During this edition of "Why Engineering?", we had the opportunity to uncover the intricate thoughts and motivations of one of our younger engineers, who is still up and coming in the world of engineering.
Introducing Max Zimmerman, who has made great strides in his first two years with Intertec Engineering. As this is his first experience in the professional world, Max has a lot more to accomplish in this industry. However, he’s eager to see what the future holds for him.
When we dig into his past, a similarity continues to show up with our engineers. Which is that most of them have a history with engineering, as this career choice tends to run in the family.
"My family's always been pretty hands-on. I mean, my dad and grandpa were both architects, so they're into building things. Then my other grandpa was an engineer and a test pilot. He was really into the aviation industry," said Zimmerman.
This would be a sign of things to come, as by the time he was ready to apply to college, Max had to do some critical thinking about which direction made the most sense for him.
"I never really knew engineering was my path until I was applying to different schools. At a young age, I was always interested in model rockets, cars, how things work, and how they’re put together. Also, I was strong in STEM subjects like math and science, so it piqued my interest and seemed to be a good fit," said Zimmerman.
Attending the University of Arizona, Max had a pretty normal college experience, aside from graduating online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When it came time to apply for internships, would you believe Intertec Engineering was the company that gave him a chance? Now, look at him, it’s all about getting your foot in the door!
"My internship junior year was with Intertec International, which is now Intertec Engineering. I got a good feel for what was out there because there are tons of engineering positions, and with an aerospace major, I didn’t know exactly which path I wanted to take," said Zimmerman.
After getting his degree, Max took his experiences and made the best career choice he could at the time, continuing his experience with Intertec Engineering to see where it led.
"I’ve been on about six programs now in my 2 1/2 years of experience, and each one presents a new challenge. You don't really know all the specifics behind it, but the engineer in me just wants to figure out how it works and how I can get the job done," said Zimmerman.
It’s this attitude that gives Max the reputation he has built up so far. Although he is one of the youngest engineers in our company, no one counts him out, no matter the challenge.
"They’ve been doing it for 20 plus years, right? But for me, fresh out of school, I didn’t fully comprehend just how many hoops you have to jump through. A lot goes into it, and it’s pretty amazing when you have a finished product that complies with all your requirements," said Zimmerman.
Max is also learning the tricks of the trade rather quickly. Some engineers spend a long time with the same company before nailing down various best practices.
"Usually, the first person you ask will not have the answer. So, you have to figure out how to get a new name or where to seek answers next. There’s always a lot of research needed, even if you think it’s a simple question," said Zimmerman.
Every professional experiences their own set of obstacles, no matter the age or stage of their career. Do the challenges that Max faces differ from those of other engineers? Maybe slightly, but that is to be expected.
"I had the chance to be the inlet and gearbox module lead on a military program, and that was definitely a big challenge for me as a younger engineer. But I feel like I got it, took a grasp of it, got it under control, and really learned a ton on that program. Such as reporting up and down, delegating requirements from higher levels, and then making sure that we meet all the engine level requirements. It was just a lot to take hold of, but it was a great experience," said Zimmerman.
Beyond his success, Max had an opportunity that many other young engineers could only dream of getting in such a short amount of time. Which is working with high-level engineers who have top-notch resumes.
As a contractor, you really can enter a different world full of valuable learning experiences. More so than the average entry-level engineering job.
"I really like all the different people that contribute to the development of one simple component. Communicating with suppliers and figuring out the manufacturability—that was a big step in my career."
At 25 years old, Max was completing a role that is usually done by seasoned veterans. He might have been unsure of himself in isolated moments, but you would not have guessed that if you were part of the team he was leading.
"I wouldn't say I ever questioned myself. I knew I had a lot to prove, though, especially working at Intertec Engineering with all the chief engineers and subject matter experts. They have 20–30 years’ experience in the field, and I’m fresh out of school trying to figure it all out. But I really used my senior colleagues to my advantage, like they were mentors to me. I like to think that I’ve never backed down from a challenge, instead, I utilize my colleagues as a resource and just figure out how to get the job done," said Zimmerman.
Once Max was tested a few times and passed valiantly, he had a good feel for what this industry was like, and more importantly, he was starting to find his niche.
"I really like engaging with the teams, customers, and suppliers because sometimes there's some negotiation, but at the end of the day we have a common goal. I also like the hands-on aspect where I get to see the hardware, inspect it, do fit checks, and see the product fully assembled," said Zimmerman.
Being a project lead and getting comfortable really provided Max with confidence. In such a unique circumstance, he needs to believe that no matter where he ends up, he has the skillset to succeed. For now, the aerospace industry has Max’s full, undivided attention.
"I've never really questioned the aerospace industry, as it's something I’m very passionate about. I’d like to say it's the coolest engineering out there. I mean, we're building planes, rockets, and missiles. I think that’s pretty sweet," said Zimmerman.
He is clearly aware of his current environment, which is extremely unique. Luckily, Max also understands that he must squeeze as much knowledge from it as he can.
Being that Zimmerman is a young, energetic guy with fresh ideas, many of his peers like to hear what he thinks, so he gets to give input often. Culture can be such an important part of an engineer’s success, it just so happens that Max fits like a glove.
"I think I fit really well. The engineering culture as a whole is rather diverse. I mean, it takes a lot of different thought processes and perspectives to solve any given problem. You can’t just look at it by the book. I don't think it's a disadvantage being a younger engineer, sometimes it certainly can feel like it, but I like to think that I have a fresh mindset on things and new ideas to bring to the table," said Zimmerman.
As his answers may indicate, Max was accurately diagnosed with "engineer’s brain." However, it’s something he has come to appreciate.
"It's a blessing and a curse. You know, when something’s broken, sometimes you just have to throw it away. But yeah, the engineer in me just wants to think, all right, well, how does this work? How can I fix it? Let's try to put it back together and salvage the parts," said Zimmerman.
It has not been that long since Max decided this was the best direction professionally. How does he feel about it now that he has the experience? What do others think about him and his career choice? Engineers have a reputation in the professional world, so naturally, we talked about generalizations in engineering.
"When I say I’m an engineer, people ask what kind? I'm like, well, it’s aerospace, and usually respond with, oh wow, so you're a rocket scientist. They think I'm the person constructing an engine. But really, it's just a lot of paperwork, analysis, and data. More goes into it than many people imagine from the outside looking in. Even myself, I had no idea when I was just starting how many requirements and certifications were needed to get an engine airworthy," said Zimmerman.
Max thought about his journey overall and gave a piece of advice to someone like him, or what he would say to himself during high school.
"I'd say stick with it. Sometimes you get lost along the way, but at one point you had a specific end goal. The challenges you face may be daunting, but you can’t back down. I've been in very high-stress situations where I was overwhelmed at the beginning. I just continued to tell myself to stick with it and keep going. I think that's the best advice you could get, especially if it’s something that you’re truly passionate about," said Zimmerman.
If Intertec Engineering had to describe the position that Max Zimmerman is in currently, it could be defined in one sentence. He can make an impact as an engineer of tomorrow while being surrounded by engineers from yesterday. If it’s not obvious already, we cannot wait to see what tomorrow has in store.