Ashland's Technology Future, Inc. | Features

Thomas Whiting

Associate Additive Manufacturing Research Engineer - Stratasys

Q: What did you study in college and what courses relate to your career?

A: Mathematical Sciences major with a Physics minor. None of my classes directly impact my current role, but many indirectly benefit me on a daily basis. I took a computer science class that taught me to dig deeper into what causes issues and also taught me some basic programming that I use occasionally. I took a number of writing courses that have helped me more than I ever could have guessed. In my job I am expected to generate four white paper documents every year that our customers can reference to push their manufacturing efforts further. Of course, taking math and science classes help me understand numbers, but the nitty gritty of my math classes don’t often help in my job.

Q: Which classes would you recommend that have been helpful for your career?

A: Taking the entry level computer science class and writing classes have helped shape me as an engineer quite a bit. My ability to deconstruct complex issues and effectively communicate my ideas has been a very effective tool for me.

Q: What led you to pursue the field you are working in?

A: I actually built a couple of FDM 3d printers in college that led me to look at Stratasys for internships. I have always been very mechanically inclined so Stratasys was an obvious choice as we manufacture 3d printers. It certainly didn’t hurt that one of my college teammates’ dad worked at Stratasys as an HR manager!

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years?

A: I really like where I’m at right now. Additive manufacturing has a lot of potential to revolutionize the manufacturing industries and I want to be with the company poised to make do just that!; Recently I have been kicking around the idea of working with Stratasys in a different role overseas in Europe which is a cool opportunity my company offers.

Q: What is one thing you like and/or one thing you dislike about your career?

A: I love that I didn’t have to get an engineering degree to become an engineer. I showed an honest interest in learning the technology and made some good impressions and connections in my 3 months as an intern that led to me getting offered a full time position in a different group within the company. On the other hand, one thing I dislike is that my growth at the company and in my career may be hindered by the fact that I don’t have an engineering degree!

Q: What is your advice for students today?

A: The one piece of advice I find myself repeating is; sometimes it’s not what you know, but who you know. This doesn’t mean you have to know the CEO to get a job or have a parent at the company. Moreso, your ability to sincerely connect with individuals will never let you down. You can usually learn what you don’t know on the job, but you can’t if you are never given the opportunity to show you can. I work to make a great first impression with people I work with and maintain that great first impression.

Jacob Simonson

Software Engineer - American Express

Q: Briefly describe your career path to date.

A: I started working fulltime in 2017 as a Software Developer in State Farm's Technology Research and Development Department. I left State Farm in late 2018 and started in American Express' Loyalty Department in early 2019 where I've been since.

Q: What classes did you take in college that relate to your current career?

A: I majored in Computer Science at UW - Madison, where much of my course work was in Math, Science, and Technology. Classes that stand out in importance are: Intro to Programming, Data Structures, Algorithms, Software Engineer, and Human Computer Interaction.

Q: What classes would you recommend?

A: I recommend anyone interested in Software to take an Intro to Programming class, and I recommend Physics and Philosophy for Quantitative Reasoning.

Q: What was your college major?

A: Bachelor of Science in Computer Science.

Q: What led you to pursue your current career field?

A: I was actually pursuing a Mechanical Engineering Bachelor's when I started college in 2013, but my grades weren't good enough to get admitted to the Engineering college, so Computer Science was a bit of a fallback (I'm very happy it worked out, though).

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years?

A: I would like to be a Senior Software Engineer in 5 years

Q: What is one thing you like and one thing you dislike about your career?

A: I really like the work that software engineering is: problem solving, designing, building, collaborating, and just general engineering. One thing I dislike is all of the time spent at a desk, although I do have the freedom to work remotely or from home.

Q: What one piece of advice would you give to high school students today?

A: I think high school students should take every opportunity to learn about what jobs are currently out there. The economy is constantly changing, and our parents’ careers may not even exist by the time they are ready to enter the workforce. Try to reach out to college students about to graduate and young professionals early in their careers to get a perspective of what the job market is like.


When it comes to navigating one’s career, we at Ashland’s Technology Future see a value in learning from others and the paths they took. And what better way to learn from others than a Q & A session with individuals who have successful careers in the technology field.