Career Day Response Oct. 3, 2006

Career Day Response
From Steve Snelling – Industrial Engineer
1. A general overview of the career field. What are some of the different paths
to pursue in the career field?
Engineers in general are problem solvers
Frequently, engineers design things that have real world applications
Many of the products and man made structures that we use in our daily
lives, required engineers
There are a number of types of engineering, but all types have the
same first two years in college, covering fundamentals
Main engineering fields are mechanical, electrical, civil, aerospace,
chemical. Industrial is a smaller specialty, as are nuclear,
environmental, petroleum, ceramic, agricultural
2. What you actually do, perhaps using a specific case, transaction, or project as
an example to add focus and concreteness?
I am an Industrial Engineer and I work on Process Improvement
projects for the Boeing Co. at the Everett Final Assembly facility
I work on 3-6 month projects (usually two at a time) that analyze 747 &
767 airplane final assembly processes, like material handling, defect
reduction, inventory reduction, cycle time reduction, etc.
I worked on a 3 person engineering team (and representatives from
production and functional areas) to improve our control of portable
tools. Steps included: define the project’s objective & scope,
document our existing processes, identify our current problems,
perform statistical analysis, benchmark what other companies do,
develop & evaluate alternatives, make recommendations, help get
management approval & budget, and consulted during extended
implementation. 4-5 months for study, 1.5 years for implementation
3. Your background. How did you get to where you are today?
In grade school I enjoyed learning about how things work and took
toasters, radios, and TVs apart; I also was obsessed about which
method was the most efficient (like the quickest overall time to
complete a paper route, or the true shortest route to a destination by
My father and an uncle were engineers, and my brother also studied
I enjoyed math and science and in the 8th grade was put into an
Accelerated Program (would be called Advanced Placement now) for
math & science, throughout high school
I had a summer job after high school with the Virginia Highway
department, as a trainee doing preliminary engineering for the
development of a new freeway (working with Civil Engineers)
I went to an ABET accredited engineering college (Virginia Tech) and
was a Co-Op student (working 7 quarters as an engineer trainee) in
Industrial Engineering
I worked 5 years as an Area Industrial Engineer with Reynolds
Aluminum Company, then 10 years as a Management Consultant (with
3 different consulting companies), and the past 17 years as a Process
Engineer with the Boeing Company (I’ve been doing project type work
ever since I was a Co-Op student)
4. What are the rewards and challenges of your job?
I get to work on interesting projects, that are not easily solved
I enjoy being around large airplane assembly work
I have good computer software that simplifies a lot of project tasks
I earn good pay, with good benefits, and I get time to do professional &
community volunteer activities
I work with a fun group of engineers (industrial & mechanical)
I get to work with a lot of interesting Boeing people, at all levels of the
But, I get frustrated with Boeing’s bureaucracy and slow
implementation progress
5. Future trends/technology’s influence?
Computers and the internet will continue to impact all engineering
fields, including engineering education
Virtual Reality will continue to integrate into design applications, and
computer games may influence some engineering software
Artificial Intelligence (AI) will combine with robotics to create much
smarter machines
Civil engineering will be critical to replace bridges & older structures &
provide greater public safety
Industrial Engineering will continue its shift towards the Service Sector
and Consulting and away from traditional manufacturing
Teaching Ethics to engineers will become more imperative as the
individual engineer and scientist has fewer reviews prior to initiating
Engineers will help design more leisure time activities as well as
pleasant sensory environments (“soft touch” to off set “hard” technical
The Internet and interactive technologies will help engineers pursue
lifetime learning, which is required now to stay up in any engineering
6. Outlook for young people entering the field?
Excellent job prospects with unlimited variety of work
Must be very good in math & science and have good study skills
Requires practical experience in addition to education, so recommend
Intern or Co-Op work during college
Your job experience and later interests will control the type of
engineering work you will do
7. Advice – e.g. What should high school students study? What opportunities
should they take advantage of to gain exposure to the field?
Excel in math & science, but also do well in English, History and other
high school general courses
Do some reading about types of engineering, check out web sites, and
Discovery type TV shows, and instructional videos
Try to go on local manufacturing tours or interview working engineers
(including any members of your immediate family)
Look at engineering school’s web sites and particular departments of
fields that interest you most
Make sure you apply to an ABET accredited engineering school, that
has the engineering specialty you are most interested in
When at college, continue to investigate the type of engineering work
that interests you most
Career Day Response.doc