At Joe O’Neil’s Hall of Fame ceremony in January, he talked about his first IPC APEX EXPO. He said he felt he was sitting at a table with the “giants of industry.” That analogy perfectly describes how I felt during my tenure on IPC’s Board of Directors. Each time we met, I had the distinct feeling that I was conversing with today’s giants.
A few years ago, IPC began several initiatives to engage young engineers. One result was the IPC Education Foundation. In its early days, the focus of IPCEF was primarily to develop student chapters at colleges and universities. In 2019, Michigan Tech, where I was attending school, became one of the first 10 universities to start a chapter. As IPCEF grew, so did its ambitions and plans. At the same time, IPC’s Board of Directors approached the Foundation with a new idea: have a student director join the board for a one-year term.
In 2020, IPC made the announcement to each student chapter about its intentions for a student director to join the Board. One of my professors (and an advisor for my IPC Student Chapter) said he wanted to recommend me for the position. To say I was nervous is an understatement! I had one previous internship under my belt working in electronics assembly and had just accepted an internship at Calumet Electronics. However, I felt there were other students more qualified for the position. My professor insisted I apply, and he wrote my letter of recommendation. About a month later, the Board announced its top seven finalists—and my name was on the list.
The board then provided a short bio about each candidate and invited all student chapters to vote. I didn’t have to wait long this time. In fact, it was during the first week of COVID-19 lockdowns, and I was back in my hometown, when I received the email that changed both my career trajectory and my life. Shane Whiteside and John Mitchell announced that I would be the first student director on the IPC Board of Directors.
I was both honored and surprised to have been chosen as the student director. I was not expecting that at all. But after my initial surprise, I started thinking about what was to come. I became very excited and anxious to start my work with the Board.
Because of the lockdowns in 2020, most of my work with the Board was through virtual meetings. Some meetings were two to three hours, while others exceeded eight hours. Yes, those were long days. What I found most appealing about each board member was the passion and enthusiasm for what they do. They spoke with such intensity in matters they cared about the most. Once I was able to meet them in person at a quarterly meeting, I saw the love and friendship they had for each other. Over breakfast they would discuss improvements to processes, ask about family members and friends, and laugh about “the good ol’ days.” Although most industries would classify them as competitors, they saw themselves as allies: a unified team with a drive to improve and nurture the industry. At one event, I invited my father to come as my plus one. He later shared his observation that everyone seemed very relaxed, and he was awestruck with their passion for their jobs.
During the meetings, I was able to provide insight into the wants and needs of budding engineers like myself. I pushed the Board to provide more funding for the student chapters and focused heavily on developing education programs. The board members taught me about corporate economics and their plans for growth. Outside the meetings, they mentored me in career development.
But the best thing the board members gave me was a desire to stand on their shoulders and keep improving the industry into the next several decades. The enthusiasm I saw at each meeting was contagious and exhilarating. I left each one hungry for more. This encouraged me to learn more about the industry. The best way to learn is to be more engaged, so I quickly joined committees for assembly, fabrication, and technology solutions. I found myself as an Emerging Engineer to increase my activity. As I learned and grew my professional network, I found subject matter experts and invited them to give presentation at my student chapter or host classes at other student chapters.
At the 2022 IPC APEX EXPO, my time on IPC’s Board of Directors came to an end. Even though it’s a one-year position, I served two years because of the lockdowns. I know the Board is left in good hands with Hannah Nelson, a student at Valparaiso University who is now serving her term as a student director. Hannah brings so much joy and a unique outlook into what students want to see. She has already started engaging in committee meetings and is participating in the Emerging Engineer program for students. Going forward, I am excited to see the benefits she will bring to the industry.
This column originally appeared in the July 2022 issue of PCB007 Magazine.