by Macey Streeper on Feb 18, 2020
Engineers Week is an annual celebration of the innovations made possible by the world’s engineers. It also introduces students to this exciting field.
Rogers Corporation President and CEO, Bruce Hoechner, began his career as an engineer, so we interviewed him to get his perspective on the field.
INTERVIEWER: We hear you’re an engineer. What interested you in the field?
Bruce Hoechner: I was originally a biology major, but a couple years into it, I decided it wasn’t for me. I wanted to use my science background, so I switched into Chemical Engineering. My dad was an engineer, so I knew engineering was a great curriculum for pursuing anything you wanted. My view of any engineering is that it teaches you how to think, how to solve problems and how to analyze. So no matter what I did, I figured this was a great basis.
Tell us about your career background.
BH: I was educated as a chemical engineer at Penn State. I originally thought I wanted to be a design or process engineer, where I would design processes and translate those processes into manufacturing capabilities. I ended up doing that for six months before getting sent to Texas with a group of 30 young engineers to start up a brand new chemical plant.
Start up a new plant? That sounds interesting!
BH: Yes. We basically built it, tested everything out, then started it up and ran it for two years. During this time the operators were the engineers. We had to troubleshoot problems, because it was a new plant and there were many issues and malfunctions that we had to deal with.
Every day we had to critically think about, “how can we improve, how can we do things better and differently, and most importantly, safely?”
Did you enjoy it?
BH: I found that what I enjoyed most was working with people and working with teams to figure out how to evaluate issues and solve problems. Overall, I knew that I really wanted to get involved with both manufacturing and people and that led me down my future career path.
It is often said that Rogers Corporation is a company of engineers. What does that mean to you?
BH: It means that at Rogers we recognize that data matters, facts matter and there is usually an answer that we can arrive at in a logical way. To serve customers, engineering overall is a great discipline that is made more powerful by being flexible, making adjustments and evaluating what makes sense beyond what data delivers.
How do engineers influence technology and society today?
BH: Today, more than ever, data and engineering drives future technologies. Engineering transforms data into information that can solve problems. The future of today’s society will be driven by the ability to utilize information in a way that can be made practical and useful. That’s what engineers do.
Is there an element of creativity to engineering?
BH: Absolutely. Engineering will lead you towards solutions, but there can be multiple solutions. That’s where the creativity comes in – different ways of solving the same problem. Our engineering skills are tested every day in the marketplace by seeing if we can come up with solutions that are better performing, better quality and lower cost.
What is the most exciting engineering feat that you have seen during your career?
BH: In my lifetime, the whole space program. If you look what is accomplished in space, a lot of what got us there was engineering. The space program embodies what engineering is – solving problems in a practical way to advance society forward. There are different derivatives of that. Engineering can make life better in many ways, in terms of the types of buildings or automobiles we create or even reducing pollution, and engineering enables all of these things. The ultimate objective of it is to make life better and make society better.
What do you think is a common misconception about engineering?
BH: That if you become an engineer you are forever an engineer. Engineering is a very honorable discipline that is very helpful to the world. But, if you go into it, that doesn’t mean you will stay there. It requires great critical thinking and problem solving. As a result, engineering is a strong basis to launch your life on because it is practical and applicable to many different fields.
What advice would you give to a student considering a career in engineering?
BH: Engineering is an outstanding career choice, but an interest in science and a capability in mathematics and physics is extremely important. The curriculum is not easy so it helps to have a passion for it. That underlying passion for science and solving problems creatively will help drive your success.
My grandmother always said, education is something no one can take from you. No one can take from you what you know and what you can do so if you have an interest, there are many career opportunities for the application of engineering skills to explore.
At Rogers Corporation, engineering is the basis for the materials we develop and the relationships we have with our customers. We provide advanced materials, global resources, co-engineering and design collaboration to enable technology for a cleaner, safer and more connected world.
For more information on careers in engineering at Rogers Corporation, visit our careers page.
For more information on Engineers Week, visit DiscoverE.