Black Excellence: A Look Into How This Kenyan Aeronautical Engineer Holds Two Managerial Roles At Boeing At Age 38

by Duke Magazine

Aeronautical engineer Samuel Ndaro is known for redesigning the scuff plate on some Boeing planes. He came up with the idea while working in a department that took care of the 787 series, also known as the “Dreamliner.”


“There is a metal thing you step on when you get on the plane,” Ndaro told Kenya’s Nation. “The 787 used to have three pieces, but now it only has one. “I changed that.”


“I get really sad every time I fly on that plane. I can’t think of a way that a boy from Buxton, Mombasa could design a 787. And, yes, I do see my parts on an airplane. It’s just impossible to think of,” he said.


Since June 2013, Ndaro has worked for an American company that makes planes in several different roles. Last year, he told Nation that he is almost 38 years old and has two management jobs. His official titles are “Advance Product Support Leader and Adjacent Programme Manager.”


He was the youngest person at Boeing and almost always the only Black person in most of the offices, he said.


Ndaro is the oldest of three children. He says that in his family, education is very important. His father worked at the port and didn’t make much money, but he made sure his kids got the best education possible. At school, Ndaro was most interested in math, physics, and accounting classes because they dealt with numbers. He also learned how to sail competitively, which led him to travel to other countries.


When he came back from a sailing competition in Australia, his life changed in a big way. Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) candidates had to take a test to find out their index numbers. He did not do well on most of the tests, including math.


“This was the worst math grade I’ve ever had,” said Ndaro. “One of my close friends, who is a lawyer in Kenya right now, told me, “Hey, Sam, I’m really upset. You didn’t do what was expected of you.’ And that hurt me.”


He decided to read his books more carefully. “That was the most important part. “I was upset, so that weekend I went home and made a plan for how I was going to study until I got my KCSE,” he says.


He got into Wichita State University, USA, to study aerospace engineering after doing well on the KCSE. But it was hard for him to pay his fees, so he was lucky that a friend’s dad from his sailing group paid them.


He got a job while he was in college and used the money he saved to pay his fees. During his internship, he got a job with Bombardier Learjet, a company that makes airplanes. Between 2005 and 2009, he was there. He left Bombardier in June 2009, a month after getting his degree from Wichita State University in aerospace engineering with a minor in math. After that, he joined the U.S. Army as an engine repairer for helicopters.


While he was in the U.S. Army, he went to Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and got two master’s degrees in aeronautical science and aviation aerospace management. After four years, he left the U.S. Army and went to work for Boeing in 2013 as a structural engineer on the 787-8/9 program. The next year, he became the 787-8/9/10 program’s technical lead design engineer. Nation says that while he was in this job, he was in charge of a team that redesigned the body floor grid and the structures around the doors. In 2016, he also joined Boeing’s space launch project as a technical lead and liaison engineer.


In 2017, Ndaro got his first job as a manager. He was put in charge of the manufacturing operations for Boeing’s space launch system. The next year, he became the manager of engineering for defense changes and maintenance. In 2019, he was moved to be a senior manager in technical data solutions. This was his first job as a senior manager.


The Nation says that as a senior manager in technical data solutions, he was in charge of a cross-functional team of more than 180 engineers, nine managers, and a $25 million budget. Ndaro stayed in this job until November 2020, when he was promoted to Advance Product Support Leader and Adjacent Programme Manager.


“Four high-level managers answer to me. “They are in charge of many people,” the Kenyan aeronautical engineer said.

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