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Career Spotlight: Engineering

May-2011

When Vermeer began to make its mark in the manufacturing world, Gary Vermeer was one of the few people who had the role of designing machines to be produced and sold. As time went on, people working in the factory were asked to help with the designing of machines. Today, it is more difficult to get into the field without an engineering degree. While the process of hiring and becoming an engineer has changed, there is one thing that hasn’t changed at Vermeer: design a machine that people need and build it the best.

This month, we sat down with a few engineers to get a feel for how engineering works at Vermeer. Keith Roozeboom is a project engineer in the environmental segment, but that wasn’t always his position. “I started in welding at Vermeer in the late 60’s but back in those days they didn’t have a group that they called engineers,” said Roozeboom. “They eventually hired an actual engineer who wanted to start some projects and make helpful changes. He wanted more people to design and asked me if I was interested because I had been involved in technician aspects of designing machines before.” So Roozeboom joined the budding engineering team at Vermeer. However, Roozeboom became interested in working with steel much earlier than just getting a job as a welder at the factory.

“When I was little, my father and I walked into what would be the closest thing to a blacksmith shop at the time. They were cutting and welding and smoke was in the air; I was excited,” said Roozeboom. While he didn’t remember that story when he first started working at Vermeer, Roozeboom knew there was something inside of him that made steel exciting. Since beginning work as a welder at Vermeer, the company has given him even more opportunities to understand steel and components to working with the material.

“To me, steel is one of the most interesting things God has made and Vermeer gave me the chance to learn specific things and how it all works together,” said Roozeboom. There is a lot more that goes into becoming an engineer today. John Maher, design engineer for Vermeer Cutting Edge, and Clint Recker, trenchless design engineer, are pretty new to engineering at Vermeer. Recker has been working on a single project with Trenchless for several years now, while Maher juggles around five projects at a time, so the time that goes into projects can vary greatly. Maher graduated from Iowa State University with an Ag Engineering degree in power machinery in 2007.

“I grew up on a farm and it came to a point where I had to decide if I wanted to farm or do something else. I realized I enjoyed the machinery side and wanted to be hands-on, which correlates well with Vermeer,” said Maher. “It was like a light bulb turned on; I knew I wanted to work with machines so engineering just made sense.” Recker also grew up on a farm and was constantly working with equipment. He went to Iowa State for Mechanical Engineering at first, but he soon switched to Ag Engineering after realizing they had more classes he wanted to take and the major worked more directly with machinery.

“I was able to be in a club through my major that designed and built a quarter scale-pulling tractor which actually led to getting my first internship at Vermeer,” said Recker. Recker first interned at Vermeer during his junior year of college in the corporate test department. He really enjoyed the actual testing of machines and came back a year later for another internship with the test department. “[My internship] was a foot in the door. When the time came to graduate, I had been speaking with Vermeer and my wife and I were both offered jobs. Despite the economy the past few years, Vermeer stuck with us and we were very happy about that,” said Recker. For Roozeboom, working with young engineers is one of the highlights of his career.

“I’ve had the privilege to be involved with the lives of several young engineers now and it’s just a real pleasure for me to share what I’ve learned and to learn what they’ve learned. The single greatest teacher for me at Vermeer
has been with the young people with whom I have worked,” said Roozeboom. When it comes to hiring a new engineer, Roozeboom, Recker and Maher said the number one thing they look for in a new team member is passion.

“Having a positive attitude, really getting after [the job] and enjoying what you’re doing is important. Everyone benefits from that,” said Maher, adding that people skills are the very important and the rest comes together with that. They should be excited about steel and materials and have a desire to help Vermeer, added Roozeboom. Experience is obviously something that is needed, but someone who wants to work directly with their projects is a must, along with the education and attitude to match it.

“You can be covered in oil all day if you want. We’re a very hands-on company, so someone would have to want that as well. It’s like being a kid again, you’re getting dirty,” said Maher. “We just have bigger Tonka Toys now,” added Recker.

So why should someone choose to work at Vermeer? For one, Vermeer is in a unique place in the industry. While the company is definitely a player in the forage and industrial markets, it is still growing. Maher noted that he really likes what Vermeer stands for and the possibilities and opportunities for career and industry growth.

“I feel like I’ve been able to be a part of things and they’ve given me opportunities,” said Roozeboom. “They appreciate what you’re doing and they let you know that; I feel like I am valued as an employee.”