Take Two: How do you know you want to be an engineer?

Posted by Meghan Hayes on Feb 18, 2020 7:30:00 AM

So, how do you know if you want to be an engineer? I asked some of the engineers here at Optimation.

Group Picture in front of PodsMark Haboian, Senior Program Manager at Optimation Technology

How did you know you wanted to be an engineer?

I’ve been asked this before, especially by my kid and their high school friends who were interested in a technical career.  I always answered that there was never really 1 event or High School Career Guidance Test that steered me toward engineering, and that they should explore many subjects when they enter college.  Also important is to never feel bad that you don’t already have a chosen career path when entering your 1st semester.  Heck - when I went to college, I thought I was going into the heath field somewhere, and I switched majors 3 times before finally settling on the College of Engineering (talking about try before you buy!!).

Back then, I was good in math and chemistry in high school (and fortunately – never blew anything up in Organic Chem Lab!!), and I was always tinkering with my dirt bike that was in constant need of repair. A few engineering classes later and I was well on my way to becoming a Chemical Engineer. 

So basically, I was a good student, interested in how things worked, and was fairly good at taking things apart and putting back them back together (but like one of my favorite TV show characters, I had to stay away from my Mom’s appliances).

What do you love most about engineering?

There’s a lot to love about this profession.  Besides the multiple different engineering disciplines, you can enter, you can specialize inside any one of them:  research, product or process development, design, manufacturing, maintenance, sales, etc.  But for me, I love the whole process from concept all the way thru final testing and startup.  It is a thrill to take a client’s idea or concept design, draw it up so that it advances from a pie-in-the-sky idea to  a real live workable process design on paper, and then working with our skilled trades mechanics to build/test the final assembly. 

After that, the real fun begins as we startup and commission the new equipment, ID problems (there’s ALWAYS problems), find solutions, and eventually get a fully working assembly for our client.  This part of the project is where the rubber meets the road and it’s one of the most important aspects of my job – taking an idea from a clean sheet of paper to an actual product-manufacturing piece of equipment, and this is where we process engineers earn our stripes.  When the system is fully operational, meets all requirements, and the client is not only satisfied, but delighted – that is a thrill for me and the coolest aspect of my job........I love delighting the client.

What was your favorite project/challenge?

Oh wow – tough question because there have been many favorites, and even more challenges.  But I’m not complaining one bit - that’s what I signed up for and that’s exactly what I expected. 

Of all the projects I’ve done in my career, I would say that the project I did 4 years ago to supply a company in the Oil & Gas Industry with multiple high-pressure test systems was my favorite.  It was a ton of work, a lot of out-of-the-box thinking, multiple engineering, software, and skilled trades disciplines here at Optimation involved, close involvement with the client, and the project involved all phases of engineering. Hallib Pumphouse Shop Pics 5-28-09 038

We started with the client’s requirements on designing and building different flavors of high-pressure test systems, and then had to figure out how to make these massive assemblies portable to be transported overseas and installed at a foreign site.  We were not going to ship multiple crates full of parts – a tinker toy set – since that philosophy was a huge risk riddled with potential problems.

T4 Overall Pod Front ViewWe came up with the idea to put everything in a portable shipping container, connecting all mechanical and electrical components together, testing & commissioning them in our shop, and then shipping the entire package overseas to the client’s site installation crew.  With our hook-up instructions, client install team, and our software startup team, we were able to make the dream into a reality – a true plug-&-play system.  That was a super cool job, with great satisfaction and pride when all systems were up and running overseas, and it was a pleasure to be part of that whole team on such a giant program.

What is your advice for those thinking about pursuing a career in engineering?

Hopefully a prospective engineer enjoys the technical subjects like math and science, is inquisitive on how things work and how to make something better, and enjoys working with their hands building, fixing, or just plain taking things apart to put back together.  See if your school has classes on different engineering disciplines, or even workshops that specialize in introducing a prospective engineer to different career paths (even if NOT engineering). 

Co-op work blocks at an engineering firm are also a great opportunity to physically work at a company that does the kind of work you might be getting into later.  Taking off a semester is a small price to pay for invaluable experience you gain in our engineering world. 

Try different engineering disciplines, and don’t be afraid to make a switch if something isn’t working for you – everybody does it, so don’t feel bad at all.

And if engineering is your endeavor, I wish you the best of luck in the future (just please don’t take apart any of Mom’s appliances)

Jeff Scott - Italian AlpsJeffrey Scott, PE, Systems & Software Engineer at Optimation Technology

How did you know you wanted to be an engineer?

I grew up on a farm problem solving and fixing equipment using creative methods.  I have always liked being creative, trouble shooting and making things work right.  I had heard that I could apply those skills in engineering and could earn a good living in the process.

What do you love most about engineering?

Pleasing the customer by helping them get over their technical hurdles.

What was your favorite project/challenge?Jeff Scott - Italian Alps2

My favorite project challenge was not actually a technical challenge.  It was more of physical challenge.  I think it was in 1994 when I fell into the opportunity of assisting a couple of our guys debug/startup a snow making system in the Italian Alps.  I was the go-to guy for hiking up the ski run, with my laptop in my backpack, to download the latest programs into each of the 11 snow gun stations positioned up the mountain.  The adventure, experience, exercise and views were amazing.  It was almost like a 2-week vacation that I got paid to be on.

Jeff Scott - Italian Alps3

What is your advice for those thinking about pursuing a career in engineering?

Work hard to learn the skills needed and enjoy the ride.


Dan CurryDan Curry, Quality Manager and Corporate Manager, Automation & Controls at Optimation Technology

How did you know you wanted to be an engineer?

From working on cars and engines and building things in general, I knew that I liked figuring out how things worked, and it was fun to make them work better.   I believed that becoming an engineer would be interesting and an enjoyable way to make a living.

What do you love most about engineering?

Seeing and applying technology and logic to make complicated mechanical systems run/perform/hum efficiently.  

pano refrigeration 2What was your favorite project/challenge?

I was able to work with a small team of young engineers to define and implement a program to eliminate use of fluorocarbon refrigerants in the world’s largest single-plant refrigeration system. The methods we used were unprecedented, and we were able to successfully implement the program at a cost much, much lower than the “old timer” engineers told us was possible.  

What is your advice for those thinking about pursuing a career in engineering?

Understand that your personal attention to detail for engineering practices is critical.  Engineering/design of systems must be completed minimizing, or, if possible, eliminating chances of failure that could harm people or the environment.   If you enjoy working with teams to make systems perform/function well, and you are willing to put in the effort to make sure what you contribute is flawless, engineering could be good for you!

James Farman, Systems Integrator, Group Manager Auto/Controls at Optimation Technologyfarnham_jim_form

How did you know you wanted to be an engineer?

I’ve always been interested in figuring how things work. As a child, I always took things apart to see how things went together. Sometimes I was able to rebuild what I’d taken apart. Sometimes not.

What do you love most about engineering?

Seeing what you’ve been working on for get built and then run

What was your favorite project/challenge?

I’ve had a lot of good projects

What is your advice for those thinking about pursuing a career in engineering?

Engineering is difficult, but worth the effort. Don’t cheat your education. Take the time to learn the basics

Topics: Education, IIoT, National Engineers Week, Engineering

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The goal of this blog is to be helpful to readers by providing useful information about applications in industrial engineering, design and skilled trades, as well as industry knowledge. We're passionate about manufacturing in the United States. We have a little fun with it too.  

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