Student Spotlight: “Fun, Mad Science” 

If Sam Taylor’s being honest, he regrets his interactions with the Career Center. Not his interactions once he began searching for a job and regularly consulting the Center, but rather his interactions from before his job search, when he virtually ignored the Center.

“I regret not actively using those resources earlier,” the fall 2022 graduate notes. “I learned about a lot of the services retroactively and I wished I would’ve used them before I started looking for a full-time job.”

The mechanical engineering major first turned to the Career Center to get some extra input about his resumé and LinkedIn profile to prepare for his job search. He met with career consultant Ashley Steffy who helped him review his documents.

Taylor had trouble pitching himself to mechanical engineering companies because his resumé didn’t tell a straight narrative.

“I’m interested in a lot of niche areas so my resumé is a bit all over the place,” he explains. “I had a lot of strictly mechanical stuff but then I threw in some computer science stuff because I fell in love with a robotics company I worked for.”

Taylor says robotics companies wouldn’t hire him because of a lack of coding experience, but mechanical engineering companies thought he seemed more involved with the robotics path than with mechanical engineering projects. 

“The Career Center helped me figure out how to articulate my interests in interviews, on my resumé, and in my LinkedIn profile so that companies could understand how my experience in both robotics and mechanical engineering aligned with my career goals,” Taylor notes.

He was able to land a job in the research and development department at Direct Dimensions, a 3D scanning company focused on photogrammetry. Taylor found the position on Handshake.

“The application was super easy to complete, but they asked for a portfolio, which I wasn’t used to,” he says. “I asked Ashley what to do and she suggested I polish up my GitHub with some of my personal projects, so I was able to show that off. I was a really good fit with the company, but representing myself well was the biggest obstacle, and the Career Center helped me overcome that hurdle.”

At Direct Dimensions, Taylor uses both his mechanical engineering background and his software background to make user interfaces that allow other people in the R&D department to access the scanners. Taylor describes his work as “fun, mad science.”

“I love this job,” he expresses. “I was expecting a brain-dead job right out of school, like a test engineer, where I’d be plugging and unplugging stuff all day. But my job now is actually enriching and I’m learning a lot about the systems I work with.”

Previously, Taylor had done three semesters of co-op at Neya Systems, a robotics company. 

“That experience was formative for me,” Taylor notes. “It made me decide to minor in computer science and set me up for this type of multi-disciplinary work I do now.”

At Neya Systems, Taylor learned about control systems, like how to get a vehicle to turn when it’s overcoming a lot of friction.

“It was like a playground of all sorts of fun tech things,” Taylor explains. “It really helped with my motivation, too. When I first started school, I was just chugging along. But once I started seeing how things work in the real world and learning skills and concepts and not just studying for tests and focusing on my grades, my mental health improved.”

Taylor was also able to improve his motivation and understand himself better after he was diagnosed with ADHD the summer after his first year at Pitt.

“The diagnosis recontextualized a lot of stuff for me and changed how I view myself. I used to pace for hours before I could do any work for general chemistry or any other class that wasn’t directly related to mechanical engineering. Now I know my limits better and I’m learning to ask for help when I need it. I’m getting better at managing myself.”

Taylor says his ADHD doesn’t often interfere with his work, but occasionally he’ll warn his co-workers that his medication is a day late and he might be less focused that day.

Despite not using the Career Center as early as he wanted, Taylor notes that when he did begin to use it, it was much less intimidating than he’d expected.

“It feels scary to ask for help sometimes, but it was so easy to work with the Career Center,” Taylor confirms. “After two emails with Ashley, it felt like she was my friend. It really doesn’t take much time to form that personal relationship.”

Looking to the future, Taylor wants to prioritize his happiness.

“I had a moment in college where I realized my end goal in general is to be happy,” he states. “I have this vision of me and my friends on a porch in the summertime having a barbeque. Personal success to me isn’t too grand; it’s just the warm and fuzzy feeling inside when you know that you’re doing well and you’re with those you care about. Engineering is something I’m good at and enjoy doing, so that’s my vehicle from here to there.”

By Dionna Dash
Dionna Dash N