Interview with Tayler J. Swanson, MSc. – An Emerging Engineer

emerging engineer Sep 18, 2020

Tayler Swanson, MSc works as an Engineering Team Member at Digital Instruments, Inc. Tayler graduated from The Rochester Institute of Technology with a Master of Science in Manufacturing and Mechanical Systems Integration focused on Electronics Assemblies. His career path included stops as a manufacturing engineer, process engineer, new product introduction engineer and even as an engineering accountant culminating as an Engineering Team Member with a variety of experience and skills.

Tayler has worked at Digital Instruments, Inc. before college, during college and since graduation. He did Co-ops at IEC Electronics, StrongArm Technologies, PCB Piezotronics, and Nokia Bell Labs. He was part of the IPC Emerging Engineer Program commenting that  “A major benefit of the program is the mentorship aspect and how the mentors learn your interests to connect the IPC Standards Committees with your relevant experience and career path.”

Charlene Gunter du Plessis connected with Tayler asking him questions about his studies, professional career journey, and the exciting opportunities in the electronics manufacturing industry. Tayler was a panelist during the IPC Education Foundation Webinar hosted by Teresa Rowe, Sr Director, Assembly & Standards Technology at IPC. To view this webinar – click here

Charlene: “What do you love about your profession and the industry in general?”

Tayler: “The power to create and innovate with electronics is my passion and this industry is full of people at companies developing the future. It is invigorating to be a part of the innovation.”

Charlene: “Why did you decide to become an Engineer Team Member?”

Tayler: “Engineering is very complicated no matter which discipline you focus on and since I am at a small company, I work across disciplines to help on projects in unfamiliar ways with undeveloped skills. Since I have always learned by doing this occupation fits my lifelong learner aspirations.”

Charlene: “What was the highlight of your career thus far?”

Tayler: “Learning from others, especially those from the IPC community. Our discussions of their trials and tribulations in implementing standards have helped me overcome obstacles and struggles in leading the efforts for implementing a new Materials Management Software/ERP System across my whole company.”

Charlene: “What are your goals in terms of engineering today?”

Tayler: “The designing of PCBAs has always struck me as art. I continue to learn this skill from start to finish. I would like to design an industrial product.”

Charlene: “What do you look forward to in the future?”

Tayler: “The shift of my generation and those younger than me to get back to doing rather than absorbing. There are a lot of creative people and combining arts with engineering is truly inspiring. In the future, I look forward to seeing wonderful new collaborations just like the Bell Labs Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T) pioneering program.”

Charlene: “How would you describe the term “Engineering””

Tayler: It is the gumption to develop a plan/solution to a technical application of science.” 

Charlene: “You are one of IPC’s Emerging Engineers. Why did you decide to get involved and what are the benefits?” 

Tayler: “As a young engineer there are so many things to learn to be effective in your field At an organization like IPC, you find that the shared knowledge across the industry is boundless and plentiful. That reason alone was enough for me to want to apply to IPC’s Emerging Engineer Program. There was a clear path to gaining more insight into the electronics industry which I knew would benefit me in the short and long term. Being an IPC Emerging Engineer would certainly be a point on my resume that I would like to share with potential employers. As students, whether high school or college, the more extra-curricular activities you participate in make you a better candidate and this seems to carry over once we have careers. Getting involved with the IPC Emerging Engineer Program represents my eagerness as a young engineer to engage with the electronics industry.” 

Charlene: “What aspects do you love about your job?”

Tayler: “Any job has tasks that can be either on the forefront of discovery or the necessary grind of work to keep on schedule and move quality product out the door. I love that my job has me working on the grind of electronics manufacturing assembly. I learn from this necessary work while being excited at the opportunity to explore other developments of electronics for a range of applications. Essentially there is a balanced relationship that the day-to-day work keeps the lights on and staff paid while a portion of the excess contributes to an R&D fund for new cool projects and equipment.” 

Charlene: “What makes the industry exciting?”

Tayler: “The industry is exciting because it’s based on technology that is constantly evolving. The evolution of technology propels those with skills interested in being a part of the growing application of new technologies.”

Charlene: “What suggestions do you have for students to consider when exploring different career paths?”

Tayler: “When I used to give tours with my lab manager, Jeff, at RIT’s CEMA Lab, we would demonstrate what each machine’s job on the electronics assembly line in order to inspire potential and current students to get involved in this career path. It was always right at the point before we turned on the pick and place machine we would ask them to hold out their hands and we would unroll a reel of 0201 resistors on their hands and watch their faces glow when we ran the program that placed those same small components at lightning speed. Then we would lead them to a microscope video monitor and show the comparison of an even smaller 01005 component followed by more “ahh”. Lastly, at the X-Ray machine, we showed the inside of their smartphones, emphasizing that the electronic products that we love aren’t just black boxes and you can learn about them inside and out. This demo struck me personally on my tour years earlier and we always seemed to get a few kids that hung around asked more! So my suggestion is for students to consider what they don’t know, explore what’s behind the things they enjoy, then choose a career path that isn’t about the money but rather about lifelong learning of things they are interested in.”

