Travis Thooft

Mechanical Engineering (2012)

Chief Engineer - Superior Industries Inc.

What are your primary job responsibilities?

Lead a team of 8-12 engineers, create and review design drawings and bill of materials, provide application suggestions, concepts, and specs for new opportunities, research and develop information for new products, and work as part of a larger operations management team to manage our production facilities. These are the core functions, thankfully our company takes pride in allowing plenty of personal freedom to do what needs to be done, so there are a number of other items that I get to be involved with as I or our company sees fit.

Describe what your day-to-day work life looks like.

No day is the same. I spend about 60-70% of my time at my desk. Of that time, I spend about 20% working on design work and the remaining time is spent managing schedules and communicating. Most communication is directly with my team or other engineering teams as well as our internal departments; there is a lot of email, an increasing number of phone calls and video calls, and now chats/ text, and other digital systems. In order of time spent from greatest to least, they would be production, sales (both inside and outside), customer service, and purchasing. The time away from my desk is spent supporting production projects, testing new products/ designs or projects, in meetings with other groups, and some time on the road for service issues or sales opportunities. I do spend some time interviewing and hiring as well as some time at trade shows or in personal or professional development.

What is most rewarding about your job?

This is a split: as a manager, I love watching people (both on my team and in other groups) develop, learn, innovate, and succeed. As an engineer, it is hard to beat working on new designs as solutions for a customer and seeing the customer happy about the solution we can bring to fruition for them.

What is most challenging about your job?

It took a while to get used to desk time and find a balance of different work loads that work for me. On the professional side, there are stressful days managing projects, timelines, or people. In addition, when things go wrong for a customer (whether our fault or not), dealing with unhappy customers face-to-face has it's challenges.

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