What did you do today? Turn on the faucet to brush your teeth? Drive a car? Use a computer or a smartphone? All of these activities and so many others happen every day thanks to the contributions of engineers. AMERICAN is joining almost 150 corporations and government agencies as well as engineering, educational and cultural societies in celebrating National Engineers Week February 16-22, 2020.
Founded by the National Society of Professional Engineers in 1951, the goal of Engineers Week is to raise awareness about the importance of engineering and bring engineering to life for children and adults. The theme for this year’s national event is “Engineers: Pioneers of Progress.” We salute the many engineers at AMERICAN and across the country who – like all pioneers – use their knowledge, creativity and sense of adventure to cross frontiers. Here are just a few of our engineers who are paving the way.
Fixing machinery and solving problems have always been exciting to Jeff Blakely. “When I was young, I would work in the shop with my dad and our neighbors,” Blakely said. “I still enjoy solving problems and being a technical resource. My role as a sales engineer for AMERICAN allows me to develop collaborative relationships with our customers to find solutions to the complex issues of water and wastewater infrastructure. From life-cycle optimization to seismic resiliency, I enjoy investing the time to understand these problems and recommend the appropriate solution.”
Blakely’s advice for students interested in becoming engineers is to remember the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, and that most things have an unequal distribution. “Most engineers would likely agree that they gained about 20% of their engineering knowledge in the classroom, and the other 80% on the job,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions, find a mentor and get involved in your industry’s professional associations.”
For Lindsay Hamner, being an engineer is about asking the right questions, solving problems and being able to effectively communicate with people at all levels. Hamner joined AMERICAN in 2013 after receiving her bachelor’s degree in materials engineering from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She decided to become an engineer because she knew it would be a stable career with longevity, and it would provide her with new and interesting things to do every day. She has served in various roles with AMERICAN and said she appreciates the opportunity to learn about more than just the engineering side of things. “Working as an internal auditor now, I really understand how the process goes – from ordering, producing and shipping,” Hamner said. “I get to see how the all the parts interact and how the departments work together to get the job done.”
Hamner’s advice to students who might be interested in pursuing an engineering degree is that while it’s important to focus on your classes and understand the science and physics behind engineering, it’s also important to improve on and work on the softer skills. “Being able to communicate with people with different levels of technical knowledge is critical for engineers,” she said. “It’s important to take information in and translate it so everyone can understand.”
From an early age, John Helf’s family and friends told him he should pursue a future in engineering. And, when he discovered he excelled in both math and science, it confirmed his inevitable college major.
Helf joined AMERICAN in January 2016 and said what he enjoys most about his job with AMERICAN Flow Control is being involved in industry development. “We recently launched several innovative products, and many more are on the horizon,” Helf said. “In addition to influencing the industry through product development, I enjoy being involved in drafting and revising industry standards. But my favorite part of being an engineer is that I learn something new every day.”
To students who might be interested in becoming engineers, Helf said the path forward will be difficult but rewarding, and the problem-solving ability of engineers will always be needed. “Challenging math and science-based courses will make up the majority of a student’s college experience,” he said. “However, technical writing may be the most important class a student takes. I would recommend this class for any technical major. Regardless of the career you choose, effective communication is critical.”
Robert Strong joined AMERICAN in June 2019 after receiving his mechanical engineering degree from Mississippi State University. When asked what he likes most about engineering and his job with AMERICAN, Strong said the flexibility and variety of projects. “One minute I’m working on one thing and the next minute I’m working on something else,” Strong said. “It keeps my mind racing and working. This flexibility makes the job exciting.”
Strong’s advice to students who are interested in pursuing a career in engineering is to network and be involved in your community. “Networking will get you farther than a 4.0,” he said. “Don’t let school be the only thing you do. Get out, do community service and be involved. Companies look at that too. Your degree shows your employer you have the ability to learn, but it doesn’t show you know how to get the job done. You have to show it yourself.”
Ductile Iron Pipe Manufacturing Engineer Amber Boone knows the best people to learn from are ones who do the job every day and are willing to share their time. “Always listen to people who have experience,” said Boone. “School is an important part of becoming an engineer, but when you get on the job, you will never stop learning. The best people to learn from are those who have been working somewhere for 5 to 40 years. If you ever have the opportunity, talk to those people about what they do.”
Deciding on a career in engineering was an easy one for Boone. She’d always enjoyed math and science, and was the kind of person who didn’t want to spend all day sitting behind a desk. Boone said now is an exciting time to be an engineer because technology, especially in the manufacturing industry, continues to grow and evolve. “Every single day is spent doing something completely different, which keeps things refreshing and interesting,” she said. “As an engineer, there are no limits to what you can achieve.”