Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Veteran Spotlight: Cris Philyaw

Hire a Hero recently sat down with Cris Philyaw, a former Navy Nuclear ELT, whom Orion matched with a career at a leading space transport company in 2012. Cris is still with the company and explains how his civilian career literally brought tears to his eyes.

Cris joined the Navy in November 1999 and left for boot camp on June 6, 2000, while still 17. In September 2012, he separated from the Navy. After learning about an exciting career opportunity with a company that designs, manufactures, and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft through his Orion recruiter in May 2012, he knew he wanted to work there.

Cris’ recruiter helped him to tweak his resume to reflect his extensive technical background, and he was given a phone interview. He followed that up with an on-site interview in July 2012. By the beginning of August, he was given an offer, which he ultimately accepted and started his new career on September 10, 2012.

Cris says that his transition to the civilian workplace was smoother than he expected.  “It helps that about 60% of our full-time employees where I work are veterans. With so many of us understanding where someone fresh out is coming from, there's support on every stand and in every group,” explains Cris,“We are family here, and we celebrate our successes as such and feel the pain of drawbacks and setbacks just like you do at home.” And Cris has found that his employer cares about their employees and their families. After having his first child this past June, he received flowers and gifts for his daughter from the CEO and President.

It’s not all flowers and gifts, as they do sometimes have to battle the elements, because, as Cris says, “You just can't test a rocket or one of its engines indoors!” But, at the end of the day, he explains, “You're working for a company that will put humans on Mars and is helping to revolutionize the commercial space industry.”

Now, for the tears: Cris and many other Orion alumni at the company describe the same sentiment: There's nothing more rewarding than seeing all of the hours, blood, and sweat spent on getting a rocket certified for flight come to fruition, as you watch that flight launch and make mission. “The first rocket I worked on was Flight 6, which was our first 1.1 flight; and I would be lying if I did not have tears of joy flowing down my face. Between the cheers and tears, you cannot beat the feeling of watching your hard work released in over 1 million pounds of thrust, rocketing towards the vastly untouched frontier of space,” recalls Cris.

The rocket and space industry is a very small industry with only a handful of companies with launch capabilities. Because of this, Cris says, it is very difficult to prepare yourself for the specific job tasks that will be required. However, he says his background in Nuclear Power played a major role in his success thus far.

“You have to be quick on your feet, have the ability to learn fast and on the job, and are responsible for the safe operation, repair, and maintenance of not only the test article but the stand and supporting equipment that allow us to test our rockets,” explains Cris, “You can teach anyone to turn a wrench, but you have to be able to think ahead and be ready for the next series of events, while taking in to account how the work you are performing or will be performing affects the rocket and the safety of those working on it.”

Cris is more than satisfied with his career choice. He has a challenging job, in a family oriented environment, working on equipment and hardware very few people get the opportunity or privilege to experience.  And Cris adds, “Aside from having great benefits, you get to see your hard work place a satellite in a geosynchronous orbit or supply the ISS with much needed provisions and experiments. You get to be a part of the reusable rocket development and on the leading edge of the return of human spaceflight to American soil. We take pride in our work and what we do, and we love our job. What more could you want?”

Click here to learn more about how you can recruit veterans like Cris for your company. 

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