Sometimes all you need is a little curiosity to help discover your passion.

This rings true for Jamielee Buenemann, a hybrid electric test leader and mechanical component design engineer. Her passion for engineering was sparked in high school when she decided to build a wind turbine in her parent’s backyard.

With an interest in clean, renewable energy and problem-solving, she wanted to dig deeper. As she gathered materials to construct the wind turbine — including PVC pipes and old conveyor belt motors — Buenemann found herself falling in love with engineering with each small accomplishment she’d achieve along the way.

“Honestly, I was hoping to figure out whether I truly liked engineering, outside of just the math and science classes you’re taking in high school,” she says. “And like I’m sure like a lot of engineers do, once I started down the process, I kind of got addicted to working through the problems.”

Jamielee Buenemann posing next to the backyard wind turbine she build. Credits: Jamielee Buenemann

Her passion for engineering eventually led her to a co-op at GE Aerospace and the Edison Engineering Development Program. Even after rolling off the Edison program, where participants are offered the opportunity to pursue a GE-funded Master’s degree, Buenemann remains actively involved in building her technical depth as well as developing her leadership skills.

“I love the community we have at GE and the overall atmosphere of continuing education and learning at GE,” says The Ohio State University alum. “I find we’re always trying to improve at every level of the company. And you can see that with a lot of our education programs, such as the Edison Program that I was part of. GE Aerospace invests in its employees, and I really saw that during my co-op.”

With such a wide array of engineering career tracts, Buenemann wasn’t always certain which industry she would end up in. It was through her various co-ops that she gained experience in technical research in piezoelectrics and mechanical systems as a locomotive train engineer. Her path eventually led her to GE Aerospace, where she discovered an interest for large highly technical systems, like hybrid electric flight and her personal favorite engine, the GE9X engine, which she worked on during her time in the Edison Program.

What she loves about the aviation industry is the constant drive to innovate. And being at GE Aerospace gives her the space to try new things on a different scale.

“The industry invests a lot in great innovation, research, and development. It’s an exciting space full of opportunities. I know I’m working on exciting technology now and I know I’ll be working on exciting technology 20 years from now,” she says.

Buenemann posing in front of the GE monogram. Credits: Jamielee Buenemann

What fuels Buenemann’s curiosity day-to-day is her work on hybrid electric technology and the benefits that they will be able to provide in the future by helping reduce CO2 emissions. Recently, NASA, Boeing, and GE Aerospace have also teamed up to tackle hybrid electric commercial flight through the Electrified Powertrain Flight Demonstration (EPFD) project. For her, it’s a huge motivator to get out of bed every morning, knowing she has a hand in advancing technology that will have an impact decade down the road.

For aspiring engineers, she recommends embracing the unknown and being prepared to not have all the answers.

“What we do in engineering is all about trying to find those answers. So, you should never be afraid to ask questions,” Buenemann says.

“You should not be afraid to explain to someone that you don’t understand a concept. Everyone in the industry, no matter what level they’re at, was once in your shoes. And what’s great about engineering is that we work on cutting edge technology so it will keep developing. every engineer will continue to learn throughout their career. You can’t be afraid to accept that you will not know everything, and you need to ask questions and keep learning as you go.”

The next time you’re wondering “What if?” start exploring, she says. You’ll never know where it might take you.