Last year we spoke with SciTech intern Casey McQuade about his experience working with Minneapolis-based manufacturer, Absolute Quality Mfg. McQuade was initially brought on to help Absolute Quality redesign the layout of its facility, a project that he oversaw from concept to completion all before his internship concluded.
Impressed by his work ethic and ambition, Absolute Quality hired McQuade as a full-time employee, helping him secure a job in his field straight out of college.
For the benefit of other interns hoping to duplicate his success, McQuade graciously agreed to speak with us about his journey and share some of the steps he took in school and his career that helped him transition from an intern to a professional working in his field.
(McQuade’s responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
What inspired you to pursue this field of study? And how did school help you prepare?
McQuade: I’ve always been interested in learning how things work and how they are made. When I was in high school, I was signed up for the Center for Engineering, Math and Science program that my school hosted. I was able to take a variety of entry level engineering courses, many of which were worth college credit.
I started college with a focus on mechanical engineering and I eventually double majored in manufacturing engineering with an emphasis on lean engineering. In short, I love understanding processes and trying to improve them, it really is my professional passion.
What can you tell us about your internship with Absolute Quality Manufacturing? What were some of your responsibilities then and how did they prepare you for working fulltime now?
McQuade: AQ is a small company where one person can very easily take on many roles, and as time passed I kept finding new ways to contribute. I created preventative maintenance schedules to prevent our machines from breaking down and keep them running smoothly. Anytime I found obvious sources of waste, I would create and implement plans to eliminate them, without waiting to be asked. Continuous improvement is always my driving motivation, and the idea that everything can always be a little better.
Let’s talk about your transition to full-time employee, how it came to be and the main difference between the two roles.
McQuade: When I began full-time employment with AQ, the company was in a time of transition. Every day was an exercise in putting out fires. Once we got a hold of the process and began organizing with new management, which included me, the company saw profits like it hasn’t seen in years.
Most of what I do as a full time employee is just an extension of what I did as an intern, but now I have the trust of ownership and the authority to do what I feel is in the best interest of the company at large.
What has been the best part about working as a manufacturing engineer so far?
McQuade: Every week brings with it new challenges. I have slow days once in a while, but there is always something to do and I love the variety of tasks I get to work on.
What advice do you have for fellow interns about how they might also turn their internships into fulltime positions?
McQuade: Treat the people you work with and the place you work with respect. I have rolled up my sleeves and gotten my hands dirty more times than I can count, not because I was asked to, but because I genuinely respect what I do and I work hard to do what is best. I once spent three hours cleaning the lunch room, which is used by 80 people, because it needed to be done; and I would never ask someone to do something like that if I am not willing to do it.
If you could offer advice to fellow students who are interested in working in your field, what would you tell them? Are there certain skillsets they should develop that might help set them ahead?
McQuade: Attitude will take you a lot farther in life than aptitude. As far as skillsets are concerned, focus on what you love and find a way to make a living with that. For me, process improvement and continuous improvement are my craft, and I can apply them anywhere I go.
Is there anything else that we haven’t covered that you’d like to mention?
McQuade: I would like to say this: make time for yourself. There are more important things than a 4.0 GPA in my opinion, and being a well-rounded person opens your eyes to new perspectives. I am not saying you should slack off, I am saying that getting a B- in Fluid Dynamics won’t destroy your life or end your career prospects; I know that from personal experience.
About Where are They Now?:
For more in the Where are They Now? series, check out some of our previous success stories:
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