Prospects for mechanical engineers are wide open
�It is important to get as many different work-related experiences as possible.�
� Jennifer Eckert, Ingersoll Rand
�Talk to professors, tour corporate facilities, talk to company recruiters.�
� Jonathan T. King, Chrysler Group LLC
By Laurel A. McKee Ranger
Jobs are plentiful for U.S. graduates with mechanical engineering degrees, says Aisha Lawrey, manager of engineering education at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME, www.asme.org). She notes that mechanical engineering is the first choice of women studying engineering.
�We�ve seen a fifty-six percent increase in the number of women majoring in mechanical engineering in the U.S. over the last decade,� she says. �One of the things that is so attractive about the mechanical engineering degree is the breadth of opportunity it affords.�
According to Lawrey, the most promising areas for newly minted mechanical engineers are advanced manufacturing, nano-technology, energy and environmental sustainability, and smart embedded systems like those in consumer medical and industrial products or large buildings. Technical training is crucial, she emphasizes, but has never been enough for success. �You need professional skills like leadership, diverse teaming and communications,� Lawrey says. �You can take electives that may help you in those areas, and you can also take workshops through organizations like ASME. ASME provides opportunities for engineering students and graduates to brush up on their professional skills and keep abreast of changes in technology.�
She recommends that aspiring mechanical engineers work on design project teams from freshman year onward and get real-world experience through industry co-ops, internships and humanitarian service programs.
Starting early on a PE license is also a good idea, she says. �When you�re searching for a new job, a PE is an extra credential and qualifies you for some career opportunities that might not otherwise be available. Anything that engages you in authentic engineering practice is worthwhile and sets you apart from others.�
Diversity and inclusion at 3M
3M has a large portfolio of consumer and industrial products. �From a recruitment point of view, our footprint is global, so we bring in diversity organically,� says Sophia Khan, global diversity and inclusion manager in the office of diversity and inclusion at 3M (St. Paul, MN). �Diversity is embedded in our culture.�
Khan notes that the company has long-standing relationships with schools with large minority populations, as well as organizations like the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE).
�We also leverage employee resource networks (ERNs), as well as alumni and other professional associations, to find diverse talent,� says Khan. 3M has ERNs for the LGBT community, women, military veterans, Native Americans, African Americans, South Asians, Hispanics, new employees and people with disabilities.
Alexis Marthaler: project engineer at 3M
Alexis Marthaler, a project engineer with 3M, grew up in St. Cloud, MN and received a BSME from the University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, MN) in December 2012. She works in 3M�s research and development department.
�Our group has sixteen members,� she reports. �Most are project engineers but several are designers. Most recently, we installed a safety platform on one of our web printing lines. I sketched out the geometry, taking into account OSHA requirements.�
Marthaler is involved with as many as thirty to forty projects at once. �Because I am a relatively new employee, I mostly handle small projects. But I have five or six large projects that are worth $500,000 to $1 million,� she says. �I�ve closed out about sixty projects so far. Sometimes it gets really crazy here, but the work is always exciting.�
When she was a college student, Marthaler was a member of SWE, as well as the varsity swim team. Now she is active in 3M�s Neon group, an ERN for new employees. �I�m on the career development and collaboration committee. One of our speakers this year is from 3M Japan. He will talk about cultural differences and what we might expect if we work abroad,� she says.
Marthaler was able to secure a position at 3M because the company has a strong partnership with the University of St. Thomas. �I applied through the career center, interviewed for a few positions, and got two different 3M job offers. The career center can help move your application to the top of the pile,� she says.
She advises students to apply for as many jobs as possible. �In all, I applied for fifty to sixty jobs and went on about twelve interviews.� She also suggests doing something out of the ordinary. �Join something unique. Environmental science, my minor, was a good talking point, and so was my experience on the swim team.�
One of Marthaler�s biggest challenges is learning how to be a manager. �I�m young and female, but a lot of engineers here are older males, so I make sure I�m prepared when I begin working with a new group,� she says. �During the first meeting, I set the agenda and try not to get sidetracked. Once you�ve lost respect, it�s an uphill battle.�
An inclusive strategy is good business at Ingersoll Rand
Attracting and developing skilled talent in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is a critical area of focus, notes Neddy Perez, vice president of global diversity and inclusion at Ingersoll Rand (Davidson, NC). This is becoming increasingly important as baby boomers retire and the number of gen X and Y members choosing STEM careers declines.
�For us, a progressive, diverse and inclusive strategy is not only a business imperative, it is a social and ethical responsibility embedded in our core values,� says Perez. �Building this environment is a key component of our winning culture and essential to our role as a cutting-edge leader in the marketplace.�
Ingersoll Rand has an accelerated development program as part of its early talent initiative. �As part of the program, we offer opportunities for employees to participate in cross-functional rotations. This allows them to get experience outside their areas of study and additional exposure to the operations of Ingersoll Rand,� says Perez.
The company appreciates the logistics and supply chain management skills of military veterans, and makes an effort to hire them. Skills developed in the armed forces typically translate well to opportunities in the private sector, Perez points out. To build a strong talent pipeline, Ingersoll Rand partners with ten-plus universities with diverse STEM talent pools, including HBCUs Howard University (Washington, DC) and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (Greensboro).
The company offers internship and co-op programs, as well as on-site classrooms and web-based training that help employees develop and expand their areas of interest. Tuition reimbursement is available for continued education.
Jennifer Eckert: meeting modern industrial needs at Ingersoll Rand
Jennifer Eckert, a product manager at Ingersoll Rand, graduated from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University College of Engineering (Blacksburg) in 2009 with a BSME and a minor in French.
�My goal is to ensure that our products are meeting the modern-day needs of industrial environments. At Ingersoll Rand, we use cutting-edge technology to help people lift, move and position industrial parts and products with more speed and accuracy,� says Eckert. She also provides sales tools and training to maximize the effectiveness of the sales force.
During college, Eckert was a member of the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience (IAESTE). Her affiliation with IAESTE gave her the opportunity to network with local professors and foreign students.
�Being a part of IAESTE gave me a better understanding of how businesses operate globally. Working abroad is one of my long-term career aspirations,� she says.
Eckert got valuable experience during co-ops with Virginia locations of DuPont and Danaher Motion. �At DuPont I started as a research and development assistant, and during my second co-op rotation I moved into a leadership role as the daily manager of the R&D; testing facility. At Danaher, I learned about manufacturing processes and lean principles,� she says.
Eckert was drawn to Ingersoll Rand in part because of its accelerated development program. It was through the cross-functional rotation that Eckert discovered she enjoys interacting with customers. That�s a feature of her current product management role.
Eckert advises students to find their area of interest and research leading companies and societies associated with that interest. �Network at career fairs, society meetings and conferences. If you don�t have a specific area of interest, try to target your job search to major global corporations with rotational development programs,� she says.
�It�s important to get as many different work-related experiences as possible so you have a better understanding of the direction you want your career to take. Once you land a job, establish credibility early on. Business attire, mannerisms, professionalism and presentation style make a difference.�
Robert Gregoire: product engineer at Lear
Lear Corporation (Southfield, MI) is a supplier of automotive seating and electrical distribution systems. As a product engineer at Lear, Robert Gregoire focuses on the design, functional operation, testing, validation and improvement of seat adjusters for a variety of vehicles.
Gregoire got a 2011 BS in mechanical engineering technology from Wayne State University (Detroit, MI). He had previously received an associate of applied science and mechanical technology degree from Baker College (Flint, MI) in 2007 and worked as an intern at Fisher Dynamics (St. Clair Shores, MI).
Gregoire applied for his current job at Lear in summer 2010. Because Fisher was one of Lear�s suppliers, Gregoire had an understanding of the working relationship between the two companies, which helped make for a smooth transition to his new job. He was initially hired as a contract employee by Lear when he still had two semesters of classes left to finish his degree.
�I began working during the day and taking night classes three days a week until I graduated. It was definitely a tough stretch balancing work and school, but having the discipline to finish tasks early eased the long hours. In January 2012, I was hired as a full-time employee by Lear,� he says.
Gregoire tries to learn something new every day. This helps him stand out as an individual, he says. �I�m a motivated person with a zeal for problem solving. I have many key traits, like communication skills and organizational ability.�
To improve their chances of landing a good job after graduation, he advises students to network as much as possible, using sites like LinkedIn and attending engineering job fairs and conventions. He also recommends they secure a co-op or internship and get hands-on experience while still in school.
�Keep in mind, there is no substitute for work experience. It does go a long way. There�s a lot of hard work and long hours involved in a mechanical engineering degree, but never give up,� he says. �Be prepared to start at the bottom and work your way up.�
Gregoire comes from a very diverse background: his father is from Mexico City, Mexico and his mother is from Quezon City in the Philippines. �My mother and grandparents taught me from a young age to embrace my heritage. So if there were any barriers along my career path related to my minority status, I never paid attention to them,� he says.
Jonathan T. King at Chrysler Group LLC
Jonathan T. King is a project development engineer with automotive manufacturer Chrysler Group LLC (Auburn Hills, MI). He works on the electronic stability control for the Chrysler 300, the Dodge Challenger, and the Dodge Charger.
King works on design verification plans, develops software and drives vehicles on the company�s ice field in Upper Michigan to test the systems.
�We look at the performance of the electronic stability control, an important safety feature, in the context of different factors, such as torque management, shift, and the ability to handle a twenty to thirty percent incline,� he explains. �We drive over patches of high and low traction, and look at performance under worst-case scenarios. I work in the Upper Peninsula a lot, but depending on the launch schedule, we may chase winter to New Zealand or Alaska when the season ends here,� he says.
King started with Chrysler after graduating with a BSME from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (Greensboro) in 2011. He entered the company�s Chrysler Institute of Engineering, a two-and-a-half- year rotation program, which he just completed. During his time in the program, King went through seven rotations. The company paid for King�s 2013 MSME from the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
King interviewed with Chrysler at the 2011 Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA) career fair. His co-ops at Toyota Engineering and Manufacturing North America (Georgetown, KY) and Marathon Oil Corporation (Canton, OH) helped him land the job.
�At Toyota, I made modifications on new and old equipment for current and future models and reconstructed a Camry vehicle. I completed a checklist for new and old equipment and met with vendors to obtain new equipment,� he says.
King is an active member of the Chrysler African American ERG. �I�m on the future leaders committee and help plan networking events and outings,� he says.
For King, ME was a natural choice. �It�s a very broad-based engineering discipline. I�ve always loved cars. My first car was a Sebring convertible. I�m six foot, five inches, so I was interested in designing something for people of my height and making the interior more comfortable,� he says.
King feels he got an edge by going to an HBCU. �The number of African American engineers is low. The odds were that I would not become one. Going to an HBCU helped me overcome that because they really try to help you succeed,� he says.
Now, as an on-campus recruiter, King says he often meets students who do not know what they want to do. He advises them to determine what they�re interested in.
�Talk to professors, tour corporate facilities, talk to company recruiters, and seek out internships in different industries to find out what you like. And form a group with classmates who have academics as a priority,� he says.
�You might have to miss a few parties, but if you work hard for four or five years, you can play for the rest of your life.�
Kayla Dunbar: civilian ME for the Air Force
Kayla Dunbar is a civilian mechanical engineer for the U.S. Air Force at Robins Air Force Base, GA. Robins AFB provides combat capabilities for Department of Defense warfighters and allies through maintenance, sustainment, supply chain management, and flight test and evaluation.
Dunbar has direct contact with aircrews and maintenance workers and helps solve their problems. She answers depot and field requests for engineering assistance. She is the primary engineer for several systems on the C-130 aircraft, including equipment and furnishings, ice and rain protection, cargo loading, and weight and balance.
Dunbar, who grew up in Lake Charles, LA, graduated in 2012 with a BSME from Southern University and Agricultural & Mechanical (A&M;) College in Baton Rouge. While at school she was a member of ASME, NSBE, SWE, and Pi Tau Sigma, a mechanical engineering honor society. She interned at the University of Delaware�s Center for Composite Materials for two consecutive summers.
Although Dunbar started out as a mathematics major, many of her friends at Southern University and A&M; College were engineers, and they convinced her to switch to engineering. She enjoyed her first engineering course so much she realized that switching majors was the best decision she could have made. She joined a research group in the engineering college and received a stipend as an undergraduate assistant.
�My research experience provided opportunities to intern and get practical engineering experience that I might not have had otherwise,� she says.
She found her job at Robins Air Force Base during a career fair at the university early in the fall of her final semester. �Robins Air Force Base had a booth and I expressed my interest in aerospace engineering to the recruiter. I kept in contact over the following months and followed instructions with regard to the hiring process. I received a tentative job offer two days before graduation. I felt secure knowing I had a job waiting for me after I crossed that stage at graduation,� she says.
Starting a new job in a state where she knew no one was a challenge for Dunbar. �My reputation for getting things done may have helped me get the job, but it did not follow me there. I had to start from the ground up,� she says. �I learned to listen more than speak. Finding the resources I needed to complete a task was another challenge. But after a few months I had a better sense of who to go to for what, and I became a part of the team in no time,� she says.
Ololade Lamina of Parker Aerospace
Growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, Ololade Lamina loved science and math, and airplanes fascinated him. Mechanical engineering was a natural career choice. Lamina came to the U.S. when he was a teenager and lived with an older brother in Chicago. He received a BSME from Arkansas Tech University (Russellville) in 2011 and is pursuing a January 2015 MBA at the Darla Moore School of Business of the University of South Carolina (Columbia).
When Lamina finished his bachelors degree, he applied for a number of jobs, including one at Parker Aerospace (Cleveland, OH).
�I gave it a week or two, then called the HR office to check on whether they had received my resume. The HR officer said she didn�t have it, so I sent it directly to her and got an interview two days later. Some companies don�t like when people call them directly but in this case it paid off,� Lamina says. He is now a lead manufacturing engineer at the company�s Moncks Corner, SC facility.
Lamina develops processes for new products and designs the tools required to manufacture the products. �I am also responsible for communicating with the design engineer and quality engineer to ensure we are all on the same page,� he says.
Although he�s at the start of his career, Lamina has three technicians who report to him. �This is a developmental role for me. I am picking up management skills. I enjoy that,� he says. �Even in college I enjoyed leadership roles. I was president of the Society of Automotive Engineers chapter, and president of the Order of Omega and vice president of Alpha Phi Alpha. I was also a team leader on the student activities board.�
Although Lamina did not have any internships or co-ops while in school, he obtained Six Sigma certification on his own. �That gave me a leg up,� he says. He advises students looking for a permanent job to search out companies that have rotational programs or special training programs for college graduates.
�Parker�s one-year training program was the best thing that could have happened to me. It gave me the chance to network with colleagues that I wouldn�t normally have come into contact with,� he says.
Southwest Airlines� Kinza Azmat solves maintenance challenges
Kinza Azmat is a staff engineer in the service engineering department of Southwest Airlines (Dallas, TX). �Our group provides technical support to teams inspecting and repairing the aircraft scheduled for maintenance. Certified mechanics inspect for defects throughout the aircraft. Engineers work with the manufacturer to remove damage and design repairs,� Azmat says.
Because the planes operate year-round, the service engineering department is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year operation, and engineers must be available around the clock. There are more than twenty people in Azmat�s department, working in shifts.
Azmat received a BSME from the Ohio State University (Columbus) in 2012. Before joining Southwest Airlines in February 2013, Azmat had internships with International Paper (Memphis, TN) and at JPMorgan Chase.
�Both internships provided valuable experience. At International Paper I learned how to interact with people on the manufacturing floor. My internship with JPMorgan Chase helped me feel confident about working in groups,� she says.
She was employed full time at JPMorgan Chase for six months before starting with Southwest. �The job wasn�t related to my degree and I wanted a change,� she says. Azmat�s mother works for Southwest Airlines and helped her make connections in the engineering department that led to an interview.
Born in Karachi, Pakistan, Azmat moved to the United States with her family when she was six. She attended Ohio State on a minority and merit scholarship offered by the university. �That was really valuable. It allowed me to learn as much as I could without having to worry about finances,� she says.
Azmat loves her job. �It�s very hands-on and a great fit for me. It�s important to figure out what your best fit is and how your skills and personality work to the best advantage,� she says. She feels it is important to do your research on any job you apply for. She also feels it is crucial to have a well-designed resume.
�Take advantage of the career services at school and have someone go over your resume. Meet with the counselors. And don�t forget to tap into the alumni market. Networking is very important,� she says.
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