Job: Product Design Engineer, Poly-Med, Inc.
Location: Greenville, South Carolina
Brian and I know each other through mutual friends in Greenville and he approached me after looking through the site. I was honored that he was interested in getting involved, so we began a conversation that was right to the point, where we talked about everything from student loans and soft skills, to how your young professional career really is the start of the race.
Give us a brief background on yourself.
I’m Brian Gaerke and I work at Poly-Med, Inc. in Anderson, South Carolina, doing medical device engineering. Poly-Med focuses on bioresorbable polymers, so things that degrade in the body. With those polymers, I work with clients to bring devices with 3D printing and our materials to production, then sell them to hospitals for use in patients. Before that, I was working at Cook Medical in Bloomington, Indiana, and doing medical device engineering there as well. I went to college at the University of Dayton Ohio, where I grew up, so that’s me.
How did you get into this field?
I did two co-op programs at Cook Medical, and I just really enjoyed the medical device world and the ability to make a difference in the world through engineering. I considered being a doctor and a chemical engineer, but I didn't really want to go into the oil industry, so I didn’t have a drive for that. Being able to make a difference in the world really got me into it.
What would you tell someone who is interested in becoming an engineer?
Collaboration is often underutilized. A lot of people think of engineers as introverts and a lot of them definitely are, but breaking outside of that shell is important. I'm an introvert until I've met you, I guess, but I feel like a lot of us are like that. You need to be able to go to somebody for help too, so for me, I often just plead ignorance and I learn. Specifically, when you're working with a lot of PhD-level people, there's a lot of “Listen to me because I know the answers”, so I try and take the approach of “Okay, I'll listen to you and hopefully I'll learn something.” You can’t get a big head, and I think that approach has really helped me a lot in just avoiding discussions that really don’t need to happen.
Who is somebody that has inspired you?
My dad, for sure. He's an industrial engineer, so I always strive to be like him and follow in his footsteps. Considering more famous people who have inspired me, Elon Musk is the visionary. I mean, I just love everything he's doing, so he'd be my famous idol.
What do you think has been one of the most crucial moments of your young professional career?
I don’t know why this is coming to mind right now, but I took a Dale Carnegie course, and soft skills are always more difficult for me, specifically with communication and working with people. The Dale Carnegie course was based on his book How to Win Friends and Influence People, which is the best-selling book in the world behind the Bible, and just learning those tactics and asking questions has helped shape my everyday discussions with people and interactions I have. "Why did you choose to do this?", rather than, "Why didn't you do this?". In other words, being more inquisitive and truly interested is what it is all about. He also talks about how a person's favorite sound is the sound of their own name, so just using everybody's name whenever I have the opportunity, has paid off a lot. Taking a few extra minutes to form the relationships and just say hello really goes a long way. A specific work example for me is just stopping by the employees in inventory and saying hello. Then, when I really need something, you know they're more willing to help me out because we have that connection already.
* Many companies are willing to pay for you to take courses like this, so if you don’t know what your company offers, look into it today *
What do you do in your career that makes you stand out?
I guess my balance. There's a lot of really smart people who struggle with the softer skills. Even though I struggle with the soft skills as well, I think my personality, friendliness, and willingness to actually have a conversation with somebody and get to know them on a personal level outside of work has helped make me stand out.
What has been a hardship for you since being in the professional world and how have you learned from it?
I mean, there is hardship every day. School loans are still bearing down for me. By far, that is our biggest hardship and I am paying for it, very much, every day. How have I dealt with that? Getting one drink at the bar rather than two, because it is the little things that do add up. Being aware of that has been crucial for me and my wife, Morgan. I've done a little research and I have looked into the Dave Ramsey stuff. I understand how everything he says works, but I refuse to have no life. It's the balance of being social and avoiding coffee during our interview here to save a couple of bucks, because it does all add up. At the end of the day, if something were to happen and I lose my job, I would hope that I was not too prideful to get a job at McDonald's to make it work. Hopefully, that never happens, but you never know. Even looking towards having children, I would love to be able to support them to go through college, but I don't know that I actually want to because there is a certain amount of character that I hope is being built, because it sure does suck.
What is your dream job?
I love my job. I get paid to play, so that's pretty cool, and I definitely want to stay in engineering with 3D printing. My next dream job is being a team leader, which involves advising projects with a few engineers and helping troubleshoot when the projects get more difficult and more challenging. My dream job after that would be the engineering manager of the additive manufacturing. The next step after that would be like a Vice President or a more business-sided role, but I'm really interested in the engineering stuff, so I go back and forth. I also listen to a lot of podcasts on passive income, so I have business dreams outside of my current job as well.
Are you a podcast or a book guy?
Definitely a podcast guy. I have a 50-minute commute so it is necessary. I have educational, business, and comedy recommendations, so it is really whatever I am feeling that day. The business one is Smart Passive Income by Pat Flynn. He also has Ask Pat, so I really like those, and then Guy Raz has How I Built This. The Patagonia episode with Yvonne is great. It doesn’t get more real than someone telling you not to buy his own clothes. The tenacity that everybody has on that podcast is amazing. I mean, that's my one take away from that for sure. If you want to do something, just don't take no for an answer and just go and do.
What do you like about being a young professional? .
It is setting you up for whatever trajectory you want to go on. There's still plenty of time to adjust and find your niche. I really liked the medical device engineering development, and then 3D printing kind of became my niche and it became known within the company. I’ve really enjoyed finding that passion that I'll be able to pursue in so many different ways throughout the rest of my career. So yeah, this is the start of the race.
The YoPro Know's Takeaways:
- Take the extra time to build work relationships
- Soft skills are crucial in work environments
- You can still live your life while paying off student loans
- If you want to do something, just go and do
- Your young professional years are setting you up for whatever trajectory you want to go on