Maker Month - Ziyan


 

What does your day look like as a manufacturing engineer?

As part of the Industry 4.0 team, we’re developing and deploying advanced technology for the manufacturing floor. Almost 70% of my current time is actually spent on project management and 30% of my time is focused on engineering design and technical support. Last year, I traveled regularly to different manufacturing facilities so that I could help them with robot troubleshooting and programming.

 

Where did you go to school?

I went to Purdue University for my Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. During college, I completed a manufacturing co-op program. Over those semesters, I worked as a Lean manufacturing intern with Stanley Black & Decker. I knew that was my calling, so right after graduation, I continued my education at the University of Michigan and earned my Master of Engineering degree in Manufacturing.

 

What was your childhood like? What career role models did you have in your life?

I was born and grew up in Southeastern China, about an hour away from Shanghai. After graduating from high school, I came to the United States for college. I am very lucky to have been born into a family where my parents encouraged me to make my own choices. When I first told them about my dream to go to Purdue for Engineering, they were definitely surprised. They thought I would have gone into accounting or business operations like they had. But they quickly realized that this was the right career for me to pursue. They have been very encouraging of my journey from college all the way to joining Stanley Black & Decker. They're very proud of me and I feel incredibly lucky for that.

 

What inspired you to pursue engineering?

I loved working with my dad in the machine shop and I realized that I enjoy working with my hands. I enjoy every part of the process, from putting pieces together and then also taking them all apart to diagnosing or fixing an issue. I am the first engineer in my family. Both of my parents work in business, and assumed that I would do the same. But I wanted to do something different and I found what spoke to me.

 

What advice do you have for students or individuals who may be considering pursuing engineering?

My team goes to the local middle school every year to host a Q&A session on this topic. I start by asking the students if they love hands-on work. Do you like running experiments? Do you enjoy math? If yes to those, then I think that you would be a great fit for engineering. Regardless of whether you're a boy or a girl, everyone can pursue engineering. There is no gender barrier to your success in engineering, as long as you're interested and determined - you will succeed.

Students always ask how hard it is and how many years of school are needed. I tell them that the choice is theirs, it's really up to their own passion and preference. You can find a career as a Maker with any level of education. You don't have to learn and know everything. Just find the topic that speaks the most to you. Think about where you spend most of your free time, that can become your career in the future. I grew up tinkering in the machine shop and that led me to pursue manufacturing engineering.

“There is no gender barrier to your success in engineering, as long as you're interested and determined - you will succeed.”

What did you learn after being in manufacturing?

When I was younger, I thought that after graduation I would know exactly how to put a car together from start to finish. But now after working, I realized that it's not one single person's job to design and fabricate a car. It's a group effort and there is a team dedicated to each component; there is a team for engine design and frame design. So, in engineering, you can't complete something on your own. It requires teamwork. I have realized that I won't be able to master and excel in everything. You have to recognize that and then be willing to continuously learn from others along the way.

“My degree in engineering didn't teach me everything.”

My degree in engineering didn't teach me everything. It doesn’t give you all of the tactical knowledge and it doesn't provide you with all of the practical skills. But it provides that foundation to question, test and critique so that you can continually apply what you learn and self-teach new technologies.

“But it provides that foundation to question, test and critique so that you can continually apply what you learn and self-teach new technologies.”

What makes you #MakerProud?

I am MakerProud because I am helping improve other people's day-to-day work. Engineering and technology are really centered around bringing value to the community, the plant and all of the people working there. We're helping them by addressing their obstacles and making their lives easier. I am here to make their work more efficient. This is what fuels me to be a maker and an engineer.