Happy Engineers Week! This week we're highlighting a few of our engineers to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what it's like to be a part of Holland! Meet James Dourdourekas, one of our Mechanical Design Engineers for Holland's Equipment Business Unit. James started with us as an intern in 2020 and became a part of our team full-time in June of 2021. Learn more about James and his journey to Holland below!
What did you originally want to be when you grew up?
There were a lot of ideas in my young age, but most centered around science and technology. For as long as I have known what engineering meant, I knew I wanted to build my career in this field first. Originally, I wanted to design roller coasters, and while riding them is still fun for me, I am happy with the challenges I am solving.
Where did you go to college and what led you there?
I graduated from University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign in May 2021. I have great memories from high school math and science team competitions spent on the campus. Being in the same state I’m from, the school was close to home and a good value.
What was your major / why did you choose engineering?
My major was in mechanical engineering. From a young age, my interests centered around math and science. Model skyscrapers, roller coasters, and trains were some of my early outlets. I started a robotics team with peers in the third year of high school and had great experiences designing and leading over my six years of involvement, continuing through college. Applying concepts from my favorite physics classes in the real world and participating in friendly but surprisingly intense competition validated my career choices.
What led you to a career with Holland?
I was not sure exactly what industry I would seek a job in coming out of college, though I did know I would be a mechanical engineer. My first introduction to Holland was through an internship with RMSS, where I was given my first project. Owning a design unlike anything I had worked on before and learning more about Holland’s design practices complemented my senior year curriculum. The tight-knit culture that I felt as an intern, combined with my interest in learning about the various technologies we employ in our product line, is why I chose to accept a full time offer. With a strong interest in robotics to carry over, I was excited to learn about our HAMR program and how I could get involved. About eight months in, I am happy with the level of responsibility I am provided and new ideas and technologies I have been exposed to here.
Describe your average day:
Some days are spent fully remotely, and I will generally focus on independent work and participate in meetings with others to advance projects. My responsibilities include designing and modeling machines, validating these designs, and documenting them. There are times when a project I am working on necessitates physical action or a vendor would like to come in to meet, and luckily, I have the flexibility to work in the office. As of late, I have spent more time on the shop floor supporting building or testing of equipment, and I just had the opportunity to travel to Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum in Indiana for testing, with more to come. Through interactions with coworkers and hands on experiences with our product line, I have learned some of the most valuable lessons about work and life from my time here.
What is one of your favorite things about working in the rail industry?
Supporting essential infrastructure in our nation and others makes me feel proud to go into work every day, and the nature of our business highlights the impacts we have on safety of all parties on or around railroads. The rail industry is particularly interesting to me because of the simple elegance of rail as a mode of transport and its relative maturity compared to automotive or aerospace. I see the field as prime for disruption in the face of automation, electrification, and desire for higher speed travel.
What’s one thing you wish someone working in the engineering field would have told you when you were going to school?
Though the classroom may teach problem solving tools, and learning the concepts before you is critical, the format of schooling alone does not prepare one for success, especially in a technical field. Each course is only a snapshot of the theory and application of a field, and some will be more critical than others depending on the roles one pursues. A master of one engineering discipline is still just one part of a team tasked with producing the types of modern machines at Holland and elsewhere in industry. Studying for tests and getting grades is important, but practical experience in the unideal world, and with cross-functional teams, is something that needs to be searched for, as it won’t come to you.
What is one of your favorite things about working at Holland?
My coworkers have been open and supportive. There are many good role models here from diverse backgrounds and with unique skillsets from tenure at Holland and other companies. Because of the smaller, family atmosphere, people seem interested in and involved with one another and their initiatives. I appreciate the commitment I see from others towards not just their own success, but that of their coworkers and the organization.
We're so glad to have you on our team, James!