KALAMAZOO, Mich.—During the initial launch of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the fleet was grounded to address a lithium-ion battery issue. The resolution required 16-hour days for 99 days from Boeing’s team of propulsion test engineers that included Bronco Anne Saad, B.S.’06.
The effort required hard work and determination, something Saad attributes to her time at Western Michigan University.
“Grit,” says Saad. “My years at WMU taught me to keep to it even if you are struggling. Showing up every day and being persistent has been a theme throughout my career.”
Now, as senior leader for verticals test and evaluation at Boeing, Saad applies that attitude to her work bringing technology solutions in-house through leading the testing, certification and delivery of emerging technologies for new Boeing products. It is a position that requires not only technical and business expertise, but also an understanding of the political environment surrounding aviation and space.
“The greatest challenge in our industry is speed to entry,” explains Saad. “We need a more collaborative and empowering environment with people willing to evolve policies and aging infrastructure, so Boeing stays competitive globally.”
Some of the successes in building collaboration occurred in finding real time tools to be able to communicate globally and having fresh data in a place so team members can respond quickly and make informed decisions. For Saad’s team, leveraging a cloud based platform for data sharing has been a game changer. “Working globally with Boeing teammates and being able to collaborate has also given us some great diversity in thought and approach to solve issues. Being able to come together and have technical conversations and seeing challenges from various angles is one of the best parts of my job.”
Saad is also excited about the future of aviation and her role in it. Recently, Boeing was awarded the sustainable flight demonstrator project. For this project, Boeing and NASA will partner to produce an experimental airplane designed with the goal of lessening commercial aviation’s impact on climate change through reduced fuel burn and carbon dioxide emissions.
“It’s a huge contract developing breakthrough technologies that will change the way we see commercial aviation,” says Saad.
That project is just part of the landscape for aviation. “Today, so many small companies are pushing the envelope and pushing technology,” says Saad. “Instead of just major players in the industry, everyone is trying to shake up how we see flight. From Google to even Facebook, people are trying to find everyday solutions for the next generation of commercial aircraft.”
Meeting the challenges and emerging changes to the industry while rising to a senior leadership role comes down to Saad’s persistence, mastering many skills and pursuing additional training, including Stanford University’s Advanced Project Management program.
“Early in my career, I had to quickly master understanding project management, change management, budget management and management of multiple work statements,” says Saad. “Today, these are standard requirements for new engineers.”
Saad’s first engineering role was as a student intern at Flowserve in Kalamazoo and after graduating from Western, she joined Flowserve as a special projects engineer. After working in engineering roles at Tethers Inc, Boeing and United Launch Alliance, Saad took on roles of increasing responsibility at Boeing, including project leader in support of the new 777X aircraft development and electrical engineering test manager where she led a team dedicated to the design and development of test platforms for future aircraft. She assumed her duties as senior leader for verticals test and evaluation in November 2021.
As the future of aviation and aerospace continues to evolve, Saad’s persistence and grit will continue to influence her career—and like the industry she thrives in, the possibilities are limitless.
Follow Saad’s career on LinkedIn.
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