The Good Word | By Matt Winkeljohn -
THE FLATS -- Cole Fiegel got out the other day and after graduating Saturday from Georgia Tech, he will not go meekly into the world, not with the job his industrial management degree helped him land.
He’s OK with that. Shoot, he can hardly wait to get back in.
When the Alachua, Fla., native starts working in a couple months for Boeing, Fiegel will go all in again in helping oversee the construction of fighter jets.
The pressures likely to come with the job will be fine by him. He’s been there, done that, and loved it for four-and-a-half years.
Before graduating, his time in Tech classrooms and as a four-year letterman on the tennis team steeled him as a competitor.
The idea of competing for a paycheck appeals, so although he’s not yet sure exactly what he’ll be doing in St. Louis, where folks in Boeing’s engineering and quality control departments seek to balance constructive criticisms of one another with the shared goal of producing a top-notch product.
“Engineering is the people who design the product, and the quality has to make sure there are no quality issues,” he said. “Quality can say to engineering, ‘Because you designed it this way is why there are errors,’ and engineering can say, well, ‘It’s your job to make sure there’s no errors.’
“That competitive environment is something that I’ve become accustomed to, but at the same time with my teammates I’ve accepted being able to grow with people . . . They’re filling so many roles. I don’t really know which role I’ll be going into once I’m there; I interviewed with many hiring managers.”
Fiegel’s played the guessing game before.
While it didn’t take long for the scrappy, 6-foot-2 lefthander to make an impact on the tennis courts, where he went 81-64 in singles with a mark of 20-14 as a freshman, he faced uncertainty in industrial engineering.
The description of IE appealed to him all along, yet, “You don’t actually end up taking an industrial engineering class until three semesters in,” he said. “You have to take these prerequisites and so you don’t really know if you’re going to like it.
“When you start out, you take a lot of probability and statistics. I didn’t do particularly well in those classes, but once the third year started and you’ve got quality control and manufacturing, advanced manufacturing, supply chain classes, then I really enjoyed it. That was a sigh of relief for me.”
He didn’t do particularly well . . . pffft!
Fiegel made the ACC Academic Honor Roll in each of his first two years, lifted by Georgia Tech.
As he once told the student newspaper, The Technique: “At Georgia Tech, I did way better than high school, which is like, why? I’m taking harder classes now, and I’m being compared to much smarter people that work harder, and it’s like why? How come I [am doing] better at Georgia Tech than in high school? It’s really the environment.”
This is a young man who knew he wanted to be an engineer, and now, he’s an engineer. Fiegel likes math. English? Meh!
The idea of blending in with a team wasn’t necessarily a slam dunk for Fiegel, who admits he’s did not arrive at Tech as an overly social fellow.
“But I can say about being here, my relationships with my teammates for example, those are my special friends,” he explained. “Tennis is an individual sport, [yet] in college it’s no longer an individual sport, and you get this sense of community feeling that you never really had before . . .
“You have to go through so much together, and I had never been through that before and so for the first time, with everybody else that was going through it for the first time, I thought that made us a really strong group. From the educational side, we’re regarded as elite and that’s something that’s really cool to be part of.”
Fiegel will soon join another team – although he’s not sure which one – that will compete with and against another. It’ll be just like his time at Georgia Tech.
After a few low-key weeks at his parents’ home near Gainesville, Fla., where he’ll also spend time with his girlfriend (a student in the University of Florida dental school), Fiegel will get after it again. Even though he’s not sure what he’ll be doing.
That’s not unlike his Tech experience, where he learned, when it happens, handle it.
“You could be on wings, you could be on whatever. I think not knowing what to expect is exciting for me,” he said. “I’m a person when I go into something new, I always kill it at first. The hard part for me is sustaining after the excitement phase.
“I would say the excitement phase of going into something completely different is going to be great, and then, hopefully it’s something that I really enjoy. If it’s not, there’s always advancement. At a big company, there’s always advancement. So, you’re never stuck in doing the same things for too long.”