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August 24, 2021 | Michael Gilsdorf

Starting and Growing Your Career at Foth

As a young engineer entering the workforce, there are many options to analyze and choices to make. You can pursue the tech industry, various government sectors, or even set your sights on NASA as one of the country’s largest recruiters of engineers, pending your background. Fortunately, for those pursuing the engineering career path, there’s no shortage of demand for the skills we bring in ensuring the built world functions well.

While I was completing my undergraduate degree in computer engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I started a nine-month internship at Foth. With the opportunities I’ve had at Foth to work across industries and with the biggest brands in the U.S., I have been continuously challenged, engaged, and provided opportunities for growth.

Starting as an Entry Level Engineer

During my first role at Foth, I supported senior engineers in revising drawings based on their direction. I absorbed as much information as I could and learned quickly how to anticipate the approach they needed from me and the level of detail to incorporate.

In this first role, I soon realized one of the key differentiators of working at Foth: everyone was willing to lend a hand and share their knowledge. It was common for senior engineers to spend time – often up to a few hours – explaining the nuances of their design and how something worked, or drawing schematics on whiteboards until I understood. This allowed me to learn more quickly on the job than I would at many other companies, and not only made me feel fortunate for the opportunity at Foth, but inspired me to build my career there.

Moving Up and Taking on Complex Challenges

When I graduated with my computer engineering degree in 2016, and after a couple of work experiences under my belt, I realized coding wasn’t for me, and reflected on my time at Foth. I wanted to work for a company where there was no shortage of interesting and complex challenges to undertake, one in which I could learn and develop new skills every day. As a consulting company, Foth works in industries spanning mining, pulp and paper, food and beverage, and many more, meaning the variety of projects I could work on was only limited by the number of hours in the day.

Foth hired me full time and I became an entry level electrical and controls engineer, supporting lead engineers with calculations and drawings. A few years later I was promoted to project level electrical and controls engineer and began taking on sections of projects to design and deliver myself.

Tackling Complex Problems for Big U.S. Brands

Some of my most memorable projects to date have been in the food and beverage industry. I was part of the team deployed to Salida, California to complete the programming and field start-up of a new almond line. The design of the line ensured that almonds produced by nearby trees were separated from rocks, leaves, and branches by x-ray and optical sorting equipment, and were further graded by size to be sent for additional processing, packaging, and distribution to retailers.

There was incredible time pressure associated with the project; the line wasn’t yet ready, but the almonds were coming off the trees and close to being shipped by the truckload. We worked 12 to 14 hours a day for three and half weeks to make sure the system was working well for our client. At the end of the project, our client was happy with the product we produced, and that was certainly well worth the effort and hours we put in.

Another project I had the opportunity to work on was the new 10th Street Brewery by Molson Coors Brewing Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The project involved constructing a new warehouse and packaging hall, expanding the brew house, and adding a fermentation cellar for ‘beyond beer’ products. The project increased the brewery’s production capacity from 25,000 to 250,000 barrels a year.

Foth was the turnkey contractor on the project, involved in every aspect including the design and construction of the building, filtration systems, keg line, can and bottle line, variety pack line, warehouse, and cellar. I was responsible for the variety pack line installation, which is a complex line involving six different flavors and robotized systems for depalletization and boxing. If interested, you can learn more about the complexities involved in variety pack line installations.

I love my work because I see its impact every day when I peruse the shelves of my local grocery store or drive by the brewery in Milwaukee. Being part of the team involved in supporting the production of some of the world’s most beloved products gives me a sense of pride.

The Unique Advantages of Working at Foth 

Throughout the last five years, there hasn’t been a dull moment working at Foth. The amount of learning potential is remarkable; from a technical perspective, you can learn anything through on-the-job experience and from members at Foth who have deep expertise in nearly every topic and industry. I have been given the opportunity to take on increasing responsibility and the ability to work with many interesting and talented people, including from our client organizations. It is common to discuss problems and solutions with the head of a client company and work with the lead operator to ensure your design performs as it should in the field, allowing you to see the tangible impact your work makes on the companies creating the products the world relies on.

Foth has a continuous improvement mindset, values investing in the development of its members, and is supporting me in achieving my professional engineer designation. Their support, combined with the knowledge I’m gaining through the projects I’m delivering, makes working at Foth an unparalleled career experience.

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