My Past Life as an Engineer

Where I came from and how these experiences continue to provide value in my professional life

Alfonso: The Engineer

Despite graduating high school with a high interest in Graphic Design, I faced pressure from my family to pursue a career in Science, Law, Medicine, or Business. Cars are something that I am also passionate about, so a combination of this interest and familial pressure led to studying Mechanical Engineering. I received a Bachelor’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Washington and a Master’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan. I’ve worked as a Vehicle Development Engineer at Chrysler, an Interior Design Engineer at Kenworth, a Tooling and Equipment Engineer at Boeing, and lastly as a Flight Test Instrumentation Engineer. While I have since transitioned to Product and UX Design—a field that truly makes me happy—I am grateful for my engineering experiences and the skills I developed, which continue to be valuable in my professional life. This page serves as a spot to provide more detail on said skills.

Flight Test Instrumentation Engineering

As mentioned, my last engineering position (duration: ~9 years) was in Flight Test Instrumentation at Boeing. In this role, I designed, set up, operated, and troubleshot data acquisition systems. Albeit more technical, the type of work that I did had parallels with Product & UX Design. The majority of our customers were Internal Analysis Engineers, responsible for various portions of the plane. To gather the data that they needed, we needed to perform interviews with them and get an accurate understanding of their goals. Side-by-side collaboration was critical to our success. Another part of the job involved creating visual interfaces that would allow them to observe mission-critical data in real time. Again, understanding their needs and how to best provide for them was crucial. Some notable metrics from this job include:

• 1000+ hours of in-flight testing: data system design, operation, data acquisition, troubleshooting
• 95% execution rate of on-time flight and ground tests
• 30% increase in efficiency of calibrated fuel flow meter drawing release process
• Support for functional checkout of 950+ measurement data system: analog, digital, & associated equipment
• Equipment focal for 1500+ component data system: coordination of installation, removal, calibration, tracking
• Backup team lead for 737-9 MAX test aircraft

The Instrumentation Setup in a Boeing 737

How This Experience is Useful

Cross-Functional Collaboration

My experiences as an engineer have made me an excellent cross-functional collaborator, adept at working with diverse teams to achieve common goals. In roles at Chrysler, Kenworth, and Boeing, I frequently collaborated with a wide range of individuals: upper management, project managers, mechanics, electricians, internal and external customers, fellow engineers, stylists, and more. These experiences have enhanced my ability to communicate effectively and understand different perspectives. This skill set has seamlessly transferred to my roles as a Designer, where collaboration with product managers, developers, and stakeholders is essential. My engineering background ensures I can bridge technical and design considerations, fostering innovation and creating user-centered solutions.


Much of my success as an engineer depended on effective communication. Keeping the right people informed was crucial for completing projects and avoiding conflicts. It was important to tailor the complexity of my explanations to the audience; for example, my manager didn’t need to know how to wire a pressure sensor, but my mechanic did. I also became adept at explaining the reasoning behind my decisions, as this was a frequent part of my work. Being able to articulate my thoughts, keep people updated, and communicate at the appropriate level remains a valuable skill in the design world.

Seeing The 'Bigger Picture'

My professional experiences have honed my business acumen and deepened my understanding of contributing to larger goals. I recognize that success isn’t about individual achievements but about supporting the broader objectives of the team and organization. This perspective ensures that I remain focused on what’s best for overall goals rather than making self-centered decisions. This has proven to be continually important. Additionally, having ‘lived life,’ I am able to approach situations with the maturity and calmness that comes with life experience.

Flying Over the Cascade Mountains During a Test Flight