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Becoming a Manufacturing Engineering Planner at Boeing

Anthony Hankinson Went From a Bicycle Shop to Working on Airplanes

Anthony Hankinson is not only reaching for the stars, he’s making sure you’re safe when you’re flying among them.

Hankinson, a 31-year-old husband and father, is a manufacturing engineering planner at The Boeing Company in North Charleston, S.C. As a member of the Electrical Corrective Actions team, Hankinson takes care of electrical issues that might arise in Boeing’s popular 787 Dreamliner airplane. But even though Hankinson now works at the world’s largest aerospace company and leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners with 170,000 employees in 70 countries, it took some old-fashioned elbow grease and personal sacrifice to make it happen.

Hankinson grew up in Asheville, NC, where he started hanging out at a bicycle shop when he turned 12. It was there Hankinson realized his knack for tools, and he stuck around and learned basic mechanics from anyone at the shop who would take the time to teach him. In high school, Hankinson went on to work as a bookkeeper and as a customer service representative in an IBM call center. But it wasn’t until he joined the Air Force in 2000 that he truly realized his potential.

“My time in the Air Force opened my eyes to limitless possibilities because the money and training they invest in you is so motivating,” Hankinson said. “The core values and integrity helped me develop as a man and I was ready to take on the world when I left.”

In 2001, Hankinson’s honorable discharge led him to the restaurant business where he enjoyed working hard and reaping profits. But while his career roadmap likely included stops as a district manager and possibly his own restaurant, Hankinson realized he wanted more. He enjoyed a 2-year stint as an outside sales representative for a residential/commercial protective coatings company, but the flailing economy forced Hankinson to fall back on the restaurant business once again.

And that’s when he decided to set his priorities and not settle for anything less than his ultimate goal. In other words, it was “Boeing or bust.”

Two years ago, Hankinson got his shot. He was originally hired as an assembler, getting his foot in the door at the entry level. A few months later he was promoted up the assembler ranks, this time working specifically on the 787’s midsection and helping his team reduce flow time in the alignment process.

Hankinson also took advantage of the company’s REACH program, which helps new Boeing employees network to find professional development opportunities and various ways to get involved with the community. Hankinson was able to leverage REACH into a leadership role spearheading Boeing’s Earth Day initiatives this year. He was even flown to Seattle for training, where he saw some of the company’s up-and-coming projects that haven’t yet been announced.

Although Hankinson saw an initial pay decrease when he started at Boeing, it was offset by the opportunity to join a prestigious company with unlimited advancement opportunities. “I knew there was no better place to work with the most advanced technology, so I was willing to do that at any cost. Now, more than two years later, I’m making more than I did before.”

The trick, Hankinson said, is to do your research and find a company for which you truly want to work. And when you set your sights on it, never take your eyes off the prize.

“It’s easy to get discouraged, but that happens with any job,” Hankinson said. “I wake up in the morning and I’m glad I’m coming to Boeing. It’s the first time in my life I can say that about a company.”