California State University, Bakersfield

02/21/2024 | News release | Distributed by Public on 02/21/2024 15:14

Highway to the data zone

Nichollas Braden is the 2024 Alumni Rising `Runner for CSUB-Antelope Valley. Each spring during Homecoming Week, the Rising `Runner program recognizes CSUB alumni of the last 10 years who are already making an impact in their career and community.

Nichollas Braden started his journey at the California State University, Bakersfield Antelope Valley (CSUB-AV) campus as a first-generation student who did not know how to navigate college. During his time at CSUB-AV, his mother lost her job, and he was very concerned that he wouldn't be able to continue in school. He also came to the university a little unsure whether he belonged and sometimes struggled with food insecurity.

Braden took a job working for Mike Brown in ITS. Braden was able to learn an enormous amount about technology from Brown and appreciates Mike for his immense understanding and kindness, saying that Brown is still the best boss he ever had. Braden also learned how to connect with other students, faculty and staff through his student worker experience and as a member of various student clubs and organizations.

"It made me sociable. I had to work with students, faculty and staff to get my jobs done, and with that came an increased ability to communicate as a professional," Braden said. "Besides that, I felt the job further strengthened my bond to the campus."

Between the CSUB-AV Student Life Advancement Committee (SLAC), AV Campus Gamers club, work and class, Braden was on campus almost every day of the week and was able to get to know many who work at the campus, making friends he said he wouldn't have if he had just attended classes. Braden said his time in SLAC allowed him to help improve the campus, since CSUB-AV doesn't have the same amenities found on the Bakersfield campus. A giant Jenga set and a TV in the 500 building of the AV campus are particular points of pride for Braden.

"I feel proud knowing that I was a part of bringing some change, no matter how small, to the campus," he said. "With limited space, limited budget and a unique student demographic, the problems I faced while on the SLAC team really challenged me to think outside the box. I credit my time on SLAC for my ability to really innovate wherever I go."

Faculty, staff and students continue to build on Braden's legacy, adding more amenities for students to enjoy and help them feel connected to the campus. The giant Jenga set is still used all the time.

Braden graduated from CSUB with his bachelor's in business administration in 2017 and earned his Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree in 2019. After graduating, he worked a short time at the Air Force Research Lab in Boron before being hired at aerospace company Northrup-Grumman as a cost analyst. Braden said that living in the Antelope Valley gave him an advantage in finding employment, since the area is considered a major hub in the aerospace industry and the Department of Defense and government contractors like Lockheed and Northrop-Grumman look to attract potential candidates to work in the location.

This was the case for Braden as he transitioned from the Air Force Research Lab to Northrup-Grumman. Braden and his team were tasked with helping get the F-35 program back on track with their cost performance. After three years of work, they were able to meet the cost metric goals for the program. Because of his excellent work on the project, Braden has been selected to participate in the company's Business Management Rotation Program, which will allow him to take on new leadership roles within the organization every eight months to prepare for future promotion opportunities. Braden said his favorite aspect of his job is the opportunity to solve problems with data such as analyzing the F-35 program through thousands of data points.

Racking his brain to figure out how he can get the data to provide the answer he seeks is an enjoyable endeavor for Braden.

"It's like a complex puzzle that I get to solve. Even after I solve it one way, then I get to think of ways I can solve it faster or more efficiently next time."

Braden said the work he does at Northrop-Grumman, like producing the F-35, Globalhawk and B-21, is vital to the United States and helps ensure that the country and its allies have the best tools to keep citizens safe.

Outside of work, Braden has stayed involved with CSUB-AV and the AV Campus Gamers, a club he started as a student to have an organization focused on fellowship and giving back to the community. One of his favorite campus memories is the last AV Campus Gamers meeting he attended as a student. Many of the original club members were graduating together and they decided to have a potluck send-off.

"There may not have been as many members as there are today, but we had a blast reminiscing about the year and playing one last game together," said Braden, who will always remember those games with the original crew of AV Campus Gamers.

Braden is also a mentor to current students and is interested establishing a scholarship to help low-income AV students. He is active in community clean-ups in the Antelope Valley as well.

Braden's dedication to CSUB-AV, his success in his career, connection to the major industry in our region and his giant Jenga legacy of student engagement drew the attention of AV faculty and staff.

"[Braden] is all we could hope from our alumni," said CSUB-AV Dean Dr. Elizabeth Adams.