Fall is approaching, and so is the upcoming Louisiana football season.
Since the launch of Cajun Compass, UL Lafayette's premier networking and mentorship platform, hundreds of people from our Ragin' Cajun community have joined. We want to get to know this community better with our new series—Connect with Cajun Compass. Throughout the series, we'll spotlight members from Cajun Compass and talk to them about their careers, advice, mentoring, and much more.
This month's feature is UL Lafayette alumnus Alex Miller. Originally from Crowley, Miller '17 graduated from the University with a degree in electrical engineering. Currently, he lives in Houston and works at Axiom Space as an avionics software engineer. As he begins his professional career, Miller is excited to be able to share the lessons he's learned with fellow Ragin' Cajuns using Cajun Compass.
Alumni Association: What does your current job entail?
Alex Miller: I'm an avionics software engineer. When I was in school, I told myself that I'd never do software, but that happened to be exactly where I ended up. It turns out that there's a difference between the work you do in school and the work you do out in the real world. Of course, all the concepts I learned in school are extremely valuable, but there's certainly a difference.
AA: So, did you always think you'd end up in this position?
AM: Ultimately, like many people, I did not choose my exact field, but I just happened to end up there because of where my first job out of school brought me. I kept going from there when I found out I actually enjoyed it.
AA: What has your career journey been like so far?
AM: I started out after school working for a very small company that produced seismic analysis software for the oil and gas industry. Having hated writing software in school, I was now doing it full-time — and enjoying it. Unfortunately, due to the general downturn in the industry, there were layoffs, and I found myself working as a software safety engineer at NASA's safety and mission assurance directorate. I was performing safety assurance for a few projects related to the International Space Station.
AA: That's a pretty fascinating journey. What happened next?
AM: From there, I came to my current role at Axiom Space, where I'm writing software that will run on Axiom's own space station, which NASA has contracted us to build. The first module is planned for launch in 2024. Of course, looking back, many subjects I touched on in school have been valuable as a foundation for my work.
AA: Why do you think it is important to have a mentor?
AM: In my experience, a mentor can be anyone who knows more about a subject than you do, which, at least in my case, is most people. Sustaining relationships and friendships with those people are important for career advancement and general well-being as a human.
AA: That's great to think about. So, going off of that, what is the best advice you've ever received?
AM: My first post-graduation boss strongly emphasized the fact that it's better to say "I don't know" than it is to try to feign knowledge when you don't have it. You're not expected to know everything. Don't be afraid to say, "I don't understand. Can you explain that to me?"
AA: Why did you join Cajun Compass?
AM: I saw it mentioned in an email and on Facebook. I think it's good to be connected professionally to people in your field and people who share your academic experience.
AA: Do you think it's helpful?
AM: I haven't met many alumni in my field of work, so I definitely want to use Cajun Compass to open that connection between what I do in the space industry and the University that served as the stepping stone to get here. I want to connect not only with STEM graduates but everyone. The commercial space industry is growing and needs more than just engineers.
AA: Why do you think Cajun Compass is a good platform for UL Lafayette students and alumni?
AM: Any platform for connecting with fellow alumni can be helpful for your career. I've gotten an interview before, probably partly because the interviewer was also a UL Lafayette graduate. Maybe you're not a perfect fit for a job, but sometimes that shared experience is enough to get your foot in the door.
Visit compass.louisiana.edu to join Cajun Compass and discover the power of your UL Lafayette network.
Photo Caption: Alex Miller