Social knowledge builds Boeing career

Natalia Valdez / Marc Studer photo

By Douglas Esser
University of Washington Bothell graduate Natalia “Natty” Valdez works for Boeing, securing key parts for 787 and 737 jetliners through the company’s partner in Korea. In dealing with global managers and engineers for one of the world’s premier aerospace manufacturers, Valdez said her 2011 degree in Society, Ethics and Human Behavior proves to be surprising help.

“It had an emphasis on building relationships, knowing diverse cultures, working with a lot of different people, small groups,” Valdez said. “It came together well.”

Those skills help her tackle technology on the job, too. “I learn as I go. I get in the weeds and read whatever and work with engineering and see where it takes me,” said Valdez.

Still a learner, she also is working on an MBA in the Western Washington University executive weekend program at the Everett University Center.

Starting out

A transfer student from Edmonds Community College and the first in her family to receive a college degree, Valdez always wanted to attend the University of Washington. A counselor pointed out programs in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences.

“Society, Ethics and Human Behavior stood out for me,” said Valdez. Almost every day, she still recalls an impactful course that makes her ponder “what you think you want versus what you actually want,” she said.

Bothell also was closer to home for Valdez, who worked at a waterfront restaurant in Mukilteo while a student. That job led to Boeing when friendly patrons from the company helped put her resume on the right desk. After graduating, she was a contract worker for two years and has been a full-time employee of Boeing Commercial Airplanes for five years. To “go direct” from contractor to permanent, Valdez said she used her relationship-building skills by saying yes to anyone who needed help.

As a procurement agent, Valdez specifically works with Korean Air, the national airline that also is a Boeing supplier of wing fairings and wing tips for the 787 and radomes (noses) for the 737. Valdez travels once or twice a year to the Korean Air factory in the city of Busan.

Coming back

Still part of the UW Bothell community, Valdez retains several ties. She participates in Career Services panels where she talks about Boeing’s culture, career paths and how to make contacts for internships and jobs.

Valdez also agreed to share more about her job for a case study for School of Business students in the supply chain program. She’ll take them to the Boeing plant near Everett to see the Korean parts on the 787 assembly line.

In addition, Valdez plans to bring her Boeing diversity team to UW Bothell’s Digital Future Lab. The lab is an interactive media production studio, committed to providing a creative and commercially rigorous learning environment where diversity is intentionally maximized. Her team is looking for different ways to approach problems, people and projects.

“We want to glean from them how they are doing things differently,” Valdez said. “We want to learn as much from them as they can learn from us — brain share.”

People matter

For students working their way through school and trying to move into careers, Valdez advises, be persistent and build relationships.

“Sometimes you fail. Failure is not the end. Remember to approach people in a positive manner, because you never know if those people will be in your future. Always say yes, if you can,” Valdez said. “Work is more about people than work.”

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