Ask the Engineer: What Gets You Fired Up?

The Palm Islands in Dubai, the Akashi Kaikyō Bridge in Japan, the Panama Canal, the Hoover Dam, the International Space Station—just a few of the astonishing engineering feats from around the world.

But the amazing engineering minds behind projects like these are often obscured. We’re on a mission to put that right. To unearth and expose engineers everywhere, asking questions, and uncovering the inner workings of engineering brains across the globe.

This month we’ve asked four engineers from very different backgrounds: What gets you fired up?

Angelo Truncale – Boeing

Angelo TruncaleAngelo Truncale is a semi-retired 76-year-old engineer who works on missile navigation at The Boeing Company. For Truncale, it’s all about making things work and perform better. “I’m an idea person and I like to figure out what is keeping us from the next step,” he says.

Truncale also likes brainstorming in a group with diverse expertise because it can bring an “exquisite” or “exotic” solution that is beyond the imagination of one. “None of us is as smart as all of us. Sometimes someone expresses an off-the-wall idea, someone else picks up on it, and so forth, until in the end, something none of us would have individually thought of emerges.”

Deb Mandile – Raytheon

Deb MandileDeb Mandile’s training is in mechanical engineering, but now in her 36th year at Raytheon’s Integrated Air Defense Center, she is a senior manufacturing lead. Because Raytheon believes in leading-edge innovation, she always has access to the latest tools. “As a mechanical engineer, I’ve been pushed to come up with innovative ways to use new technology,” Mandile says. “It’s exciting to be handed a new tool and be pushed to figure out how to use it to improve our products.”

One of Mandile’s current challenges is to come up with ergonomic designs for zero lift on the manufacturing floor. “I’m involved in creative problem solving everyday and I love it.”

Lianne McMahan – Schneider Electric

Lianne McMahan“One of the things that gets me most excited as an engineer is a challenge, a puzzle…something new or ‘impossible’ to figure out,” says Lianne McMahan, a mechanical engineer at Schneider Electric. “And for the last few weeks I’ve been smack dab in the middle of all of the above,” she adds.

McMahan’s company specializes in electricity distribution and automation management and she is now on a small team creating a whole new line of business. “Sometimes working at such a large company, an engineer can feel small and at the mercy of corporate processes. But the project I’m on now is exciting because we are flying without a net, free to invent our own rules,” McMahan says.

“Part of the excitement is the unknown, and for me, it’s a rush to be under pressure, especially when we’re up against a deadline to deliver a new product,” she concludes.

Ray Salemi – Mentor Graphics

ray-salemiRay Salemi is a verification consultant at Mentor Graphics, a company that supplies electronic and mechanical design integration. When asked what makes him tick he says: “An elegant design and the flash of insight that comes with solving a problem that’s previously been unsolvable.”

One of the challenges of Salemi’s job is keeping ahead in an industry where chip complexity doubles every two years. “Engineers don’t want designs that would show up in Rube Goldberg cartoons. We want designs where people will say, ‘that’s clever – I’m impressed you thought of that.’” Salemi adds that there is a beauty in the right design that he can feel.

And he, like Truncale, Mandile, and McMahan, feels that much of his work is about problem solving. “In my business, nothing ever works the first time. It’s a good challenge to find out where the mistakes are. And that flash of insight, when the answer comes out of nowhere, is the fun part.”

Are you an engineer? What get’s you fired up?

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