Forty-two applications later I figured there must be at least one company that wants to hire me. I was looking to work as an engineer in the 3-D printing industry over the summer.
Sweet Briar College’s Margaret Jones Wyllie ’45 Engineering Program requires every student to work for several months under the mentorship of professional engineers. I figured I’d take this opportunity and apply for jobs in the field of my passion: 3-D printing. I wanted to work in the future, with technology that is changing faster than I can keep up. Unfortunately, zero of the 42 companies thought I was ready to join them. But, thanks to my Sweet Briar sisters and mentors, I was not afraid to forge my own path, and I was not going to let any obstacles get in my way.
In order to get the job, I had to be a little unconventional. I called a local 3-D printing and scanning company and asked if they had room to hire one more. I was tired of filling out applications to companies I did not know in places I had never been. Instead, I took a leap of faith. I told this local company that I loved what they did, and that I was eager to learn more. Three weeks later, I started the best job I have ever had at GoMeasure3D. Take this to heart: The only job I got was the one I asked for.
GoMeasure3D is a family-run business in Amherst. They focus mainly on selling 3-D scanning systems and on providing technical support to people who use the technology. The company also sells a line of 3-D printers and accessory tools. While most of the customers are industrial organizations, GoMeasure3D has many wonderful academic connections. They’ve worked with Sweet Briar and Amherst High School, and many colleges up and down the East Coast use their systems for research.
Achieving purpose-driven work
At GoMeasure3D, I was fortunate to learn many different technologies. 3-D scanners are incredible: They aim to capture the real world in three dimensions on a computer screen. I got to help researchers scan monkey skulls in order to understand how teeth evolve in primates, and I designed automated toolpaths for mechanics used in drag racing engines. I love this job because I get to be a helper.
But that’s not my job title. I am the technical support at GoMeasure3D. This means anyone who wants to know how to accomplish their goals talks to me. This job has taught me how to communicate with people who are not engineers, as well as with those who have been engineering longer than I have been alive. Sometimes that’s challenging. I’ve gotten angry calls from customers who have spent hours trying to get one thing to work. I understood their frustrations because I was just learning this technology, too, and I got to learn it with my customers.
The more I learned, I transitioned to writing permanent support material for the website. I would find problems when I was using the technology and write pictured guides that I could send to customers if they encountered similar issues. There is something deeply satisfying about this type of work. I want to break down the barriers that prevent people from learning technology. Sometimes that’s in the form of creating YouTube videos, online tutorials or blog posts. Sometimes that means physically going to see a customer and understanding what they are trying to achieve. I learned to be patient and kind, and to listen more than I speak.
Connecting to a community
Learning to be patient and kind actually started at Sweet Briar. Previously I left an unstable home life in New Hampshire. I got myself into too much trouble and I did not care what others had to say about it. The community at Sweet Briar wasn’t bothered by my past. They believed in my potential. Freshman and sophomore year may have been bumpy, but they were important for my personal growth. Dr. Bethany Brinkman, Dr. Kaelyn Leake and Dr. Hank Yochum, my engineering mentors, never gave up faith and helped me find success in the department. They hired me to clean the shop and help underclasswoman labs.
Helping underclasswomen learn about what made me excited was an incredibly rewarding experience. Paulette Porter-Stransky, the woman who convinced me to come to Sweet Briar many years prior, had a new job for me. She gave me responsibility of over 20 high school girls interested in engineering and the College. Explore Engineering is a summer program at Sweet Briar — I attended it myself when I was in high school — that lets kids work on engineering projects over a whole week. Now I had the opportunity to be a resident advisor. I lived in the dorms with the students to make sure their needs were being met 24 hours a day. I am incredibly proud to say that three of the students I mentored now attend Sweet Briar or have applied.
I fully believe my experiences at Sweet Briar helped me get that job at GoMeasure3D. The skills I learned will stay with me for the rest of my life. I learned how to take care of myself and the people around me. One day, I want a career that lowers barriers and opens the door to educational opportunities in technology for all kinds of people. Whether it’s students in a classroom, customers at a business or just everyday people, I believe in access to resources that can make them more successful, as well as drive their passions. That is really what I’ve learned this summer. None of it would have been possible without the love and compassion of the Sweet Briar College and GoMeasure3D communities.
Mackenzie Crary ’18 is an engineering major with a math minor from Goffstown, N.H., a place known for the world’s biggest pumpkins. She enjoys being a DJ on 92.7 The Briar and also serves as the station’s general manager. Her sport of choice is competitive rock climbing.