What’s it like to work for Superior Controls? Who better to tell you than Superior Engineers themselves! We’re talking to different Superior Engineers who are at different points in their careers. Matt Martin has been a Senior Project Engineer with Superior since 2013.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I live in Barrington, NH with my girlfriend and dog. I’m a pretty avid golfer – I played in a couple local and state tournaments this year. I also enjoy chess and video games. I grew up in Hudson, New Hampshire and went to the University of New Hampshire.
What did you study in school?
I studied Chemical Engineering in school. I was always into math and science and I seemed to have an aptitude towards chemistry. My dad is an electrical engineer; I always enjoyed problem solving and puzzle type activities as a kid so between that and my dad’s job I knew I wanted to be an engineer.
I get asked quite a lot how I ended up in the current position I’m in, since I’m an automation engineer now. Chemical engineering gives you a good base of process knowledge as well as the critical thinking skills that are useful for the type of work we do.
What attracted you to Automation and Superior?
I have always been interested in automation as a whole. From college, if I was going to get into the whole plant/process side of engineering, I knew I would want to go for the automation side of things. I took a few process design and control classes in college, although they didn’t have a heavy focus on programming. But I’ve kind of always dabbled in programming as a hobby. A couple of friends and I work on programs for gaming in our free time. Every Christmas, there is an advent calendar programming problem that you have to solve, and it gets harder as you go. I always find those things kind of interesting. So, automation seemed like a pretty good fit.
Superior was more established compared to the other company I was talking to when I was looking for my first job after college.
What was it like getting started?
I started out working on the graphical portions of projects; it’s a good way to get younger/inexperienced engineers exposure while getting them trained. I worked on a small internal training project. Then I was assigned to projects where a senior engineer would divvy up their project work into more manageable pieces that a less experienced engineer could work on.
Did you have any mentors?
Chris Treat has been pretty constant throughout my career as the person I go to and work with. Our relationship has only gotten better over time. He’s easy to talk to, and I’ve always felt equal to him. That goes company-wide as a whole. If anyone has any trepidations related to work, we all feel open to share.
Frank Mack and Joseph Iuliucci were two people that I leaned on from a programming and technical implementation standpoint. They had more experience than I had at the time, but they were willing to help me learn. Most, if not all, of the senior people are willing to help a newer engineer with an issue that they need to work through.
Now that you’ve got experience under your belt, do you mentor newer engineers?
I do enjoy being the mentor; it’s definitely been a role I’ve grown into. For example, I worked with Abby during her first large onsite project startup. I think it helps me master topics, because to explain it well, you need to know it well. There’s also a balance between giving the new engineers the ability to learn on their own through trial and error while still setting them up for success. It’s really interesting mentoring people, because people have vastly different skill sets coming in. So, you need to figure out where their strong areas are, their weak areas are and how best to work with them. Then you can help them grow based on those unique strengths and weaknesses.
How has your career evolved since you started?
I’ve been kind of lucky that I’ve been able to work on a bunch of different projects with a lot of different people. Different industries – life sciences, food and beverage, chemical. It gives you differing perspectives on how other people do things and operate. Useful skillset and exposure.
Depending on the magnitude of the project, I do both project management and engineering. I get the experience of working directly with the client, managing expectations and setting goals. I also get to do the technical work as well. For larger-scale projects, a more senior engineer will be the project manager and I usually fill in as a lead for the technical side. Typically, I’m a resource to reach out to if they’re looking for expertise in a difficult area.
What has your experience been as a project/client manager?
I definitely feel autonomous. I manage four or five customer bases where the only time I’m going upward for a decision change is when I work with the sales team for the quote, unless there’s a major issue that arises. I can run the project the way that works best for me and the client. It allows a lot of flexibility all around. If the client needs me to install something at 6 PM, I’m not expected to start my day at Superior at 8 AM. Flexibility with schedule and trusting associates to get the work done however they and/or the clients choose is fine. Management always has your back too, even when mistakes happen. There’s a lot of understanding. We don’t have a culture of punishment.
What are some projects you’ve worked on?
One main customer I’ve been working with since 2014 is a food and beverage company. I started programming a small system for them and managing some of the server side infrastructure setup during their first phase of a large expansion, and then continued development work on the second phase of the large expansion project where we doubled capacity for the plant. I still support them now.
I’ve worked for a number of prominent pharmaceutical companies as well. One cool opportunity that arose from one of these projects was being selected by Rockwell to present at Automation Fair in Chicago with Tag McCormick on Recipe Management for Single Units. This presentation was based on a solution we had come up with regarding a recipe management system using FactoryTalk View SE, Microsoft SQL Server, and Softing 56eATM-TMGR module. It was a unique experience to get to see new tech, new ideas, and meet others in the industry.
Any projects you’d like to work on in the future?
I’m currently working on a couple projects using OSI PI. I’m pretty interested in the data and reporting side of automation. Making sure that the systems we install are not only solid at the plant floor and operational level, but also useable and actionable data for the client for decisions regarding optimizations, expansions etc. I’ve worked with the software before, but I’m interested in the training and new opportunities that comes along with our new partnership with OSIsoft.
Motion and robotics would be a really cool area to explore more as well. I think we’d have a ton of room to expand.
Any advice for would-be applicants?
If you know you want to get into automation or even if you don’t know what you want to do, working at Superior exposes you to many opportunities to further your career. You may even realize you like automation.
For some general advice, my rule of thumb is: don’t be afraid to ask questions, but you should have tried at least two or three things first before going to someone for help. It helps your relationship with people you’re working with, shows you’re trying, and helps you learn quite a bit faster.