In this age of rapid technological advancement and emerging technologies, the adage “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” is no longer enough.
We spoke with Rob Humphries, prototype engineer, product development at Thule, the outdoor enthusiasts’ company, who says it’s school, AND hands-on learning that makes a successful design engineer candidate.
Are there general qualities Thule looks for in a job candidate?
We work quickly here at Thule on many simultaneous projects. Our job involves designing products for people who may not have good spatial relations and we are often called-upon to use a creative hack to get the job done. So it requires a broad skill-set.
Can you list a few of these skills that help in this hectic and exacting process?
Tenacity, a solid understanding of materials science, creativity, organization, and a solid balance of computer and hands-on skills.
Is there one skill that stands out above all others?
Being able to solve a problem on the fly.
SMART SOLUTIONS is one of Thule’s guiding principles. How does this play out in your work?
In the prototyping realm, a Smart Solution is the right part for the right purpose. This requires knowledge of design, development, materials and equipment, so you can set-up and run equipment to make the part in the best way.
What can a student do outside of school to make him/herself a desirable job candidate?
Join an academic project, join a design team or do an internship. Take your technical knowledge and apply that knowledge toward a defined goal, not just solving a textbook problem.
So, you work at Thule as a Junior Design Engineer. What prepared you for this role?
I took the initiative to actually use the Model Shop in college. This quickly taught me I liked making things as opposed to working solely in CAD and renderings.
What kinds of projects did you pursue in the Model Shop?
I began creating physical representations of my ideas which was a huge step in the evolution of my thought process. It also quickly showed me I wanted to pursue additive manufacturing (3D printing) and rapid prototyping after college.
Outside school and the Model Shop, did anything else contribute to your success?
Entering competitions taught me a lot. Having to be good enough to be competitive was a good segue to working in the real world.
Did you pursue an internship while in college?
My first internship got me involved in multiple aspects of rapid prototyping. From that point forward, it’s been all 3D printing for rapid prototyping for me.
Any parting words?
Making mistakes is a solid way to learn. Don’t be afraid to try; there’s always something to learn from it!