An annual career event hosted by the Veterans Resource Center helped Jamie Orozco secure a summer internship with Northrop Grumman, but not before he received three rejections.
Orozco first met a representative from the aerospace and defense technology at Future Forward in 2018, the year he initially applied and was rejected for an internship. The event allows veterans and students to explore and prepare for their careers. Being the first in his family to go to college and the first to enlist in the U.S. military, he sought resources and programs provided by the VRC to help him navigate his career options. After serving four years in the Marines as a diesel mechanic, he knew he wanted to continue hands-on work as an engineer.
“I was already hands-on with everything that I do, and my major challenges me mentally and physically,” said Orozco, now a junior electronic systems engineering technology student. “For example, you have to see the circuit in your mind and be able to put it together, and I wanted to further my skills in that.”
After each application rejection, he would refine his resumes by taking workshops at the VRC and joined engineering clubs on campus to specialize his skills. Through networking with professionals and collaborating with more students, he realized he wanted to be in the aerospace industry, further fueling his goal of working at Northrop Grumman.
After the third rejection, he gave up. At another 2019 Future Forward event, the same recruiter from Northrop Grumman saw him and asked him to print out his resume so he could see it. A week later he was contacted by a recruiter and was hired for an internship as a mission assurance engineer, tasked with analyzing all aspects of a specific engineering process to ensure a mission’s success. He created an inspections handbook for a manufacturing department and reduced the number of steps in half for the process, which saved time and money for the company.
“The internship was the biggest step to advance myself,” Orozco said. “Communication was key to collaborate with various employees in different departments to ensure I provided a system that was streamlined.”
Now, Orozco is set for another summer internship with Northrop Grumman in its military and civil space engineering department, which puts him on the manufacturing floor to learn new skills relevant to aerospace and collaborating with engineering employees. He wants to continue working for Northrop Grumman and obtain his MBA to learn more about business concepts. He learned from his first internship that a key component to manufacturing is minimizing costs while producing high quality products.
Orozco still looks to his life as a Marine as a foundation to his strengths.
“I was looking for growth and to be able to withstand any challenge I would face, and that’s what the Marines gave me,” Orozco said. “Cal Poly Pomona, along with the Veterans Resource Center and the donors that help to provide the resources and programs, help create a clear path on what I want to do with my life.”
Orozco connected with the VRC his first semester at Cal Poly Pomona in Fall 2017, where he found out another student, whose name is also Jamie Orozco, was receiving information about the center instead of him. It was an honest miscommunication, but one that influenced Orozco to work for the VRC as an advisor.
“If I work at the VRC, I can catch someone who hasn’t been contacted,” Orozco said. “I would be a veteran helping other veterans and it reminds me of being in the service.”
Orozco, a lead advisor, helps student veterans and military dependents navigate VA benefits, discover university opportunities and resources, and assists them with transitioning to student life. He also trains ambassadors to provide the same service to their veteran peers.
In managing his transition to student life, Orozco credits Horses for Heroes, a partnership program between the VRC and the Arabian Horse Center, piloted in Fall 2019 in which 10 student veterans worked in pairs with graduate assistants to groom and care for a horse. Orozco became familiar with equines and rodeos when his mom worked with horses, but through the program he noticed that his horse would mirror his anxiety.
Orozco’s unease arose from his uncertainty about leaving the Marines – he enlisted in the reserves as a student to maintain familiarity with his military life. He would temporarily manage his stress through exercise, but during Horses for Heroes, he recognized he needed to commit to a decision and became dedicated to his education and future career.
“That was the step I needed for myself to be happy with my progress and how far I had come,” Orozco said. “I needed to start advancing, and at Cal Poly Pomona, I can set my goals on what I wanted to do, what I’m doing in my free time, and what I want to do for work.”
Connect with the Veterans Resource Center on resources, programs and events at (909) 869-6994 or firstname.lastname@example.org.