Several undergraduate opportunities from Boeing helped Nicholas Wulfert land a job at the local aerospace giant. He’ll start later this summer after graduating with his degree in electrical engineering from the University of Missouri–St. Louis.
Nicholas Wulfert (Photo by August Jennewein)
Nicholas Wulfert may have pulled off the biggest joke of his life Saturday night.
He’s put in several years and some tedious work to set it up, but he delivered the punch line in the form of graduating with an engineering degree and new job at Boeing.
The gag started several years ago during a conversation with a former boss who noticed Wulfert wasn’t being challenged in his job as a convenience store manager in Springfield, Missouri.
“One day, the store owner came in and said, ‘You’re not doing a bad job, but I can tell you’re miserable,’” Wulfert recalled. “I told him I was bored, and he said, ‘I have a feeling you could run NASA and still find a way to be bored.’”
Wulfert’s response was simple: “Challenge accepted.”
It was a sarcastic retort, as he didn’t have a background or true interest in aerospace, engineering or even core mathematical subjects, but the idea of exploring a new career in those fields quickly took shape.
Even as he went home after that shift, Wulfert says the signs were difficult to ignore. The symbols overlapped in enough books, televisions shows and conversations that he finally decided to attempt the transition – even though he wasn’t entirely confident he would see it through.
“It was kind of just this weird combination of factors that made me want to try to be an engineer,” Wulfert said. “When I was in high school, I wasn’t even any good at math, and I didn’t really have an interest in science. It was almost kind of a joke that I thought I would try this, but it turns out I’m pretty good at it.“
By graduating summa cum laude from the University of Missouri–St. Louis and Washington University Joint Engineering Program, perhaps the joke was just in Wulfert’s self-doubt.
“As I started taking classes, all of a sudden things just clicked for me,” the new electrical engineering graduate said. “I don’t know if it’s because I was a little older, a little more settled, but math and engineering suddenly made sense. I worked really hard at it, though, and put everything I had into my studies for the last few years.”
His effort captured the attention of a professor who connected Wulfert with part-time consulting work after he built a differential amplifier as a final project. He was also noticed early by Boeing, which offered him entrance into the Boeing Scholars Program – a five-year, $100,000 commitment to UMSL engineering students.
Wulfert also went on to join Boeing’s mentoring program, which offered facility tours, mock interviews and 1-on-1 advising.
“I can really trace the line as to why I ended up landing a job so quickly,” Wulfert said. “It’s been a direct correlation all the way down. Boeing was my first choice for work, so it’s really kind of a dream come true.”
He’ll start with the aerospace firm as an electronic design and analysis engineer later this summer and looks forward to the challenges that await in the new role.
“I really enjoy having problems to solve – almost to the point where I wonder if I don’t go seeking them out unnecessarily,” he said with a smile. “In engineering, a lot of people will branch off into project management. I ideally would like to stay on the technical side of things, not so much managing people and resources, really just problem-solving itself.”