Charlene: “Where did you study and what?”

Tayler: “The first visit to Rochester Institute of Technology was highlighted by seeing a demonstration in the Center for Electronics Manufacturing Assembly (CEMA), it was here that I saw start to finish how electronics were made and it was astonishing. Shortly after my trip I submitted my early commitment application. It was clear that if I did my degree in Electrical/Mechanical Engineering Technology and focus on working in the CEMA Lab that I would be on my way to a happy career. As the years went on I was fortunate enough to be a Lab Assistant for the classes in CEMA where I gained a ton of hours on all the machines which were all the latest and greatest state of the art equipment that could be found in any OEM/Contract Electronics Manufacturing facility. 

In CEMA and during my degree I studied metallurgy specifically Solders and Anisotropic Conductive Adhesive with Dr. Manian Ramkumar and Dr. Martin Anselm. Our research projects gave me more experience programming the assembly line and further understanding manufacturing standards. Near the end of my Bachelor of Science degree there came an opportunity for me to join a research project with IPC-2581 Consortium. This led to the continuation of my education to pursue a Master of Science in Manufacturing and Mechanical Systems Integration focused on Electronics Assemblies. 

Working with the IPC-2581 Consortium was a great experience to learn how the industry adjusts while collaborating to cover all aspects of how to successfully implement new standards. I learned many new skills vital to working in the electronics industry as well as the complexities of managing and producing electronics to standards. It was clear I needed to study and learn more to contribute to IPC Standards, so I applied and was sponsored to be in the IPC Emerging Engineering Program. This jumpstarted my learning experience with IPC. I was lucky to have such a great mentor, Renee Michalkiewicz. Following my time on the workforce development and implementation of the IPC-2581 standard, I went on to start experiments that led to the completion of my thesis, Properties of Mixing SAC Solder Alloys with Bismuth-Containing Solder Alloys for a Low Reflow Temperature Process. I am grateful for all my mentors whom which I have had the pleasure of working with through these great industrial organization like IPC and SMTA. Specifically, my sincere thanks to my great advisor, Dr. Martin Anselm, and mentors Dr. Manian Ramkumar, Jeff Shake, Dr. Richard Coyle and the Nokia Bell Labs team, Dr. Raiyo Aspandiar and the Intel Team, and all the DMDII Project Members and IPC-2581 Consortia members.”

Charlene: “What advice do you have for young professionals, especially students in finding a job?”

Tayler: I think back to the words of the extremely smart JB Straubel, Chief Technical Officer and co-founder of Tesla, who was the opening keynote speaker at IPC APEX EXPO 2019 in San Diego. He started off by talking about his interests in engineering and referred to his side projects outside of the classroom, which included how he turned a Porsche into an electric vehicle. It was the skills he learned from his passion projects that led to his senior leadership position in an electric vehicle company. Straubel not only learned skills by doing what he was most interested in, but also if he wanted to find a job, he would a great candidate for any electric vehicle company based off his experiences. Therefore, my advice to young professionals and students would be to take some time to think about the benefits of starting a side project in the garage. That project could position you for a great job with a great company.”

Charlene “What can a student do to prepare for that interview?”

Tayler: “The best thing to do is know your audience. My experience was going into an interview for custom electronics manufacturing facility and the lead engineer got through my resume and started asking specific questions like the melting point of SAC305 Solder…217C was my quick answer to his response he said that not one candidate got that right yet. So be prepared for the easy questions but especially be ready to talk about your projects and experiences. Show interest in what the company does. The worst thing you could do is just appear to be another engineer when you could be showing them the passion you have for their products. When employees have passion for what they do there is a tendency for ownership to kick in and overview quality and workmanship is better. Showing passion would lead them to believe that you would be a good choice for the company.”

Charlene: “What do you think are some important emerging technologies over the next 5 years?”

Tayler: “Emerging technologies will continue in the health/medical field. Also, emerging technologies in consumer electronics will create a better, more knowledgeable society as we will learn more how to adopt and live beside machines and computers.”

Charlene: “What do you currently do to change the world of engineering today?”

Tayler: “My small steps to change the world of engineering today include tours of our facility to younger students who get hands-on demonstrations. My goal is to get a rotation of speaking and show-and-tell presentations at all the Buffalo schools to help inspire kids to think outside the box and leave them thinking they too can design to manufacture electronics.”

Charlene: “Thank you so much for your time, Tayler.”

Tayler: “Always a pleasure, Charlene.”


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