Campus Community

Career Aspirations

Written by Andrew Binion

February 7, 2023

Photo of a panel at the CSE PACCAR career event.

Image credit: Nadoka Kondo

A panel featuring recent SU graduates who all work at PACCAR—along with guests, corgis Arthur and Momo—offer current students tips on landing a job post-graduation.

Recent grads working at PACCAR return to SU and help engineering students prepare for the job hunt.

Not too long ago, Daniel Lee, ‘22, would have been one of the mechanical engineering students who gathered together on a recent Friday night to hear tips on how to land a job at the company that produces Kenworth trucks.

“We understand where the students are, because we were there so recently,” said Lee, a mechanical design engineer at PACCAR.

That was the idea behind the PACCAR/Kenworth Trucks Company Career Night on February 3—to bridge the gap between careers and undergraduate studies for those who will soon be hunting for jobs themselves, with early career mechanical engineers offering tips on how to get in the door at the truck manufacturer.

Lee was one of six PACCAR mechanical engineers who returned to their alma mater to speak to current students, giving them a relatable perspective.

Mechanical Engineering Professor Frank Shih, PhD, hosted the event, which was designed so recent grads from different companies and industries could offer a unique perspective on the path from student to employee. 

“Our alums are our best resource on how one morphs from being a student to a professional, each with their own unique stories, perspective and insights,” Dr. Shih said. “We are leveraging our vast pool of alums in the Seattle area and beyond, willing to work with our current students and help them achieve their greatest potential. This sets us apart.”

Junior Erik Brecto says he valued the insights from the alumni as they were coming from peers who knew what he was going through.

“It’s like getting a letter from your future self,” Brecto said.

In addition to tips on job searching—networking is key along with small but important details like adding a photo to your LinkedIn account—the recent graduates offered advice on how to handle the stress of interviews, to set your sights high and to take advantage of the opportunities SU has to offer.

Some of the advice was about approach as much as specifics, such as words from Yusef Hunt, ‘22, an autonomous vehicle platform control engineer, who encouraged students to value what they can offer an employer.

“Know your worth as an engineer,” Hunt said. “They need you as much as you need them.”

One piece of advice that resonated was from Ryan Mann, ‘21, an electric vehicle design engineer.

“Don’t consider yourself underqualified,” he said. “If a job interests you, regardless if you think you measure up, give it a shot.”

Senior Madison Waguespack hasn’t decided yet what she wants to do after graduation but said she appreciated hearing the importance of not selling yourself short to a potential employer. 

“Just having people in the industry say don’t box yourself in is eye opening and comforting and made me want to pursue more things,” Waguespack said.

The path to mechanical engineering varied between the alums. Embedded Systems Software Engineer Seth Tesci, ‘22, and Kenworth Vehicle Integration Engineer Mitchell Soohoo, ‘22, said movies—Big Hero 6 and Iron Man, respectively—first piqued their interest in becoming engineers. Hunt liked to take apart machines to see how they worked.

For Cody Blaschka, ‘22, a mechanical design engineer for Kenworth, it started with an interest in motorsports.

“I was never good enough to be a driver,” Blaschka said. “But maybe I could design something.”

Freshman JR Niemczyk can trace his fascination with cars to age 13, when he became a NASCAR fan. He wants to convert that passion into a well-paying job. 

Though he has an interest in speed and admits the glamor of designing race and performance cars is attractive, the idea of moving goods to market appeals to him as well.

“Speed is great, but to use a cliche, you have to slow down once in a while.”