Friday, February 20, 2009

Careers in Product Creation and Manufacturing for New Graduates, 2/19

Moderated by John Aney, executive director of the Stanford Product Realization Network, this interactive event featured 9 speakers donating advice on how to get involved in manufacturing-related jobs after graduation.

The Product Realization Network is described on their website as:

• A student-centric organization providing an education that is deeply immersive and hands-on
• An educational initiative promoting current product realization processes and business concepts as a successful pathway to innovation
• Founded in product realization practices that integrate design, manufacturing and business, and informed by mathematics and environmental, physical and social sciences
• Supported by a community fused from academic, professional and industrial groups motivated by the educational enterprise

In spite of the recession, the tone of the evening was optimistic. Aney's opening remarks stressed the many opportunities available to Stanford grads. "Manufacturing in the US is not dead," Aney said. "Manufacturing in California is not dead. Manufacturing in Silicon Valley is not dead. It is changing."

This sentiment was repeated by all of the guests at some point in the evening. Cheryl E. Duke, a test engineer at Raytheon told the 45 attendees that "you are the people that come in and give us bright ideas."

"Never before in our history are we counting on new hires so much for innovation," said John Jacobson, a senior director at Cisco.

Beverly Principal, who works for the career development center on campus, said that there are still 2-300 jobs posted on the website every week. "Employees are hiring," she said. "They may not have hundreds of jobs, but they're filling jobs."

Aside from the general encouragement, the assembled guests, including two engineers from Speck Design, an entrepreneur with Nokia Growth Partners, and employees from Apple, Cisco, Genentech and B.MINIMA, waxed lyrical about their love of engineering and manufacturing.

"There's nothing greater than seeing a product you created actually make someone's life better," said Shigeru Tanaka, who designs and manufacturers medical products for Speck Design.

Questions from those assembled ranged widely, from the practical (Should I join a large company or a small company?) to the whimsical (How can I integrate virtual reality technologies into my designs?). Invariably, two or three of the guests would jump to respond, and the students seemed more than satisfied with the answers.

"I've been telling myself I'd come to a PRN event for a long time," said Ana Peña, a senior in the mechanical engineering program. "I just figured I was going to do it tonight."

"And when you heard there was going to be free dinner?" asked a nearby professor.

"Well then I figured I had to!"

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