STEM Opportunities

Twelve questions with an aerospace welding engineer

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Kaushayla “Kaushi” Putta is a lead welding engineer at GE Aerospace in the joining and heat treat group based in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Amercian Welding Society (AWS) connected with her at the Welding Automation Conference and Expo, held at The Ohio State University last October. She is passionate about sharing the potential of STEM careers, and she shares advice to help others navigate the workplace. 

How did your parents influence your career? 

Putta: There is a stereotype for Asian families in that we have three career paths: engineer, doctor or lawyer, and that was fairly true in my household. I was born in India, but moved to the United States when I was two. Growing up, my dad, a nuclear engineer, would make sure that I knew my math formulas by quizzing me when we were taking a ride. I was always good at math, and I was on it. On my mom’s side, she didn’t have the opportunity to go to college, so she pushed me to get a good education. My older brother also became an engineer, so I looked up to him, as well. 

Kaushayla “Kaushi” Putta, a lead welding engineer at GE Aerospace in the joining and heat treat group, is a major advocate of the opportunities a STEM education can offer.

What was your education like? 

A lot of high school math and science advanced science placement courses, plus AP bio, chemistry, U.S. government and world history. Once I got to The Ohio State and learned about the welding engineering field, I realized all these STEM career opportunities existed.  

So how did you connect with the welding engineering program?  

I was part of the EcoCAR environmental challenge where we built a car. A person who ran the machine shop asked if we wanted to learn how to weld and weld for our team, so I volunteered. About the same time, a professor from the welding engineering department gave my materials science class a lecture about welding engineering, the school’s program, the career possibilities and the salary potential. All those things were really interesting.  

Why are college internships important?   

All students going through the welding engineering program need to have an internship between their junior and senior year to give them real world experience. My internship was at Hobart Brothers. I learned about filler metals and connected them to Miller machines [both companies are owned by ITW]. I helped the R&D team develop filler metal and learned how that directly impacts customers. EcoCAR also gave me hands-on manufacturing experience, learning to work as a team and going through the design process to see what works and what doesn’t.  

tanding in front of the GE90 engine display at the GE Aerospace headquarters in Evendale, Ohio, Putta exemplifies the opportunities available to those with a background in STEM education.

Did you ever experience any issues related to being a woman in engineering? 

Thankfully, I never experienced it during my schooling, but it did happen in my previous work life. My advice is to find someone who will champion for you when you run into those issues. So promoting allyship is a passion of mine. That’s something that I really push for, and allyships are applicable to all ages, kindergarten through retirement. Allyship doesn’t necessarily have to be based off of gender or race. It can simply be someone who is struggling in their work and you are there for them as an ally to lift them up and support the team as a whole. 

What does a welding engineer do at GE Aerospace? 

Our group deals with every part of the engine that has a weld, braze or heat-treated part. It falls under supply chain, so we are a step removed from direct manufacturing. A lot of our job responsibilities focus on specifications and standards, making sure that the fabrication facilities are using them correctly and auditing them. I personally think audits are fun. To say the least, it gives me the opportunity to visit fab shops and ensure that our quality standards are being met. It makes me feel safe when flying on an airplane. 

What are you working on lately? 

Quite a few projects that I’ve been working on recently deal with new technologies, and that’s why I attended the AWS Welding Automation Conference and Expo at Ohio State. We are in the infancy state of bringing collaborative robots into GE. I am given opportunities to apply new technologies to our industry. We also support design engineering, helping them development new products and the best weld designs. If we have a new aerospace material, there’s a big learning curve to evaluate its weldability. We are directly applying our degrees to our jobs almost every day.  

At GE Aerospace, Putta’s group oversees every part of an engine that requires a weld, braze or heat-treated part.

Could you clarify what you mean by aerospace materials? 

We work with what other industries call exotic materials. These include titanium, cobalt, nickel-based materials, some stainless steel, some aluminum and almost no carbon steel. Newer materials sometimes include additive manufacturing materials with the same root-based components of either cobalt, titanium or nickel, and just other variations of alloying components of those materials. It’s really cool to be able to see what the design engineers and material scientists are coming up with. Then, when they get us involved, I find it fascinating to know what the material’s properties are and how we can make it weldable. Our whole motto is we want to bring home people safely, so we need to apply that every time we work on something.  

You mentioned the Welding Automation Conference. What is your assessment of the event? 

I really liked the open conversations about applications and case studies. Kyle Anderson from Vectis Automation gave a presentation of when not to use cobots, and there were a few points he made that kind of apply to us. On the other hand, he gave examples where cobots do apply to us. His presentation really hit home because it reflected our internal discussions about when we should and should not apply these new technologies.  

What is it like working for GE Aerospace? 

GE Aerospace offers a very inclusive environment. We have employee resource groups, or ERGs, that are very active. I’m part of the Asian Pacific Allies and Friends ERG. We host specific events for Lunar New York, previously called Chinese New Year, Diwali and Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month. We also have networks and forums for women, Hispanics, African Americans, veterans, and for pride and disability networks. It’s just nice to be able to connect with others who have similar backgrounds.  

Have you ever had to deal with a tough situation at work? 

In a previous job, I was one of the only women and only person of color, and I didn’t have many allies or champions. Men significantly older than I was put me in uncomfortable situations. Most people don’t realize that happens to women, and it often occurs because it isn’t a big enough part of a company’s HR training.  

Putta feels a calling to advocate for education in STEM. She is shown here speaking to students to explain the Ohio State welding engineering program and her experiences working as an aerospace engineer.

Women approach situations differently. Some will just put a shell on and be brash, but that can backfire because they then get called rude and loud. Some people are okay with that. Others just ignore it and avoid the problem. You have to do what’s most comfortable for you, whether that’s direct confrontation, talking to a direct leader, confiding in a colleague, going to HR or whatever.  

What are you doing to be a change agent? 

Representation is my biggest thing. There are not that many people that look like me in the industry. I feel like it’s an important part of my job to represent because people of color, women and women of color can see the possibilities in STEM careers. I’ve gone back to my high school in Dublin, Ohio, and educated the students about the career opportunities I wish I had known existed, and I speak to students at Ohio State. Hopefully, they’ll see an avenue they can take to be happy with the path like I am.

American Welding Society

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