Challenges are no match for alumna Maria Gustinis ’89 ‘95 ‘96. While earning two bachelor’s degrees in Computer Information Systems and Business Management, Maria overcame layoffs, job transfers and personal challenges that shaped her career path. Now the Quality Program Manager at GE Aviation, Maria collaborates with engineers, manufacturing workforce, and auditors ensuring AS9100 Aviation Industry Standards are met. Though “fun” and “exciting” are not words to describe legal and regulatory affairs, Maria enjoys her role at GE Aviation. We are proud to feature Maria as an alumni success story this week. View her full interview below.
Tell us about yourself, Maria!
My story is probably unlike many other alums that you may have interviewed. Throughout my career, I have held so many unique jobs in different industries while overcoming layoffs, job transfers and personal challenges. At the same time, I spent 14 years earning two bachelor’s degrees from DU, ultimately earning my BBA in General Business Management in 1995 and a second BBA in Computer Information Systems with a minor in Communications in 1996. I had jobs in banking operations, mainframe programming, engineering, project planning and tax law, all of which have taught me persistence, perseverance and hard work while preparing me for my current role at GE Aviation as a Quality Program Manager.
In a nutshell, what do you do?
I am a Quality Program Manager at GE Aviation in Grand Rapids. Let’s face it “fun” and “exciting” are not words normally used to describe compliance and audits, but I enjoy the challenges of my job. In this role, I collaborate with our quality engineers and manufacturing workforce to identify and mitigate product risks and ensure we are in compliance with the AS9100 Aerospace Industry Standard. I also review and document processes and procedures per AS9100 standards to maintain our AS9100 Certification.
How did Davenport help you get there?
My experience at Davenport was great. Throughout my 14 years at DU, I went from being a part-time student while working full-time, to a full-time student for two years, then back to a full-time employee and part-time student, and then to taking one class a time. Davenport supported me throughout my whole education career and prepared me for success. They showed me how to persevere toward a goal, work hard and make strategic decisions. I was able to build my technical and leadership skills while applying hands-on, applicable classroom experiences to my job.
What advice do you have for recent graduates?
My advice is to be open to opportunities. Sometimes you don’t get a job in your desired field, but always do it with integrity. When you show your value and work towards your goals, you will be rewarded. Work hard and be persistent in everything you do.
What do you do when you are not working?
I ride a Harley. It was a birthday gift from my late husband. I have put 20,000 miles on it. I am a member of Stilettos on Steel Female Riding Group. Last summer, I rode more than 2,400 miles to include the Upper Peninsula, down to southeast Ohio and around the Great Lakes. When I’m not traveling, I enjoy sewing. I helped my friend, Jill, make a t-shirt quilt that was raffled in a fundraiser for Susan G. Komen charity. I am a core team member with a group of volunteers called “Crafters for a Cause” at GE Aviation. We make quilts for babies in the children’s’ hospital; hats, mittens and wheelchair bags for veterans; prayer shawls for cancer patients and many other crafty projects for those in need. I also enjoy remodeling my house, and just completed renovating a large craft room in my basement to accommodate my love for crafting.