They say “education is the key to success,” and in Jesse Ingram’s case, this phrase especially rings true. Jesse is living proof that through education, hard work and community involvement success can be achieved.
The son of two math teachers, Jesse was encouraged by his father at a young age to spend his summers practicing math. But like most middle school students, he was more interested in playing outside than hitting the books. At the outset of high school, reality sank in that math did require practice, leading him to seek help from his father. “He was so fluid, neat, organized, and logical, [which] made me want to be like him,” Jesse said of his father during a recent interview with Minority Engineer magazine. At this point, he not only realized that he had a knack for math, but that he actually enjoyed it.
His passion for math didn’t end in high school. After his mother sparked his interest in pursuing a career in the engineering field, Jesse went on to earn a degree in engineering, leading him to face some of his toughest courses, like Partial Differential Equations. He admitted this class “terrified” him, forcing him to again seek outside reinforcement. His graduate advisor urged him to tackle every single math problem in his book – in addition to homework assignments – in order to master the subject. “I thought it was impossible, but I did it. I spent every waking, free hour doing that. I would wake up, study, go to class, and then work on those problems.” This determination led Jesse to receive one of the top scores in his class, and eventually led him to become an award-winning engineer at BAE Systems.
Jesse works every day to pay it forward to students pursuing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, and credits BAE Systems for allowing him to participate in STEM outreach. “If you’re passionate about working with veterans or wounded warriors, the company supports that. I’m interested in science outreach and BAE Systems has been extremely supportive of that. I’ve been able to bring other employees into that and we’ve been able to bond.”
His strong effort to promote STEM began with his realization at a young age that education, persistence and a little tenacity will lead one to success. So what advice does Jesse have for today’s STEM students? “Students need to hang in there with their schoolwork. Engineering is a tough discipline. Students need to remain persistent and stick with it. Overcome the obstacles and press on through and develop a confidence to overcome future obstacles. Also, find a volunteer organization related to your career.” Jesse attributes a large part of his leadership development and personal growth to involvement in the National Society of Black Engineers.
In addition to outreach, Jesse spent time as a professor in the United States and abroad, and currently serves on BAE Systems’ Diversity and Inclusion Council to the president and CEO. Today, Jesse is an engineer supporting the U.S. Navy’s DDG 51 acquisition program and actively mentors new hires at his work site. “The culture here recognizes that a broad range of experience will help you to be a better leader and a better corporate citizen.”