High Hopes: Flying lessons inspire a career path

By Debra Smith For The Herald

Shirley Johnson, 43

City: Lynnwood

Program: Bachelor of science in aeronautics at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Everett campus)

Q: How did you come to enroll in this program?

A: When I started work at Boeing, I knew I would take advantage of their education benefit. I started taking prerequisites. I’d been out of school nine years, but I found things I liked. One of the things I liked was chemistry, and that was originally going to be my major. A friend got me interested in flying lessons. I really enjoyed it. I started looking at schools closer to work and thinking about aeronautics. Embry was closest and would take me the farthest.

Q: What would be your ideal first job after you earn your bachelor’s degree?

A: I don’t know. I’d like to do something more challenging than what I’m doing now. When I think ahead five or 10 years, I might go back and get a chemistry degree.

Right now, the goal is to become a procurement agent. I have an associate’s degree in business management and 12 years of procurement experience with Boeing and other companies. Boeing requires a bachelor’s degree for that position. Procurement agents deal with a lot of proprietary information.

Q: Do you follow Boeing in the news? How do you feel about the company’s prospects?

A: I think the company is pretty stable. I don’t listen to the news. It’s either exactly what we are told at work or way off base. I pay attention to what they are telling us at work and I don’t need to watch it.

Q: Would you be willing to relocate to get the right job?

A: I’ll probably stay around a few years. I wouldn’t mind moving to different parts of the country.

Q: When did you first travel by air, and where did you go?

A: I was 12 years old. I flew from Washington (state) to Alaska. It was a little intimidating at first, but after about five minutes on the plane, I said, “OK, let’s get this show on the road.”

Q: What will air travel be like in 50 years?

A: The green fuels will really have an impact. I’d like to envision tiny, personal aircraft people could hop onto like a scooter and fly to work. But I don’t think we’re that advanced. Maybe little commuter planes to replace the bus system.

Learn more

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University offers courses online for undergraduate and graduate degrees in aeronautics, technical management and business administration for aviation. The university also offers online certificate programs in aviation safety and aviation maintenance technology. Embry-Riddle leases space from Everett Community College.

Website: worldwide.erau.edu/campuses-online/ everett.html