Making Machines Work

Sean Hopkins NYT

“Sean Hopkins, 26, is a reliability engineer at the design and manufacturing company Dyson. He is based in Chicago.

Q. Why did you want to become an engineer?

A. When I was 5, I built scale models of cars, airplanes and military vehicles from kits. When my mother saw that I was interested in building things, she explained that’s what an engineer does. I knew then that I wanted to be one. She bought me every Lego set she could instead of video games. No matter what I liked, from martial arts to bike racing, she’d find a way for me to try it. She’s been a driving force in my life. She would remind me that no matter how difficult life gets, hard work pays off.

How else did your childhood influence you?

My dad, a Vietnam vet, suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome and wasn’t always in our life. I grew up on the South Side of Chicago. The guys in my neighborhood wanted to play in the N.B.A. or N.F.L., but I’ve always been fascinated by technology. That doesn’t mean I didn’t dream of being a star athlete, but I didn’t think that was likely. I thought I’d have a better chance of changing the world through engineering.

When were you hired by Dyson?

Dyson is my second job. In July I’ll have been here two years. When I graduated from the University of Illinois in 2011, I worked for Navistar, the heavy-vehicle manufacturer, on military vehicle design and systems integration.

What do you do there?

I oversee the quality and reliability of the entire product line, from heaters to fans to hand dryers to vacuums. Every day is different. One day I’m on the phone with customer service investigating a vacuum blockage, and the next day I’m building a cardboard prototype of a vacuum part with rotating bristles.

Are you changing the world through engineering, as you initially planned?

I volunteer with the James Dyson Foundation, giving talks and workshops to encourage students from the Chicago area who aspire to be engineers. In college I rarely met minority engineers from Chicago, so I’m also showing minority students that this is a viable career.”

Patricia R. Olsen

This copy was taken from a piece published by the New York Times on 3 May 2015. The original article can be found here.