Sometimes life takes you in directions different than you initially intended. And sometimes, it’s exactly where you were meant to be.

No one understands that better than Tatum Ross, an assembly engineer in the Manufacturing Engineering Development Program (MEDP). Ross wasn’t always certain of what shape her career path would take. Initially she thought she’d go into medicine and become a physician, but was hesitant on the years of schooling it would require. That’s when her mom then suggested that she give engineering a try.

“I never knew much about aviation and my original goal was to do something in the medical space,” she says. “But after I got a co-op with GE and saw what else is there, I was up for trying something new and carving a different path.”

Inspired by the based-on-a-true-story movie Dolphin Tale, about a dolphin with a prosthetic tail after being rescued from a crab trap line, Ross’s interest in engineering became more pronounced after she met the doctor who created the dolphin’s tail.  And she discovered that engineering, being aerospace or medical, weren’t as far apart as she may have thought.

Over the 2.5 years at GE, she’s developed a deep interest in Aviation, thanks in part to her colleagues at GE Aerospace’s headquarters in Evendale.

Tatum Ross is an assembly engineer, who recently attended Jet Engine Teardown School training (JETS) at GE Aerospace’s Customer Technical Education Center (CTEC).

Many of the mechanics she works with previously worked at airlines. Being able to hear about the work they did on aircraft and engines inspired her own learning about aviation and helped create a bond with them. Now, whenever she goes to an airport, she not only thinks about her flight, but notices what type of planes she sees and the engines attached to them.

“When I am at an airport, I think, Wow, I wonder what engine is on that plane? I always look them up and knowing what type of engine it is, is so cool. I see those engines in our shop. It’s just really relatable, and it’s really fantastic to see your work make a difference and have a part in people’s lives.”

Working as an engineer in a manufacturing facility has been eye-opening in other ways as well.  When she started, Ross noticed the generational differences between she and her colleagues. The thing that helped close the generational gap was the one thing everyone could talk about: Aviation.  Getting to know her coworkers helped her understanding of aerospace and also inspired her to pay it forward through mentoring younger aspiring engineers.

“Any time there are co-ops or other leadership program members that come in, I definitely gravitate towards them,” she says. “A big thing that I love about GE is the ability to mentor and make an impact in that space. It’s been really rewarding because I can relate to exactly where they are in their careers. Starting out can be tough, but I feel like I can really help get them prepared through mentoring.”

Ross participating in the Jet Engine Teardown School training (JETS) at CTEC.

Ross’s desire to learn has also fueled her to try new experiences, like attending training GE Aerospace’s Customer Technical Education Center (CTEC). At CTEC, employees get the opportunity to do Jet Engine Teardown School training (JETS), where employees receive hands-on instruction on tearing down and rebuilding an engine.

CTEC is also a learning center for customers, where customers with licensing agreements to perform services on GE, CFM* and Honda jet engines.

The JETS training gave Ross a real understanding of the work that goes into jet engine maintenance.

“The work that I see the mechanics do is one thing, but actually doing it is another,” she says. “There are many fine motor movements and physical aspects to it you don’t necessarily expect unless you’ve done it. You’re on the ground in some instances and you’re screwing in these tiny little bolts and realizing how long it takes. It definitely made me realize it’s a lot harder than it looks.”

Ross may not know exactly what the future holds for her career, but her desire to learn has opened-up a well of opportunity for her at GE, and she sees this is as just the beginning.

*CFM International is a 50/50 joint venture between GE and Safran Aircraft Engines.