Next Generation Of Manufacturing Workers 636bd922494e5

12 under 30: Insights from the next generation of manufacturing workers

Oct. 12, 2020
Get to know a dozen members of the generation at the start of their journey to shape our industry.

We asked a dozen fresh voices in industrial roles how they arrived at their current positions and what they recommend to others seeking career direction. Their insightful replies offer keys to ramping up recruiting in this desirable yet under-represented demographic.

About the Author: Sheila Kennedy
One of the youngest, 23-year-old Toechukwu Udegbue, works at Dow as a maintenance engineer with an emphasis on fixed mechanical equipment. The role’s main objectives are to ensure compliance with industry standards of safe practices and to manage the integrity of all fixed equipment.

Growing up, Udegbue did well in math and science, and her parents encouraged her to consider engineering. “Careers are dynamic, and people end up in the most unexpected places,” she observes. “Do not be afraid of trying different things, taking up new roles, and implementing whatever ideas you might have. That is the only way to find the path that best suits you.”

Jack Ferguson, also 23, joined SEPCO in November 2019 as seal reliability engineer. His favorite project so far was adding a programmable logic controller to a packing ring cutter. “I essentially got to design a PLC system from scratch. I determined what was needed and then obtained, programmed, and installed it, troubleshooting along the way,” he says.

Ferguson, who graduated with a mechanical engineering degree from Clemson University, advises that college won’t “give you all the knowledge you need to work in the real world. It just gives you the basic tools that you need to learn the skills you need for your job.”

Linda Stibrany, age 24, is a senior information systems planner within the PATH Asset Management Division of The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. “As a Port Authority intern and PATH Operations Fellow, I have always been interested in the logistics and maintenance of rail transit,” she says. “Asset management has provided me with the opportunity to advance rail transit knowledge while working with all divisions to analyze their preventive maintenance and infrastructure support.”

Stibrany recommends that young newcomers build relationships with veteran staff, in a variety of responsibilities, to obtain a comprehensive understanding of their industry’s operations.

Electrical Power Distribution Engineer Carlton Anumnu, 25, develops distribution line designs, oversees construction, manages budgets, and works with interdisciplinary teams at Chevron in Midland, TX. “This allows me to develop my technical and managerial skills through my everyday work,” he observes. “What I enjoy most about my current role is witnessing the direct impact my work has on the business.”

Anumnu’s career in electrical engineering was inspired by an 11th grade class that introduced him to digital logic, circuit design, and Multisim software. All of these are the basis of what he does today as an electrical engineer in industry.

Abraham Haddad started at Sonoco Plastics as a divisional reliability engineer and now, at 26, is a production manager. His aspiration of being a leader of a group or team, coupled with his ability in math and sciences, opened the door to a career in industry.

The people are what he likes most about working in industry. “You get to see all walks of life, culture, religion, and attitude. Being able to work with another individual to innovate, create, or complete a project offers a great feeling of fulfillment,” Haddad explains.

At 27, Collins Alexander is a reliability team leader at Mississippi Lime Company. His interest in industry began during a study-abroad trip to Germany that was based on lean manufacturing. Later, during his first co-op, he learned about precision maintenance and predictive technologies. “This was really where my fascination with maintenance/reliability took off,” he says. “I never get bored.”

Alexander recommends taking plant tours or watching plant tour videos and trying a summer internship. “Internships only last a few months and typically people find out right away if they have a passion for the work,” he explains.

When he turned 13, Tarquin Rattotti III began working at his father’s shop, LPR Precision, in the summers. After college, he decided to work there full time. Now, at 27, he is the production manager for industrial laser cutting.

“I was always good with my hands even before working at LPR,” Rattotti says. “I enjoy being able to work in the designing portion of a job, getting to make the physical product, and being able to see it all come together.” When the time comes, he hopes to buy the business and improve on what his father has already accomplished.

Twenty-eight-year-old Georgia Niccum is a mechanical integrity engineer at SABIC – a role that allows her to spend time outside in the plant observing equipment and engaging with many talented people. “I am motivated to dig into problems to find the root cause, and to drive long-term solutions that result in a safer and more productive plant. That is why I have chosen to work in the reliability group,” Niccum says.

“I would encourage those that are still in college to seek a co-op program as this opened my eyes to a career that I didn’t know existed, but now greatly enjoy,” Niccum suggests.

Luke Clark is a 28-year-old reliability professional at Allied Reliability, where he teaches clients on planning and scheduling, asset health and reliability, and CMMS, and helps to apply the concepts and standards that are taught. “I’m a gap filler between the technical and business side,” Clark says.

His father, an engineer, first exposed him to manufacturing and maintenance principles, but his internship in the maintenance department of Purdue University’s Housing and Food Services was his biggest influence. “My passion is in making improvements in savings, safety, and the environment in a world that is normally very driven by profits,” Clark explains.

Phillip Pardue is a regional maintenance manager for Amazon’s IXD network. While finishing his electrical engineering degree at the University of Tennessee (UT), Amazon came to campus looking for engineers with a background in industrial reliability. His previously completed internship through UT’s Reliability and Maintainability Center fit the bill.

Today, at age 29, Pardue is responsible for maintenance execution at IXD sites across the eastern U.S. “Amazon’s exponential growth allowed me to push further, faster than I would have been able to in most industries and has allowed me to enact initiatives that would be slow if not impossible to implement at a more conventional, less nimble company,” he says.

Daniel Arias-Roman, 29, is a power-service technician in Southeastern Freight Lines’ Fleet Services Department. His career choice was inspired by a deep-seated curiosity about how different systems function and operate. He started by tinkering with toys and eventually computers provided a way to learn about and repair different systems and equipment. “At Southeastern, a career in the service and repair department allows the opportunity to employ this desire daily while keeping up to date with new technologies,” he observes.

Arias-Roman encourages others to consider skilled trades. “Though our world is constantly evolving, the need for many specific trades is continuous and provides for stability, even in rocky times,” he advises.

Ph.D. student and research assistant Tanvir Ahmed, 29, is conducting research on assistive robotics in the Biorobotics Lab at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). He is focusing on the development of wearable robots/devices that can provide rehabilitative therapies to individuals with functional impairments. His prior experience designing robotic machine parts for manufacturing and assembly operations gave him the edge as a researcher in the field of robotics for rehabilitation, he says.

“The sheer insight that an ergonomically designed, wearable robot can effectively be used as an extension to an occupational/physical therapist’s arsenal for aiding patients is what keeps me motivated in this field,” Ahmed explains.

Technology Toolbox

This article is part of our monthly Technology Toolbox column. Read more from Sheila Kennedy.

About the Author

Sheila Kennedy | CMRP

Sheila Kennedy, CMRP, is a professional freelance writer specializing in industrial and technical topics. She established Additive Communications in 2003 to serve software, technology, and service providers in industries such as manufacturing and utilities, and became a contributing editor and Technology Toolbox columnist for Plant Services in 2004. Prior to Additive Communications, she had 11 years of experience implementing industrial information systems. Kennedy earned her B.S. at Purdue University and her MBA at the University of Phoenix. She can be reached at [email protected] or

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