GE would not be the company it is today without its employees. From working mothers to U.S. military veterans, GE has a diverse team that should be recognized and celebrated. So, we created a series called the “Quick Six”—six questions we are asking employees to help us learn about their talents and backgrounds. Together, GE works.

In our next installation of Quick Six, The Bike Shop sat down with Phil Woniger, Senior Account Sales Manager, at GE Aviation in Savannah, Georgia.

What is one potentially surprising thing that people don’t know about you?

I started at GE 40 years ago as a common laborer in the UAW cleaning bathrooms, mopping floors, mowing grass and shoveling snow…essentially, a janitor. I wanted to do more at GE, so I immediately started attending the University of Cincinnati at night and received my Mechanical Engineering degree from U.C. after 8 years. We had engineering assistant roles at the time as there were no personal computers on everyone’s desks in 1979. We only had one computer which was shared in Phoenix, Arizona. The EA role created a bridge for me to move into the technical ranks, while I continued to pursue my M.E. degree at U.C., in the evenings after work.

How long have you been in your current position, and could you provide a brief overview of what you do?

I have been the Account Leader for GE at Gulfstream for the last 7 years. In this role, I am responsible for all things GE at Gulfstream. We have a solid presence at Gulfstream with our Power systems out of Cheltenham, U.K., and Long Island, NY, our networking products from Cheltenham and Grand Rapids, MI, and our digital products out of Southampton, U.K., and Austin, TX. My role is to keep our technologies and growth play books in front of the key decision makers at Gulfstream, to influence the next designs of aircraft which would create opportunities for our continued growth. I am also responsible for streamlining our offerings as “ONE GE” to our customer while mentoring our program managers who interact with Gulfstream. As the Account Manager, I am the face of GE to the customer and I receive their insights and feedback and translate it into data driven actions for our teams.

How did you end up in this position? Did you always want to work in Aviation? 

GE had won a significant amount of systems presence on Gulfstream’s G650 and G500 families and we were still in the process of assimilating the Smiths Aerospace businesses into GE Aviation. Based on my performance and program management experience I was asked to take this role to lead consistency in the development, performance and program communications with this new customer. My uncle was a U.S. Navy Hellcat pilot in WWII and a DC3/DC9 pilot for Southern Airways. As a young child, my mother took me to the airport where my uncle gave me a tour of the flight deck of his DC3. I thought my uncle had a very interesting job so I was bitten by the aviation bug at an early age.

What motivates or inspires you to work hard? 

We work on the coolest products and I am have fun every day. I get to watch airplanes fly and I am surrounded by a great and diverse team. I work for an inspiring and entrepreneurial leader in Brad Mottier who makes coming to work every day a pleasure. Also, I am the account manager for a customer that prides itself on delivering the world’s finest aviation experience.

What has been a lesson you’ve learned while working at GE? Do you have any advice for other people?

GE is the land of almost unlimited opportunity! I have been blessed to grow from janitor, to engineering assistant, evaluation engineer, military prod support, accident investigator, commercial product support, GE90-115B model manager, GEnx program manager, F110-132 program manager to my current role of account leader. To move from janitor to my current role there were many opportunities at the right time for me to grow individually, but I also had an interest in learning and doing something new by stepping beyond my existing experience. My advice for others would be to put in at least 3-4 years performing well and learning in a role and then consider challenging yourself on a role that is well outside of your comfort zone … you may find you can achieve even greater things.

What is your favorite engine and why, and could you draw a picture of it?

The F110 engine is my favorite as I worked on it for about 16 years and the performance it provides the F-16/F-14/F-15 is amazing. To be at the end of the runway and watch a take-off where the aircraft accelerates to over 450 knots (517 mph) and then rapidly pulls vertical to 10,000 feet, makes me proud to be a part of its development and significant single engine safety record. I still watch our fighter aircraft perform today as if I am seeing it for the first time and am blessed to be at a location where various fighter aircraft operate.

Phil on a small island off the coast of Croatia in front of a Chinook, during a F-16 accident investigation.

Did you know Quick Six is a series? Read our previous features: