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The Wizards of Gizmos
Mechanical engineering, which is experiencing employment growth, gives us such wonders.
Before your house existed, a bulldozer cleared your lot and before that bulldozer existed, a mechanical engineer’s ingenuity conceived it and designed it and oversaw its construction.
Likewise with the car in your driveway and the jet streaking contrails high in the sky.
Even the wondrous gizmos that medical personnel use to diagnose people come from the creativity of mechanical engineers - just like the ones profiled here.
They join others who are pushing this discipline to 9 percent growth through 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). And it’s no wonder since mechanical engineers design and build complex pieces of equipment and machinery and tech such as the types described here. It’s also clear that a creative mind is essential for this kind of work.
Meet these particular engineers who thrive at their companies, and learn why they love what they do and what it takes to be a mechanical engineer - aka a wizard of gizmos!
Dozier Leverages Tesla’s Meritocracy into Management Role
From the first and only car to receive a perfect score from Consumer Reports to wind-slipping, electric trucks and the world’s biggest battery, Tesla, like its namesake, Nikola Tesla, is a world changer.
Gerrie Dozier, manager, controls engineering, has much more than a front row seat to the big show; she’s in it! She programs and maintains the machines that make Tesla’s gleaming dream machines.
“I manage a team of 20 engineers and growing who are solely responsible for programming, maintaining and troubleshooting the automated equipment that’s used to build Model S, Model X and Model 3.”
Dozier loves that Tesla, headquartered in Palo Alto, CA, is a meritocracy. “The only thing that will hold you back is you. Everyone is open to new ways of thinking, so assigning employees stretch roles and projects is commonplace.”
Dozier leveraged the meritocracy to move into management. “I quickly earned my first management opportunity after a strong performance as an individual contributor,” she shares.
“In turn, I’ve been able to give members of my team similar stretch assignments, thus creating a motivating environment where performance rules above all. At Tesla everyone cares about the company, the mission and the product. We all have an opportunity to succeed based on performance and hard work.”
Tesla’s meritocracy doesn’t just confer opportunity to its engineers; it also confers responsibility.
“The most surprising thing about Tesla is how quickly we make decisions as a company, and how this strategy trickles down throughout each support team,” explains Dozier.
“As a company with minimal bureaucracy, every employee is entrusted to make fast, sound decisions. This invaluable skill is honed and perfected among our teams, creating a strong unit focusing on accelerating the shift toward sustainable energy.”
Dozier didn’t mosey into management either. She had to hit the floor with her feet sprinting, as she was tasked with recruiting new engineers to increase her engineering team by a factor of four to help launch the Model 3.
“This assignment has given me the opportunity to find and recruit incredible talent, craft the team culture, and determine the strategies and processes that we would use to implement and maintain an automated production line capable of eventually building a half a million vehicles.”
Additionally, she has the chance to train and educate engineers by leading them toward the best solutions to the tough problems that they face daily. This keeps Dozier technically in tune.
She acquired an MBA to prepare herself to climb the corporate rungs. She urges those still in school to arm themselves with information.
“The best advice I've ever received is to seek informational interviews from individuals that have experience in the industries, companies and job functions that seem interesting to you,” she proffers.
“You'd be surprised how family and friends, college professors or social media connections are willing to tell you about their career, answer questions and connect you with their resources to assist in your quest for knowledge. Armed with different perspectives, you can make a sound decision on where and how to launch your career.”
If you, too, one day ascend the corporate ladder, then trust there will be challenging rungs.
“The most challenging time in my career was when I was a controls engineer, the exact role of the engineers I manage today,” recalls Dozier.
“The biggest challenge was adjusting to working nights and weekends while my friends were socializing, exploring and networking. To navigate this, I focused on setting some goals for the coming year, which improved my performance, sharpened my skills, and documented my growth and accomplishments. That, in turn, helped me grow into a new opportunity in another department.”
Learn more about Tesla through tesla.com/careers, Facebook and Twitter.
Lane Enjoys Her Sky-High Career at Eaton
Kimberly Lane, lead product engineer at Eaton - which has corporate U.S. headquarters in Cleveland, OH, and global headquarters in Dublin, Ireland - can look up at the sky with pride, for she plays a crucial role in designing safe planes.
“As a lead product engineer, I’m responsible for the development of various hydraulic components for military and commercial aircraft. I work with manufacturing, analysis, program management, suppliers and customers to move through the product lifecycle, from initial concept through qualification and eventually into a production environment,” she details.
“Eaton’s goal is to design solutions for our customers that make their products and services more efficient, reliable, sustainable and safe.”
One of approximately 96,000 employees, Lane loves aerospace, for its mechanical wizardry to send big, heavy machines aloft.
“Aerospace is a sector of engineering that’s very enticing because any young science enthusiast would love to make things fly. It’s a challenging and fascinating area of engineering that I’ve been excited about since I was young and just beginning to understand careers in engineering,” she shares.
Eaton is big, but Lane enjoys her cozy nook, and its challenges and opportunities.
“Although Eaton is a large company, the aerospace group is relatively small. Being in a smaller environment has presented more challenging opportunities and greater responsibilities early in my career, and it has also led me to learn and develop quickly,” shares Lane.
“In addition, Eaton offers many professional growth opportunities and focuses on helping employees meet their full potential by encouraging creativity and invention.”
If “creativity and invention” appeal to you, too, and you’re still in school, then get your hands dirty as soon as possible, advises Lane.
“I recommend students participate in hands-on opportunities at school, as well as seek internship opportunities. These activities are good ways to apply and retain knowledge learned. Prospective employers like to see that you have work experience in engineering.”
Lane also realizes that transitioning from school to work can be daunting, since you now have to apply all you learned into real-world practice.
“I was nervous about how my educational knowledge would translate to a work environment. So I chose to focus on the skills I knew I had,” she recalls.
“I’m a quick learner, hard worker, detail-oriented, organized, and I’m always looking to improve myself. As a result, over the past three years, I’ve been able to step into new and challenging roles and quickly bring myself up to speed.”
Overcoming challenges lets one plumb the mysteries of modernity. “The most exciting part of being an engineer is having a peek behind the curtain. It’s a cool feeling when you can understand how complicated systems work or why something is built or designed the way it is,” notes Lane.
“It’s incredible the things that can be achieved simply by human intelligence. Also, if Arthur C. Clarke is correct and ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,’ then I’m technically a wizard.”
Clarke was right. However, unlike some other well-known wizards, Lane’s sport wasn’t quidditch, but sports put pluck in her took kit.
“Playing sports growing up made me very competitive, a beneficial quality in the workplace,” says Lane.
“I’ve always strived to be the best, and that drive has continued through my education and work. Being part of a sports team has also helped me work well with others toward a common goal. I now bring that cooperative attitude and drive I formulated playing sports to the workplace.”
And if aerospace isn’t your cup of tea, then no worries: a mechanical engineering degree can whisk you anywhere.
“I initially focused on the aerospace industry and was mostly aware of only large, well-known companies, but engineering is a big world with many different and exciting opportunities,” Lane concludes.
Explore Eaton through eaton.com/careers, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.
Stryker’s Sankaran Excels by Donning Many Hats
Meera Sankaran, R&D manager at Stryker, manages a team of R&D product development engineers in Stryker’s sports medicine business. Doing so means donning and doffing different hats.
“As a people manager, I mentor engineers and help guide their career trajectories. As a technical leader, I help shape the product pipeline for our sports medicine business. As a project manager, I lead product development teams to launch products.”
Donning different hats doesn’t make her head spin. Rather, she enjoys the changes.
“I enjoy serving different needs in the business because it helps me sharpen a variety of skills, and it keeps me challenged and engaged in my position,” Sankaran says.
Filling more than one role is encouraged at Stryker, which has corporate headquarters in Kalamazoo, MI.
“The most surprising thing about Stryker is how many opportunities employees have to own their careers. The company encourages employees to take on different roles across functional areas and divisions,” points out Sankaran.
“Within our team at the endoscopy division, we have individuals who have worked in business units across the country and world, and they bring great perspective from their experiences across Stryker.”
Additionally, she indicates, “we often see team members switch from operations to R&D to project management, and so on. These individuals end up being well-rounded and have a great understanding of the bigger picture. The lateral mobility across functions and divisions results in a diverse pool of emerging leaders across Stryker.”
However, Sankaran has learned it takes more than lateral movement and hard work to move ahead. You have to formulate and articulate your goals, and mentors can facilitate that process.
“Be your own champion. Early on in my career, I thought that working hard and performing well would lead to more challenging projects and career advancement. However, I found myself disappointed when exciting new projects were assigned to others. I assumed my hard work was enough,” she shares.
“Great mentors taught me to be more vocal about my interests to ensure the leadership team took them into account. Now I regularly discuss my career development, aspirations and areas for improvement with my leadership team to drive my own career path.”
Sankaran now manages three team members and enjoys paying it forward.
“While we each have our individual roles, we shine when we come together as a team to launch new products. As an R&D manager, I love mentoring and working with young engineers. Seeing them grow and succeed is more gratifying than any product launch or individual achievement I have experienced.”
Sankaran believes young engineers should fill their sacks of skills, too.
“Take on as many new projects and skills as you can early in your career to see what fits best. I’ve worked in research, design, product development, project management and strategic marketing. Working in these areas gave me a more holistic understanding of the medical device industry.”
Sankaran also added an MBA to her engineering degree, which was daunting, for she had to be an engineer by day and a student when she wasn’t working.
“Pursuing my MBA part-time was the most challenging period in my career. I was working on several high-profile product launches while spending evenings and weekends attending classes and studying,” she elaborates.
“At times I felt as though I was not bringing my best self to any of the areas of my life. However, I learned to stop being so hard on myself and to enjoy the ride.”
Sankaran also tapped support at work. “I became more open with my colleagues about my studies and the career growth that I hoped would follow once I completed my MBA. I identified several mentors at work that cheered me on during the three-year program. The experience made me realize that my capacity for managing work-life balance is much greater than I thought.”
Research Stryker through careers.stryker.com and its Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube pages.
Cummins Has Accompanied Modiyani through Her Journey
From engines and generators to components, Cummins is a powerhouse of power, but it’s also powered the education of Rajani Modiyani, technology planning technical specialist.
“After completion of my undergraduate degree in engineering from Cummins College of Engineering in Pune, India (yes, it’s the same Cummins), I applied for a fellowship program; the Cummins-Purdue fellowship program,” she elaborates.
“I won the award, which allowed me to pursue a Master [of Science] in mechanical engineering [MSME] at Purdue. This fellowship was a turning point in my academic life and from there on everything just followed.”
Even with Cummins, with corporate headquarters in Columbus, IN, behind your back, there will still be times when engineering students have to step up.
“I have been a ‘top of the class student’ almost all my life. However, during one of the courses I took at Purdue during my MSME program, I failed a test. It was advanced thermodynamics. I did not really know how to deal with that since I had never really been in that position,” remembers Modiyani.
“My professor even advised me to drop the course, but that meant giving up, which was not really an option.”
It was also Modiyani’s first year in the U.S., so there was still a bit of a cultural barrier, she indicates. “I learned to ask for help from others in the class. I was pleasantly surprised by how kind my colleagues were, helping me learn and spending time studying with me. In the final exam I was among the top 10 percent of the class.”
Modiyani has found more kindness and inclusion at Cummins, too. “In every aspect of my work day I constantly experience our company’s core values practiced at all levels,” she says. “There are constant living examples of caring, teamwork, inclusion, integrity and excellence all around me every day. This inspires me to give back what I receive and become an even better person every day. That is why I absolutely love Cummins.”
Caring collaboration is found in all strata at the company.
“The most surprising thing about my company would be humility in people at all levels. Even the top leaders within the organization are easily accessible and always willing to provide mentorship with guidance,” she says.
“That brings along immense possibilities for growth and also flexibility to move across functions. Essentially the possibilities that are available to employees at all levels, regions and functions are endless.”
Modiyani also loves the range within her role: “My job provides me with a unique opportunity to build on engineering principles in light of customer needs and changing technologies and markets to ensure the outcome still delivers utmost customer value via cutting-edge, yet robust solutions.”
She also gets to work with various cross-functional teams, which enables her to learn more about Cummins’ products, markets and customer every day. “I act as a liaison between engineering, product and market teams to create 10- to 20-year technology road maps to deliver optimized solutions for maximum customer value for a variety of off-road markets.”
Learn more about Cummins at careers.cummins.com, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.
Liu Supports Cutting-Edge Systems Deployment for Caterpillar Customers
Caterpillar is big in every sense of the word. It’s a Fortune 100 company, ranking 59 in the Fortune 500 and 194 in the Global 500.
It’s well-known for producing massive earth-moving machinery, which are used to create the modern world’s largest structures, from highway systems that span countries and cross mountains to the tallest skyscrapers.
Caterpillar is also big when it comes to its portfolio. It manufactures solar turbines, generators for airports and hospitals, locomotives, and much, much more. In short, it’s nirvana for mechanical engineering.
Shaobin Liu is one of its engineers who’s proud of Caterpillar’s vast, diverse and powerful portfolio. “I like our extensive range of products and services we offer beyond the classic Caterpillar tractors.”
Liu is an engineering project team leader for Caterpillar, with its corporate headquarters in Deerfield, IL, but Liu is based in Houston, TX with another colleague.
“The two of us collaborate with the oil and gas team, and a dozen Cat electronics teams in Peoria, [IL] and elsewhere,” he says.
Collaboration has been the driver for Caterpillar’s long history of innovation. In its 93-year history, it’s developed and manufactured world-changing technologies, such as track-type tractors, which allowed farmers to work boggy fields in California.
The company has also pioneered the industry’s first true motor grader, the world’s first mass-produced diesel engine, and the Cat differential steering system. Prior to this system, track-type tractors could waste half of their working time simply turning. This allows them to literally turn on a dime.
The innovation continues, from autonomous trucks to AccuGrade grade control system, which blends cross slope, sonic, laser, GPS and ATS technology.
And what is Liu’s role in the midst of all of this innovation? “I support our dealers, and oil and gas customers in the successful deployment of complex, integrated electronic control and monitoring systems.”
Supporting Caterpillar’s oil and gas customers puts Liu on many planes. “I love getting paid to travel the world, and help dealers and customers.”
Liu also loves the collaboration at the core of Caterpillar’s innovation. “I enjoy taking ownership, being helpful to others, being inclusive and networking.”
Of course, every job comes with a few challenges. Liu recalls the financial crisis during 2008 and 2009 as a particularly scary time for him.
“I’d been working at Caterpillar for three and half years as a research engineer and the company was going through a lot of changes. Besides focusing on projects and jogging regularly, I actively sought one-on-one meetings with managers from other divisions, promoting my skills and background. That helped me be able to transfer to a different business unit during a reorganization of my division.”
As a result, Liu encourages all engineers to network: “Wherever you are in your career, the key is communication, communication, communication.”
And find a mentor! “I’m fortunate to have a mentor who’s helped me navigate through the ups and downs of the industry,” he adds.
Learn more about Caterpillar at caterpillar.com/en/careers.html and on social media, which can be accessed at caterpillar.com/en/news/social-media.html.
Bright Mechanical Engineering Job Outlook
Employment of mechanical engineers is projected to grow 9 percent from 2016 to 2026, as fast as the average for all occupations, while in terms of engineering services, mechanical engineer employment growth is projected to be faster than average growth as these engineers continue to be in demand by companies seeking their experience. This growth will also, therefore, depend on the industry since mechanical engineers can work in many industries and on many types of projects.
Mechanical engineers will remain involved in various manufacturing industries, particularly in automotive manufacturing. These engineers will play key roles in improving the range and performance of hybrid and electric cars, for instance.
Furthermore, mechanical engineers often work on the newest industrial pursuits, particularly in automation and robotics.
The fields of alternative energies and nanotechnology will also offer new opportunities for occupational growth. Mechanical engineers design production projects to harness developments in nanotechnology, which involves manipulating matter at the tiniest levels. Nanotechnology will result in improvements of tech in fields such as healthcare and in the design of more powerful computer chips.
NOTE: BAR GRAPH that goes with the above information: see https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/mechanical-engineers.htm#tab-6 for reference.
Percent Change in Employment for Mechanical Engineers
Mechanical Engineers 9%
Total, All Occupations 7%
Note: “All occupations” includes all occupations in the U.S. economy.
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment projections program and Occupational Outlook Handbook, mechanical engineers
Key Qualities for Mechanical Engineers
Creativity: Mechanical engineers design and build complex pieces of equipment and machinery. A creative mind is essential for this kind of work.
Knack for Listening: Mechanical engineers often work on projects with others, such as architects and computer scientists. They must listen to and analyze different approaches made by other experts to complete the task at hand.
Math Proficiency: Mechanical engineers use the principles of calculus, statistics and other advanced subjects in math for analysis, design and troubleshooting in their work.
Mechanical Skills: Mechanical skills allow engineers to apply basic engineering concepts and mechanical processes to the design of new devices and systems.
Problem-Solving Abilities: Mechanical engineers need good problem-solving skills to take scientific principles and discoveries, and use them to design and build useful products.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Occupational Outlook Handbook, mechanical engineers
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