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Mechanical Engineering Overview - PowerPoint - Podcast

Dale Pankow

Technology Leader
Procter & Gamble
Cincinnati, OH

MS, Mechanical Engineering, University of Illinois
BS, Mechanical Engineering, University of Illinois
Technology Leader, providing expertise within product development and manufacturing groups, in areas such as process engineering, packaging, distribution, and robotics.
"Much of my work involves the business side of the company, which puts me in touch with sales, research and development, and with the finance people."
"It's important for M.E. students to be aware of their options for work in technical engineering, research & development, sales, and management."

Pankow: "Procter & Gamble is my first job out of school, which was about three years ago. I just recently was promoted. So, my first job was as a product technical engineer, and my second role with Procter & Gamble was as a technology leader. A technology leader is actually what we call a second level manager. And, usually, what it means by technology leader is you do have an expertise in one technology, whether that be packing, distribution, or robotics."

Pankow: "It wasn't that tough of a transition. Probably the biggest thing is, now, all of a sudden, everything's real. It's that realization that when you do that calculation, and you make that recommendation, it's going to be real. And it's really going to make a change, out there in the manufacturing site. And so you're really expected to deliver whatever that is."

Q: What does a technology leader do?
Pankow: A technology leader is what we call a second-level manager. And usually what it means is you have an expertise in one technology, whether that be packing, distribution or robotics. And, at that time, you're at least a regional expert in that topic. You're able to work on projects and be a resource for other projects, and lead teams related to whatever technology you are knowledgeable in.

Q: Is Procter & Gamble your first job out of school?
Pankow: Procter & Gamble is my first job out of school, which was about three years ago. And I just recently was promoted. So, my first job was as a product technical engineer, and my second role with Procter & Gamble was as a technology leader.

Q: What was the progression?
Pankow: It was a very natural progression. The first promotion is based on leadership skills, and expertise in a technology. And when I came into Procter & Gamble, I started out on a large project. I very quickly gained experience in the technology, and got very grounded in it -- it was actually a distribution project. So, I got to be an expert on the technology there. And gradually, as we moved to the next project, I took a greater leadership role, and then it was very natural that I could go into any technology.

Q: Do you use the technical background you learned in school, now, in your job?
Pankow: I do use my educational background, but it's not as much as I initially thought I would. Very seldom do I use a particular class, where I pick out like thermodynamics "I'm using thermodynamics for this project." Or do I pick up and go, "OK, I remember that formula; I'm using this formula to solve a problem." Most of it is using the engineering skills that you learned throughout college, which are probably methodological. Making sure you know the right questions to ask, to penetrate the topic, to be data-based in your decision making. To be able to take data, to be able to analyze it, and draw conclusions from it. So, it's a lot more of what you would call "processes" that I use from my educational background.

Q: Tell me a little bit about your college life.
Pankow: I definitely enjoyed college. I started in mechanical engineering. Completed my bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, and went on to get my Master's. If you asked me, going in, freshman year, if I was going to get my Master's, I would have probably said, "Not a chance; four years is plenty." But I hit that four-year mark, and I still wasn't a hundred percent sure where I wanted to go in industry. I still felt that I was gaining a lot of field knowledge, in college. And, so, I decided to go get my Master's. And that helped prepare me by getting some experience with industry, with my graduate work -- to help me know where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do, after graduation.

Q: Were you in school five years?
Pankow: I went to school for six years.

Q: And how did you happen to get hired by Procter & Gamble?
Pankow: The University of Illinois is where I went to college. And they have a very good placement program, where they bring companies in, and there's interviewing schedules set up. And that's how I got my first interview with Procter & Gamble. But working with Procter & Gamble recruiting, through various interviews, I started to get to know the company and the products they produce. I did have some friends that had knowledge of what Procter & Gamble was about, and some experience of how they treated their employees. And, so, all that turned out positive, the interviewing went well, and it was, apparently, a "win-win" on both sides. So, I was very happy.

Q: How do you spend a typical day? What's a typical day for you?
Pankow: It's kind of hard to say a typical day. Depending on what part of the process we're on, your typical day looks very different. So, my typical day, right now, is probably going to look very different from three months from now. And it can vary -- like, right now, I spend a lot of time in the office, working on technical documentation. Because we're kind of in the middle of a project, right now. The design phase. And, so, we're heavily working with vendors to look at equipment, trying to do option analysis, things like that. And most of my time is spent in the office. Now, very shortly, I'm going to be spending most of the time working with vendors, which means probably on the road, working with them. Working with an engineering-design house. So, I'll be spending probably most of my time either at some other local offices, or traveling to these meetings. And then, during the final phase of a project, you're spending a lot of time at the plant. So, you're at the manufacturing site, solving problems, sorting out the equipment and such. So, it's kind of hard to say that -- what is a typical day, because it varies from month to month and -- depending where you are in the project cycle.

Q: What kind of roles do you have in the company?
Pankow: I work on several teams. The base team that I work with is made up of various different kinds of engineering -- from controls, to electrical, to civil -- information systems. As well as the contacts from our manufacturing sites on the team. There are project managers. And, so, it's a very broadbased team to be able to deliver the type of projects we're delivering.

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