Heritage Month Spotlight: Ulises Vargas, Rolls-Royce

Ulises Vargas
Manufacturing Engineering Manager

How did you get your start in the aerospace industry?

I was lucky enough to be recruited by Rolls-Royce when I graduated from college at the University of Texas Pan-American back in 2003. When I joined the company I started as a manufacturing engineer in in Indianapolis, Indiana. I remember that I was impressed by the fact that the site not only had manufacturing operations but also assembly and test areas for the AE and 250 engine families all under one roof. Because of this I had the luxury of walking to the assembly area to witness how the components that I was responsible for were assembled in the engine and was also able to get direct feedback from the assembly areas.

Describe your roles and responsibilities at Rolls Royce:

I am the Manufacturing Engineering Manager at the Rolls-Royce High Temperature Composites site in Cypress, California. I’m responsible for the manufacturing capability development activities in the facility. We have a group of 15 very talented manufacturing engineers working to ensure that the method of manufacturing for the ceramic matrix composite components meets the cost, quality and delivery targets. Our activities range from testing out new equipment to ensure that it is production ready to manufacturing components that will be tested in engines. 

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Since we are delivering new manufacturing capability for future products in essence we are creating our future supply chain. Our team works on delivering new manufacturing methods on new materials and new component definitions so the challenge is big but the reward that comes with delivering something that no one in the world has done before is extremely gratifying.

Where do you find inspiration?

Prior to my role in capability acquisition I spent most of my career supporting and improving already established processes. Many times I wished I had the chance to redesign the processes from scratch but in-production changes are costly and disruptive to our customer deliveries. Now, I have the opportunity to make a long-lasting impact in the future manufacturing capability of the company by getting it right the first time and that is a constant source of encouragement and inspiration.

What does diversity and inclusion mean to you?

For me, diversity and inclusion is when a group of people from different backgrounds, experiences and skillsets come together to create synergy.  Having diversity in the workplace enables us to find a wider range of solutions for complex problems. It is a competitive advantage. 

What advice do you have for students considering a career in aerospace and defense?

My advice would be to get involved in the field as early as possible through internships, co-ops, apprenticeships or other programs. It is never too early to start and it will definitely pay off in the long run.