Guiding principle lands engineer in dream job
Category: Manufacturing Technology • Mar 10, 2020
By Kathy Keyes Webster, AMT Exhibitions Content Manager – Correspondence
When Adrian was a college senior earning a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, he heard about the University of Notre Dame Entrepreneurship, Technology, and Innovation (ESTEEM) graduate program. Its motto “Fix things that matter,” resonated with him. He knew it would be the perfect opportunity to combine his engineering background with his entrepreneurial drive to work on real-life problems and make a difference in the lives of others.
He was thrilled to be accepted into the ESTEEM program, but he had doubts about the specific work he would do — not to mention the culture shock of moving from L.A. to South Bend, Ind.,—population: 102,000. The demographic change, calling soda “pop,” and dealing with limited cuisine choices took a bit of getting used to, but he was attracted by the low cost of living and intoxicated by the late summer sunsets. (Located on the far edge of the Eastern Time Zone, South Bend enjoys daylight past 9:00 p.m.— more than an hour later than L.A.)
Despite the massive cultural shift, Adrian was determined to be an ESTEEM student and select a master thesis, which come from projects presented by local businesses and alumni. Adrian chose a manufacturing automation integration challenge based on the good vibes he felt during his conversation with the idea’s progenitors, Vickers Engineering CEO Matt Tyler and Director Corey Corolla, who wanted to discover if they could turn their automation integration experience into a business named Red Rabbit Automation. (In manufacturing, “red rabbits” are parts made with intentional flaws and used to check how long it takes to identify a defect.)
“Adrian brought a rare mix of great communication skills, an entrepreneurial mindset, and engineering knowledge to Red Rabbit,” says Matt. “In under two years, Adrian jumpstarted our ideas and set us on the path forward.”
Five months into the ESTEEM program and far from completing his research, Adrian thought that maybe Matt Tyler might be a little crazy. Tyler offered him a paid position without a title or even a job description in the fledgling start-up Red Rabbit. Then again, that’s what happens when conversations take place at a Notre Dame football game tailgate party.
Before committing to a job offer, Adrian felt he needed to finish the research for his master’s thesis, Analysis of Entry to System Integration Market Serving American Manufacturing. Soon, the thesis formed the basis for Red Rabbit’s business plan. In effect, Adrian’s thesis would be a Red Rabbit, testing to see if it could lead to a viable business. Little did he know that he would become the company’s manufacturing automation integrator.
Says Adrian with a bit of a chuckle, “I didn’t realize I was writing a blueprint for my future job until basically I defended my thesis, which was the last week of ESTEEM. That's when it clicked for me.”
Adrian was thrilled to work for Red Rabbit Automation and execute the business plan he wrote. He found it rewarding to help manufacturers reach new levels of efficiency, but there was something else tugging on his heart.
Keep believing in your guiding principle
Still enamored with “fix things that matter,” Adrian remained part of the ESTEEM program by serving as an engineering advisor to other ESTEEM students. Among them was a dynamic, enthusiastic student, Marissa Koscielski. Marissa developed a special walker called a gait trainer, which she based on her recovery from a gymnastics accident that left her partially paralyzed.
Struck by her passion to design and manufacture medical equipment, spurred by South Bend’s focus to support entrepreneurs, and motivated by Indiana and Ohio’s commitment to accelerate development of medical innovations, Adrian decided to leave Red Rabbit Automation after two years. Joining Marissa, they formed their own start-up company, Enlighten Mobility, to develop mobility devices for lower-limb amputees. Their products help teach the biomechanics of walking and support a seamless transition to a prosthetic when it becomes available.
“When you watch Marissa’s video and learn about Enlighten Mobility, you instantly understand why Adrian had to take the next step in his career journey,” says Matt. “We continue to grow Red Rabbit and rely on the strategy that Adrian helped us establish. We wish him the best and are eager to help him in any way we can.”
“I always thought I’d work in a big city. I’d like to let students know, you don’t have to know exactly what you want to do,” says Adrian. “Trusting your instincts and having a guiding principle such as, ‘fix things that matter’ is just enough direction to make choices that will ultimately lead you down the path that is right for you.”
We’re excited to see where Adrian and Marissa’s instincts take them. We’ll continue to report on their career journey. In the meantime, check out their video about what they are doing now at www.enlightenmobility.com.