How do you go from being a two-sport collegiate athlete to a rocket scientist? Brains, of course. Lafayette expatriate Hunter Golden, a 1989 graduate of St. Thomas More High School who went on to superlatives on the gridiron and the track field for then-USL’s Ragin’ Cajuns, has the brains to match his brawn. The son of Lafayette real estate agent Sue Golden and the late Dr. Peter Golden, a popular Lafayette dentist, Golden’s football career — he played offensive lineman, tight end, deep snapper and linebacker during his career in addition to throwing shot put for the track team — ended with a devastating knee injury during the 1992 season. But it didn’t interrupt his academics. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from USL and a master’s degree in aerospace engineering — he is literally a rocket scientist — from Texas A&M.

Golden’s aerospace career took him first to Seattle for a four-year stint as an analyst/engineer for Boeing. Then it was on to Washington, D.C., where he worked as a program analyst for a private defense firm — he was in the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, when it was attacked — and later as a systems engineer/analyst for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. He returned to the Great Northwest in 2006 and now serves as the head of engineering for Systima Technologies, a “rapid response” technology firm.

He still gets back to Lafayette, where his mom and a sister remain, about once a year. Now 40 and living in suburban Seattle with his wife of 10 years, Corey, and 6-year-old twins, Erin and Peter, Golden helped ABiz catch up.

ABiz: Tell us about your current job.
HG: My current work is not much different than what you see on the TV program Mythbusters. However, we do it with a lot more rigor in our research and development programs for the aerospace and military industry.

ABiz: What are some accomplishments you’re most proud of since leaving Lafayette? 
HG: Raising twins, becoming a key person running a small business, developing a system for which I’ve applied for a patent.

ABiz: What are some of your hobbies? How do you blow off steam? 
HG: Boating, snow skiing, wake boarding, mountain biking, soccer, hiking, camping, hanging out with friends.

ABiz: What’s the most satisfying aspect of your career? 
HG: Playing a major role in the direction of a small technology firm.
ABiz: What’s the most challenging aspect? 
HG: Managing people and trying to keep everyone happy.

ABiz: What was your most memorable game/moment on the gridiron?
HG: My most memorable game was both the best and worst for me. While playing linebacker I was cut blocked by a tight end against Cal State-Fullerton and dislocated my knee, completely severing my ACL, PCL and MCL. This game started out the best for me because it was my first game at linebacker as a starter. I was injured early in the game, but as memory fades I can only remember that I made every tackle up to that point. I still believe that had I not blown out my knee we would have won that game and beaten Auburn the following week but lost by a point.

ABiz: What’s the best advice you’ve gotten and from whom?
HG: I attended an American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics dinner my first year at Boeing, and Phil Condit, the CEO when I started at Boeing Commercial, was there to answer questions. He was asked what a young engineer can do to make a significant contribution. His answer was that you should take on each challenge no matter how small and do your best. If you show that you can do even the little things well, then you will establish credibility and more challenging work will follow. Then and now as a manager at a small business I see how important that advice really is. It is hard to give your complete trust to someone and assign them a task if you don’t have confidence in them.

ABiz: Any advice for college students looking ahead to a competitive job market? 
HG: Before graduation make sure you take advantage of all the relevant work experience you can gain.

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