Chris Burfeind
Mechanical Engineer

Synapsters Share Career Experience at Seattle Urban Academy

As a sophomore in college who didn’t even drink coffee, I had the opportunity to go “grab coffee” with a mechanical engineer working in Product Development. In fact, he was a Synapster. A friend of a friend of a friend, I’d connected with him because my research mentor had suggested “product development” as a potential career path based on my interests. I had no idea what product development meant, if I wanted to pursue it, or how I would pursue it.

That conversation was pivotal. I expected to hear a bit about Synapse and what being a mechanical engineer was like. I did. But it also turned out to be a long mentoring session that opened my eyes to the types of careers that aligned with my interests. I learned about how to use my studies and extra curriculars to achieve career goals. While there is a lot that has combined to get me where I am today, opportunities like this, chatting with experienced engineers, are critical to budding engineers. I’m very thankful for my journey to become a mechanical engineer at Synapse.

Flash forward to today, I’m sitting in front of a dozen sharply dressed high schoolers at Seattle Urban Academy's Career Day. Hattie Spetla, an electrical engineer at Synapse, and I were joined on this panel by four other local professionals in STEM. Students were curious about what we did, how we got there, what we enjoy about our careers. One interesting question was, “What is the most dangerous part of your job?”. Safety aspects ranging from using machinery, marine field work on boats, and handling diseases in medical research were highlighted to the student.

Another student wanted to know what are the important steps towards becoming a mechanical engineer. For me, this is an especially important area to discuss with high school and college students. When I talk with students about this topic, I stress three things:

Dedication - It takes hard, gritty work to achieve one’s goals. You really need to be dedicated to making it happen and prioritize it.

Technical Experience - Yes, study textbooks, solve homework problems and excel in the general coursework stuff, but also you need to find extracurricular opportunities to get hands-on experience solving problems where the answers aren’t in the back of the book or a teacher isn’t available to provide step-by-step instructions. The learning curve out of college into a career is real, but these extracurriculars can lead you in the right direction and will help soften the curve, making you more marketable for jobs. These experiences better refine the career field you’ll enjoy!

General Experience - Take opportunities to be involved in activities outside of engineering. They’ll broaden your perspective and can be crucial to your success. I found my passion coaching homeless soccer players with Street Soccer Seattle.This allowed me to grow my communication, conflict resolution, leadership, and project management abilities beyond my engineering peers in school. 

Discussion with students continued to flourish as students’ idea of what careers they could explore and how to pursue them emerged. If at all it felt daunting, Seattle’s Erin Jones, our lunch speaker, completely crushed these worries with a motivating speech. She spoke about her journey growing up and striving at a young age to reconcile for peace, learn languages, and be a world changer. Her main takeaway, an important message to us all, “Choose to be great! Be a world changer!”

“Choose to be great! Be a world changer!”  

At the end of the day, I was honored to participate in the Seattle Urban Academy Career Day and hope I contributed to providing practical direction and motivation that is so important for our budding professionals. I am happy to have been involved in such an inspiring career day.

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