Declassified Career Survival Guide: Three Experiences from Navistar
Many MechSE graduates (and soon to be graduates) have experience working for Navistar, headquartered in Lisle, Illinois. Initially called International Harvester and founded in 1902, Navistar is now an international company that makes buses, defense vehicles, and class 4- through class 8-sized trucks. In addition to my own awesome internship at the company this past summer, I spoke with two recent MechSE alumni who currently work there. Here are their (and my) stories.
BSME’04, M.Eng University of Wisconsin-Madison 2011
Steve is the Chief Engineer of Powertrain Cooling Systems at Navistar. He leads a team of engineers responsible for designing Powertrain Cooling Systems for all Navistar trucks and busses. A few of these components include radiators, charge air coolers, fans, and fan drives.
After graduating from Illinois with a BSME, Steve worked as Design Engineer on engine harnesses to be used on Caterpillar’s On-Highway engines. Through his connections he found an opportunity in the engine test lab at Navistar.
The cooling team works in many areas of mechanical engineering. The heat exchanger and air flow system designs are rooted in principles from heat transfer, fluid dynamics, and thermodynamics. To ensure the designed components can be produced to meet durability and reliability requirements for the life of the vehicle, principles of materials, applied mechanics, and noise, vibration and harshness are used in design.
Steve’s favorite projects started with customer quality issues that introduce the team to new situations and failure modes they haven’t dealt with before. He appreciates the opportunity to exercise technical skill by proving root causes and creating a design solution. He appreciates knowing that he was able to improve customer experience through his own engineering ability.
On advice for current (and future) mechanical engineers, Steve spoke of the importance of focusing on learning to improve your knowledge, and not just memorization to pass exams. He believes that your true body of knowledge will determine how successful you will be after graduation. He also stressed that you should never be too ashamed to ask questions, and that the most successful people tend to ask the most questions.
Danny is a Field Test Engineer in the Vehicle Performance and Validation group in Melrose Park, Illinois. The group is referred to as Navistar’s “last line of defense” before the products are brought to market. During field tests, trucks are tested under conditions similar to what the customers will experience on the road. Danny works with extracting and analyzing data from trip reports and vehicle inspections to insure quality of the vehicles.
Danny’s work with dispatch managers, design engineers, technicians, and drivers all require him to be able to communicate effectively. He believes his work in MechSE’s design classes gave him the leadership and project management skills he needed to communicate effectively in communication.
Recently, he rode in a 2019 LT long haul truck from Illinois to Virginia while vetting a route for a future field test. He and his team spent the whole week on the road, and stopped in Tennessee and Kentucky to assist gathering of trip data from trucks undergoing fuel economy testing. Danny enjoyed the opportunity to experience what a truck driver putting in long hours in the truck will experience.
Amanda Maher (me!)
This past summer I worked for Navistar in Product Validation as a Design Verification Plan Management Intern. Instead of working with parts at the beginning of their life cycle as is done in design, I worked with products that had parts at the opposite end of their life cycle, Used Trucks.
Navistar has a Used Truck Rehabilitation Center, which is a shop that takes in used trucks, rehabilitates them, and sends them to be sold again for a chance at second life. The center creates an opportunity to learn about failures that otherwise would have not been detected within the warranty period.
My main focus was to create a process to identify frequently failing parts on the used trucks. A good amount of the creation of this process involved understanding how the Used Truck Center functions: How to accurately represent the failure data we were seeing, how to account for which parts we would expect to be replaced with regular wear, and understanding which parts should be analyzed further to understand its frequency of failure. The focus of the project was to understand the life of a part so we can create more robust vehicles.
I interned at Navistar the previous summer (2018) in Steve Ryan’s Powertrain Cooling Systems team as well. I learned so much in my two summers at Navistar, but what I appreciated the most is the culture of teamwork and support. Engineers who were not on my team were more than willing to find the time in their busy schedules to work with me. Everyone was beyond willing to help; I could quite literally just pop my head up and someone within close proximity would be able to answer my questions or point me in the right direction. I greatly appreciate that atmosphere of support and drive to create the best trucks possible. Because of this, I will be returning to Navistar for a full-time position after graduation!