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This mechanical engineer shares how he went from dreaming of being a mechanic, to aspiring to be an engineer at the encouragement of his grandfather. This interview will give those interested in a career in mechanical engineering a glimpse into what it is like as an engineer working on international projects.

Q: What is your job title and what industry do you work in? How many years of experience do you have in this field? How would you describe yourself using only three adjectives?

A: I am a mechanical engineer. At first, when I got out of college, it was difficult to find a job in my career field as everyone locally wanted someone with experience. Maybe that has changed now as I've been out of college for a while. I got a job out of state and worked that until I got the experience to get a job closer to my family. The ironic thing now is that I travel so much with my job that I'm not home a lot anyway.

Q: How would you describe what you do? What does your work entail? Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?

A: I do consulting with different companies around the world and right now I spend a lot of time in Denmark. My company is good about paying expenses while I am abroad so it is pretty good. I get paid extra when I'm away from the home office and my wife likes that a lot! Recently, she and the kids flew over to spend some time with me and that was great. That was mainly because the project I was working on took several months to complete. It was a good experience for the kids to learn about another culture.

Q: What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough and/or happy living within your means?

A: I do make a good salary. I'd rather not say how much right now! Lets just say that it is enough for us to be pretty comfortable. I say pretty comfortable because I had to take out a lot of loans to get through school and I racked up quite a bit of debt in the process. I do not regret being an engineer--I love the job. However, I really don't like how expensive it was to get through school. In a few years, we should have my debts paid off and then things will be a little bit easier financially. The pay really varies from company to company however and it can also vary based upon your experience. If you are willing to travel, you can earn a bit more.

Q: What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what worked best?

A: My gender and ethnicity have not hurt me too much. I work with a lot of guys and I feel sorry for the one gal that we have at the home office as she is the only woman at the office other than the secretary. At times, it can be difficult when traveling however. For example, when I went to India to do business I felt awkward because I was a white man. I didn't know a lot about the culture either and that somewhat hindered me. I would definitely recommend that students take a course in international business if they intend to be an engineer just in case. A friend of mine went to Japan recently for business and he really had a hard time with the cultural differences. He finally started looking online to find out more about the culture and then things went better for him. Usually, when you arrive, a company spokesperson will take you out to eat. This is where it can get difficult. In some cultures, it is an insult to eat with your left hand and other people become offended if you do not finish your meal. I forget specifics, but a friend of mine told me that he was out on a business dinner abroad and after the meal, everyone started burping aloud! He was so shocked and then everyone looked at him and he realized that they expected him to burp too! He managed to pull it off, but we laughed about it afterwards.

Q: How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance? How?

A: I am satisfied with my job for the most part. Sometimes, the traveling can get difficult and I think I should find another job in my field. I guess it must not bother me too much though because I haven't quit to find another engineering job yet.

Q: How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?

A: I love this field. I love solving problems and fixing things. When I was a kid, I used to take stuff apart to see how it worked. I used to drive my mom crazy! Now that I am an adult, I get paid to take stuff apart and fix it! You can't beat that. I got started in this field basically because my family encouraged me. My grandfather was a mechanic and I spent a lot of time with him in the garage working on cars. When I told him that I wanted to be a mechanic just like him, he told me that there was no money in it. Then he said, "You are so smart. You should be an engineer." I was just a little kid and I came home and told my parents I was going to be an engineer. They laughed at me because no one had ever gone to college in my family. But when I kept telling them that I wanted to be an engineer, they began to encourage me to follow my dream. I'm glad that they did!

Q: What is the single most important thing you have learned outside of school about the working world?

A: The single most important thing I have learned in the working world is that life is about compromise. If we are working on a project and I have all of these great ideas but the client just isn't thrilled, then we have to find a workable solution. That means compromise. I've found too that it is important to not take things personally, especially when working abroad. Of course, this is easier said than done.

Q: How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?

A: I get a pretty decent amount of time off. I think it is pretty standard in that I get two weeks vacation time. I also get personal days and sick days. I guess it varies depending upon where you work though.

Q: What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?

A:I would encourage anyone who likes science and math to consider a career in engineering. I can't imagine doing anything else!