Written By Samantha Foster
It was an easy choice for Robert Becton, Jr. to pursue an Electrical Engineering Technology degree. Like many science-minded people, a major influence in his decision was his passion for taking things – VCRs, computers, even a TV – apart and figuring out how they worked. He then turned this passion into his livelihood, with his father, a mechanical engineer, encouraging him along the way.
In addition to having a knack for figuring out how things work, Becton says that it is important for prospective engineering students to “be humble, have the willingness to learn, have curiosity, be organized, be creative and be a team player.”
Becton graduated from the UNC Charlotte with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering Technology in 2009. He cites NSBE, the National Society for Black Engineers, as a useful outlet for students at UNCC pursuing an engineering degree.
He also stresses the importance of applying for scholarships. He remembers a professor introducing him to different scholarships while in college and helping him apply for them. He does not recall, however, many scholarships specifically for engineering students.
Still, despite his achievements, Becton is no stranger to setbacks. When he graduated in 2009, the job market was awful, and he faced the same problem that many young graduates were facing at the time. It took him two and a half years to find a job in his field because most employers were looking for candidates with five to ten years of experience.
He in no way let that hold him back though, and instead offers this piece of advice for anyone pursuing an engineering degree: “Work hard and pay attention in school. And pay attention to internships, whether paid or unpaid - it'll really help out.”
Becton established his career as a Systems Test Engineer at Huntington Ingalls Industries, based in Newport News, Virginia. In this role, he validates and certifies the operation of pumps and motors for nuclear and non-nuclear systems upon naval aircraft carriers and submarines. He enjoys the hands-on work there and knows that there is more to be learned from it.
He admits that he is not doing the job he initially envisioned. While in school, he thought that after graduation he'd have a job designing circuits in a lab somewhere. But since working there, he has gained mentors that have made a positive impact on him, many of whom come from military backgrounds.
“It is good having that influence,” Becton said. “It's cool being able to sit and listen to different stories and experiences.”
In his free time outside of work, Becton enjoys designing sound engineering systems for local churches and businesses, which he’s been doing for the past 10 years. This goes to show that a love for hands-on technical work can be translated into all areas of a person’s life.
While happy at his current position, he is by no means complacent. He is currently working towards his master's degree in Engineering Technology at Drexler University, with the end goal being in a management position as a senior level engineer.
The My Brother’s Keeper Scholarship at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte is an endowment fund targeted to Black males majoring in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields at UNCC. The "What They See Is What They'll Be" blog series, adopted from the motto of 100 Black Men of America, is a bi-weekly blog series featuring personal stories of Black men from the UNCC community who are actively engaged in those fields. The goal of the series is to serve as a source of information and inspiration to others aspiring to follow similar career paths. To learn more, or to contribute to the endowment fund, visit www.unccmybrotherskeeper.org.