While this blog has recently focused on current or past athletes, Guilford County graduates are succeeding in many other fields. One such story is that of Manufacturing Engineer Willie Kea. The youngest of eight kids, all born in the rural farming community of Tarboro, NC, Kea found his way to this area after graduating from high-school and becoming the first in his family to go to college. “Although I spent a lot of time working on a farm picking tobacco and thought that this is where I was going to end up, my mother’s continued persistence about the importance of getting a good education as well as some teachers and counselors realizing how good I was at math led me to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University,” said Kea. This is where Kea would begin to see his future take shape. “Along with being good at math and taking some pretty advanced math courses in college, I began to discover that I was pretty good at working with my hands which led me into the field of engineering,” said Kea.
Before long, the man who once used his hands to pick tobacco and feed farm animals was using them to create things like computer chips. While he hoped to someday work inside the computer manufacturing field, being from a small town of around 11,000 people made pursuing a career like this difficult. Refusing to give up on his future Kea decided to take his career passion in a new direction. “During my time at A&T I became interested in designing computer chips, but this momma’s boy knew that I wanted to remain close to home and there just were not any jobs in this type of field in Tarboro,” said Kea. “As a result, I began to learn about quality engineering and found myself working for a small telecommunications company right out of college.”
After learning how he could his newfound passion to assure that products are made at their highest quality, he had the opportunity to work in fields like telecommunications, plastics, construction, metals, aerospace and so much more. “The best part about working within all of these varying industries is learning that the principles of quality apply in each and realizing this made me realize that the sky is the limit in this area of engineering, and I could have never found this career path or the passion that I have developed for it without a good education,” stated the impassioned professional.
Today, Kea spends his days working with clients through his Quality Consulting business and his newest full-time job with global manufacturing company HSM. “Knowing that I got here through obtaining a good education has also developed my latest passion of helping other young kids realize how important a good education is.” Kea shares that passion with Say Yes Guilford; he serves on the board of directors and as chair of support services committee.
And Kea still dreams of doing more. “I apply to universities in the area every year,” said Kea. “I just think that it would be cool to someday share my knowledge and experience with other kids who want to follow in my footsteps. I really love what I do right now though, so I will wait for God to put me here whenever he is ready.”