Position at SIGMADESIGN: Director of Engineering Support
As Director of Engineering Support, I am fortunate to be involved in nearly every project at SIGMADESIGN at some level. From supporting engineers on exciting new R&D projects, to providing Test & Validation services, and performing assembly of prototype and production builds, my team encompasses a vast breadth of skills and capabilities. Above all, I value the quality and timeliness on everything that passes through my department.
I grew up on 40 acres on the Oregon Coast, 20 miles inland from Newport. I never watched TV; my brother and I would just go outside and play, create, destroy and recreate. I’ve been building things and fixing things since I was a wee lad. My dad started shaping surf boards when I was born and turned that into a retail surf shop called “Ocean Pulse” in Newport. To this day, he’s still shaping in the shop. So growing up, I would help out in the shop, shaping surf boards.
We had a Toyota pickup that I got when I was 9. It was just a rust bucket, but I got it running. I would use it to drive into the woods and split and haul firewood. We also had a 1940s D4 Caterpillar. Every time we needed it, it would be a full day of cranking on the pony motor to get it going.
My parents raised me and my brother to have a strong work-ethic. We were good about helping out, and I worked at the surf shop to make money to buy my first car. I did not get a lot of hand-outs; I worked for what I wanted and earned it.
I never would have imagined landing in a place like SIGMADESIGN. My dad ran his own business and set his own schedule. As a kid, I thought it seemed like an awesome thing to run your own business. My dad would pull me out of school on a Wednesday because there was a powder dump and he wanted to head up the mountain and go snowboard. At the University of Oregon, I got a business degree in finance thinking I would own my own business someday. I wanted to have autonomy and live a similar lifestyle to that of my dad’s.
I was on the sailing team at University of Oregon, where I became good friends with a guy named George who came up to Portland and bought a sailboat dealership, West Coast Sailing. The first summer he bought it, I was up helping him . George knew Bill Huseby through the sailing and racing community. I actually sold Bill a Laser in the summer of 2005. George couldn’t really afford to pay me much since he had just gotten started that summer. But Bill was able to hire me, so that’s when I became a Lab Tech at SIGMADESIGN. Back then, there were about 10-12 people at SIGMADESIGN and I spent the summer at the old 1500 Broadway building. I worked almost full time at SIGMADESIGN and part time at the sailboat shop. After I graduated in 2007, I came up to Portland and helped George and worked for Bill again. SIGMADESIGN needed the help, so Bill made me an offer and the rest is history.
I have lots of hobbies. I am a DIY-er. My wife and I thoroughly remodeled our first home. I don’t take my cars to the shop for anything. I work on all my own vehicles and do bike maintenance. Snowboarding, surfing, and traveling are my favorite hobbies.
WORKING AT SIGMADESIGN
When I started at SIGMADESIGN ten years ago, we worked on a lot of simple, pneumatic tooling; an entire line of tooling that would consist of 20 machines that were bench-top size made in batches of 5 or 10. Now we are working on anything from ITAR projects, soft goods, full automation solutions, robot cells, to big room-sized machines. Every year there is a whole new realm of things to work on. The breadth of our projects is amazing. We help improve some pretty incredible industries, working on innovative, confidential projects. We automate processes in industries and on products that are surprisingly unique. And just when we think we’ve seen it all, something new comes along. I never would have expected I’d be working at a place like this and I definitely enjoy the variety the most.
The role of engineering support is pretty important to keeping our capabilities expanding. The Test Lab is a great example of a capability we have expanded. Ten years ago, we didn’t really do any testing. Now we have environmental chambers and test fixtures and the ability to test to all sorts of different standards.
My day-to-day work consist of tons of meetings and quotes and input on estimates. Since I’ve been with SIGMADESIGN for 10 years, I know our capabilities a lot better than many of our new Project Managers; they solicit me for input and I enjoy that.
I’d like to hire more Lab Managers so that my role can be more strategic for the Engineering Support. I’m still doing a lot of the day to day project management, and wear many different hats. Anything that is not Engineering or Administration related currently lands on me, such as picking up a fridge from East manufacturing.
NEW WORLD HEADQUARTERS
Our new World Headquarters building is pretty exciting. It’s extremely helpful to have a lot of room to spread out so we can work more efficiently. The new space in the lab accommodates a lot of projects and there is room to grow. I remember when we first moved into our downtown Vancouver headquarters. It felt the same way, tons of room all around. I think we had 4 technicians when we moved in there and that grew to 20 technicians. We made it work, we moved people across the street, down the street. But now everybody is back under one roof, and it’s really exciting.
TEAM WORK AND FAMILY VALUES
I have always embodied the family-first culture of SIGMADESIGN. I love how if somebody needs the time to do something fun with their family, they can take the time off. That’s the attitude around here and I encourage my team to do that. That culture and attitude has been the main thing that has kept me here. It satisfies the autonomy of wanting to have time to do what I want. And I try to pass that along to everybody, no matter what role. If somebody wants to take a Friday off, and they can swing it, then great. If they can’t swing it, but others are willing to step up and help out, then great.
The Core Values play out wherever you turn in the company. In the lab, we are definitely focused on Exceeding Customer Expectations, which is one of our Core Values.. A lot of our work comes down to timeliness and quality of work. But that takes teamwork and a supportive work environment. For example, I like to make sure that all employees in the lab understand that mistakes happen. If you break something, if something doesn’t seem right, you just have to address it. Things happen. That could be breaking an $8000 load cell to breaking drill bits. The big thing is to keep moving forward so we can Exceed Customer Expectations.
Overall, I definitely enjoy the culture, family-first feel, core values, and the variety of work and the people at SIGMADESIGN.