What Engineering Graduates Should Know: Santa Cruz Bicycles’ Joe Graney




[A couple years ago, the PTC Academic Program asked some of our most esteemed customers to reflect on the “skills gap” in engineering. We wanted to know what was missing when fresh graduates showed up on the company’s doorstep. What more could universities be doing to prepare the next generation of product developers? Many of the answers we received are still as relevant today as they were back then. With school starting up again, it's a good time to revisit these now-classic posts as you choose your courses and extracurricular projects for the year. ]

As we continue our series on what companies look for in graduating engineers, it becomes clear that company culture has a lot to do with the screening process.

At Santa Cruz bicycles, everybody loves riding, of course. But director of engineering, Joe Graney, says it’s not enough to simply say you’re passionate about cycling to get the job. He wants to see engineering students who can show that passion.

Graney wants to see the bike you kluged together in high school. Maybe you had an idea that you could go higher with an air foil on the back of a Huffy you found in the backyard shed. THAT’S passion!

[Note. Graney never says that your experiment had to be successful.]

Now that you’re in college? Graney says there’s a lot you can be doing to make the most of your education.

  • Engineering tools. Graney says that understanding CAD surfacing and complex geometry is essential. At Santa Cruz, engineers model quickly, build the design, and quickly get the model out for a ride.
  • Organizational skills. “Working on the wrong version of a part can have serious and expensive consequences,” says Graney. Understanding how systems like PDMPLM,MRP, and ERP and using them as appropriate, is an essential engineering skill, he says.
  • Technical drawings and communications. In product development and manufacturing, you need to work to people all over the world. Are you able to produce clear drawings that don’t leave out key information? Can you talk and write clearly when working with partners with English as their second language? Can you keep things simple? Can you build relationships? How you present yourself and your ideas counts.
  • Understand how things are made in real life. To be invaluable as an engineer, it’s helpful to know how things are really made. While many kinds of internships might be available to you, Graney recommends getting some time in a machine shop. “If you want to prove your ideas, understand how a milling machine and lathe work.” Graney says that he doesn’t expect his new engineers to be PTC Creo whizzes or design savants. But understanding how parts get made IRL helps.
  • Break resume rules. Santa Cruz isn’t a company that expects engineers to follow the traditional resume guidelines. Be creative. “Put together a web site showing me who you are and what you can do,” Graney says.

So, is Graney simply describing the engineer he was when he applied for his first professional job? (His high school bike experiment involved a ski on the front wheel for snow riding.)

No. He says he wishes he had understood more about manufacturing processes himself—machining, injection molding, draft rules, casting—as well as the processes that drive design, like shrinkage, wall thicknesses, pull directions, etc.

Find out more about what the Santa Cruz team most wants from its new engineers, in this recorded webinar http://communities.ptc.com/videos/4134

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