and I know how hard it can be to pay for education. We hope to ease the burden in some small way for students who see a future for themselves in aerospace but need some help to get there. We are honored to be able to help.
What advice would you give students – especially students of color – who are considering a career in aerospace?
Our family is thoroughly multi-racial, we are Asian, Black, Latina, Caucasian and combinations thereof. The aerospace sector needs to be able to harness the tremendous skills and energies of people from all kinds of backgrounds and we want to help more students of color find their way into successful, interesting and challenging careers. It is a cliché to say that in aerospace the sky is the limit. We know all too well the challenges that students of color face going to work in an environment where they are not yet in the majority in the workforce. They can benefit from the kind of superior training and education that Renton Technical College provides, and being well prepared for what lies ahead is one of the best ways to live a successful, fulfilling life. So, what advice would I give? “Go for it!”