Our “Meet the Team” series profiles the creative and curious people of First Mode. We are driven to find purposeful technology solutions to the world’s most important challenges. We take our work seriously but ourselves not too seriously. Want to work with us? View our open positions here.
What do you do at First Mode?
I’m a mechanical systems engineer, currently acting as the technical lead of a structures and hydraulics team.
What are you working on right now?
We’re working to design a hybrid-electric underground haul truck, from the ground up. My team is responsible for the chassis, dump body, suspension, and actuation of the vehicle.
Why is this important?
Mining is not generally thought of as a “green” industry but is crucial to provide the raw materials necessary to build renewable energy infrastructure. With this project, we are taking a stepwise approach towards a carbon neutral future—today it’s a hybrid electric truck, and next it could be a fully electric vehicle.
What drew you to First Mode originally?
The variety of projects and the clear intention behind each project. I wanted to work with a team that was creating clear and positive change, and First Mode is doing just that.
How did your passion for engineering and tech begin?
I’ve always been a math, science, and spaceflight nerd. In fifth grade, I was tutored in advanced mathematics by an aerospace engineer. She encouraged me to challenge myself and opened my eyes to the possibilities for my future.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Food. I’m a big believer in breakfast…and second breakfast.
What does your typical day look like?
I work with a team that is split between Seattle and Perth, Australia, so my day is generally split to match. In the mornings (aka “Seattle time”), I work on individual tasking and catch up with local colleagues over coffee and donuts. During “Perth time,” I am generally on video chats with that portion of our team, reviewing project progress and supporting where I can.
Do you have a mantra, a motto, or a mission statement?
I think it’s important to “do good” in all aspects of life, whether it’s minimizing my environmental footprint, designing technologies that benefit society, or just being kind to others.
What is great about mechanical systems engineering?
It’s the crossroads between my two favorite engineering disciplines, and it has frequent real-world functionality—for example, a chassis is both the structural backbone and the physical glue that connects all other systems on a vehicle. It’s important to approach the problem with the systems mindset of how all the parts make the whole, but to also have the mechanical knowhow to support loads derivation and analysis.
Could you point to a project that you are most proud of?
My first real work assignment after undergrad was working as a design engineer on the GEM 63 and 63XL solid rocket boosters. I was fortunate to be on the project through most of its lifecycle, and as a recent graduate, the learning curve was nearly vertical. Seeing the first successful flight made me realize, “Woah, I’m a real engineer now!”
Why does it matter that we keep inventing, testing, and creating?
To continue solving the challenges of each generation. We often invent new technologies that address a current challenge, but end up creating a different problem down the road. It’s important that we keep tackling new issues so that humanity doesn’t collapse under its own handiwork.
What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?
I can usually either be found at home tending to my garden, chickens, and bees, or else backpacking deep in the woods somewhere. I love getting off the beaten track and generally spend my PTO backpacking through remote and beautiful places around the world.
Have you learned anything especially great in the last year?
So, so much about the mining industry, industrial vehicle design, and Aussie slang.