Zachry Leadership Program inspires student to lead by example

Roger Simon 1

To Roger Simon, becoming a leader means more than simply adding some extra zeros to his future salary. It means being able to make a difference and be an example for others to follow. That’s why the Texas A&M University sophomore aerospace engineering major decided to apply for the Zachry Leadership Program.

The Zachry Leadership Program is a collaborative effort between the Dwight Look College of Engineering and Zachry Group. The program aims to empower engineering students to become future leaders who are well versed in the free enterprise system, collaborative in their decision-making and humbly self-confident in their behaviors. 

Simon is one of 32 students who are part of the first cohort of future engineers to make their way through the five-semester program. The application opens April 15 for the next cohort, which will begin January 2017.

Roger Simon 1

Simon’s Journey

Ever since his parents bought him a radio controlled helicopter for Christmas when he was 8-years-old, Simon knew he wanted to be an engineer.

“That made me curious about what made it fly and how it worked,” he said. “I knew then I wanted to be an engineer and learn how to build things and make people’s lives better.”

His parents knew very early on their son would likely be an engineer.

“They didn’t push me to be an engineer though,” he said. “They were going to support me with whatever I did.”

At age 12, Simon took a flight from St. Louis to Houston. That’s when he knew he wanted to become an aerospace engineer. When it was time to apply to college, he chose Texas A&M because of its renowned aerospace program, he said.

Zachry Leadership Program

Simon said he didn’t know what to expect when he first applied to the Zachry Leadership Program. What he’s learned, however, has been much more than he ever would have imagined.

The program officially kicked off in January with a four-day retreat at Camp Allen in Navasota, Texas. Through team-building activities and one-on-one collaborations, Simon said the retreat fostered an inclusive environment.

“It built a lot of trust between different people,” he said. “You saw people getting close who didn’t know each other. It built camaraderie.”

That’s a lesson Simon said he hopes to take with him after he graduates from Texas A&M.

“I think it has a really good correlation to when you go out to the workforce,” he said. “Let’s say that I’m a manager and I’m going to have people under me who I don’t know a lot about, but I trust that they’re going to follow through and trust them to actually complete the job.”

That kind of environment fosters a successful environment, he said.

“I feel like it gives people more pressure to not disappoint the person that you’re trusting,” he said.

Simon and his classmates are also learning about business principals they might not gain from other engineering classes. The class meets once a week to work on group projects and learn from industry leaders and professors. It’s an opportunity for the students to gain something beyond mathematic equations and engineering concepts.

These are all lessons Simon hopes to use later in life. His goal is to one day own his own engineering business, though he’s not sure yet if he’ll go into manufacturing or research.

One thing he does know is he will be a leader.

To learn about the Zachry Leadership Program, click here