Alumni Spotlight - October 2021
Ken Leung '18
Ken was born in Yakima, Washington and his parents were in the restaurant business with Ken’s maternal grandmother when he was young. They eventually closed the restaurant and Ken’s father went into computer programming, which brought the family to Mill Creek, Washington. Ken attended Mariner High School and graduated in 2003, and that’s where he feels his story really began. About two months before graduation, Ken got bitten by the acting bug!
Ken had always admired actors, watching in awe how they could “play” with characters and have such an impact on the audience. Lacking experience but intrigued, Ken enrolled at Edmonds Community College after high school to study drama, against his parents’ wishes. He took his first acting class during that first year of college and his eyes were opened to a new world. After completing two years at Edmonds, Ken transferred to the University of Washington. Taking his dad’s advice and realizing that Washington wasn’t the best place for up-and-coming actors, Ken decided to take an entrance exam in hopes of qualifying for UW’s exclusive industrial design program. Based more on design than engineering, Ken did his best but didn’t pass the exam. So, he decided to continue with drama, utilizing his imagination, working as a waiter, and having a blast. Ken graduated from UW in the winter of 2009 with a BA in Drama.
Ken’s first real acting gig was a featured part in an independent film called “Special.” Other roles included extras work, small roles in films, industrial commercials, a video game, and a celebration event for Seattle's anniversary. Being a waiter by day and actor by night was something that Ken enjoyed, but living off small stipends wasn’t sustainable. He didn’t want to move out of state where acting gigs could be more plentiful, so following his father's encouragement, he applied for a job as a functional production tester for airplane systems at Boeing, a position he had absolutely no experience in. He got the job! Coming from an arts background and having no experience with airplanes, Ken was successfully trained on the job despite feeling insecure in this new career path. In 2012, Ken performed for the last time in an industrial commercial for Capital One.
Going from an arts background to working at Boeing was strange at first since everything was highly technical and structured…no improvising when building airplanes! While fear of the unknown made Ken reluctant at first, he discovered he really enjoyed the work and eventually the structure of Boeing became comforting. Initially working as an entry-level technician testing parts, Ken is now a manufacturing engineer. Around 2012, Boeing began reducing staff. With a young family at home, Ken realized he wanted to secure his future. One of his colleagues at Boeing had just graduated from Oregon Tech’s Seattle program, an exclusive partnership for Boeing employees seeking undergraduate or graduate degrees in mechanical or manufacturing engineering. Ken enrolled in Oregon Tech’s Seattle program in the summer of 2013. It took him five years to complete his BS degree in mechanical engineering, working full time at Boeing and taking one or two classes per term.
Ken is very appreciative of the partnership between Boeing and Oregon Tech, explaining, “I wasn’t sure about my future with Boeing but having OIT there to give me the opportunity to earn a degree, opened more doors. I have a future because of OIT. Education is the key to a successful future.”
Ken and his wife met in high school and have an 11-year old daughter and a 9-year old son. Ken misses acting and hopes to renew that passion some day as a hobby, while he also loves being an engineer. His advice for others is to have faith in yourself. Ken explains, “Anybody can do it! It’s just a matter of committing to it.” Ken feels that the support system at Oregon Tech Seattle can help anyone succeed.
~Becky Burkeen, Alumni Relations Manager