Wow! What a journey through some of the most incredible memories/feelings of my life. In preparing to write this post I just browsed through the 50+ emails during the months of March 2005 to February 2006 leading up to me landing my dream job at Doppelmayr CTEC. What a feeling to relive these happiest moments of my life, to see the tenacity I went after my dream, and the crazy amount of persistence it took to get there. If anything I’m inspired to go after life with even more exuberance from my past self.
A big thing I really want to focus on is what it took to get this dream job as a ski lift engineer for the largest ski lift manufacturer in the world. It wasn’t just a simple sending in my resume/cover letter to human resources and receiving that magical call. Actually, I tried that, several times and never received a response back. What it took was persistence, me digging into my personal network and finding someone that could take my resume to the next level, and then never giving up once it got there. My dream job wasn’t just handed to me, it only happened due to the combination of many years of hard work, email after email and phone call after phone call, and me never giving up even when the job wasn’t available or I didn’t receive a response from human resources.
The Impassioned Letter
The chase all started during my senior year studying electrical engineering at the University of Maine when I sat down and wrote the most impassioned letter of my life to the Top 30 Ski Areas in America and the top two ski lift manufacturers, Doppelmayr and Leitner Poma, professing my absolute love for skiing and how it’s my life’s dream to combine my engineering degree and the ski industries as a career. I waited for months and months and never received a single response. I called the human resources department for each of these 32 ski areas/lift manufacturers and was told there was no job available, that I was underqualified, or needed several more years experience. Seems I was at a dead end, I needed more experience to get the job, but how could I get the experience without the job!
I moved on to plan B and started working on the best skill set I thought I needed to become a ski industry engineer and accepted a Management Training position at Invensys one of the larger Distributed Control System manufacturers in the world. There I did six-month job rotations at the following areas: Technical Industry Proposals, Application Engineering, Technical Support, and Research and Development always trying to work on projects and learn skills that would be most beneficial in my someday later dream life. I worked hard at this job and really enjoyed the projects, and people, but soon found myself missing the mountains and the sport/lifestyle I so loved. Every weekend I would find myself running away from Massachusetts to escape up into the mountains of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Something was just not right, I needed a change!
Back to Chasing My Dream
I started thinking about working as a ski lift engineer more and more every day. I browsed through the job listing ads at the major mountains, searched through monster and the other online job search databases, until I finally stumbled upon this job listing from Doppelmayr CTEC in March 2005.
DOPPELMAYR CTEC, INC., a world leader in ropeway transportation system design and manufacturing, is looking for a qualified person to fill the position of Electrical Engineer. This position will report to the Electrical Engineering Manager and will be responsible for the design, startup, and service of ropeway transportation control systems, i.e., ski-lift and gondola systems utilizing state of the art technology. The candidate will have experience developing complete control system projects and supporting existing and newly installed control systems. This job requires travel to various existing or new system installations for the purposes of system commissioning, upgrades, and various technical support activities, therefore the ability and willingness to travel is required. The candidate will have the ability and desire to work in an outdoor environment (year round) when traveling. The candidate will possess the following qualifications and will have experience with at least some of the following equipment. A Professional Engineers license or EIT required. Experience with AutoCad is a plus. Experience with the following equipment/systems is a plus: – Allen Bradley Controllogix System – Controlnet – Panelview HMI – Rockwell Software RSView32 – Digital DC Drive Systems / Digital AC Drive Systems – Allen Bradley PLC’s (Micro, Flexlogix, SLC, etc.) – Fiber Optic Cabling – Advanced sensor applications – Safety interlock designs – Power distribution and power quality. Doppelmayr CTEC inc offers a competitive salary, and a full benefits package including medical, dental, and 401K.
AHHHHHHH!!! IT’S MY FREAKING DREAM JOB!!!
And I set forth writing a really awesome cover letter, fine-tuning my resume, and anxiously submitted the whole package, knowing that I was a great candidate and hoping I’d hear back this time. No luck, I called Human Resources only to find they were looking for somebody with more experience. AHHH! The job was so perfect, so close, but just beyond my reach. I felt like giving up, couldn’t deal with the I’m inside staring at a computer all day long world, and started wondering if engineering was the right thing for me.
I returned to Northern Maine to take the summer off from the real world, and tried to find some perspective in my life while working maintenance for the Parks and Rec. Center. I weed whacked outside all day, painted a few buildings, took care of the parks and bike path, dropped in on a ball game or two, and just had a wonderful summer. Really, for so many of us who are so focused throughout high school, college, and then quickly enter the real world I think a little escape from reality like I had that summer is the absolute best thing you can do. During that summer I stepped back from everything and realized that it wasn’t engineering I disliked, but being stuck inside all day working on things I wasn’t passionate about, living in a city half a day from all the outdoorsy stuff I so love.
Getting After It!
I went back to going after my dream, but this time I chose a more aggressive path. Over the past couple years I had tried to get a job in the ski industry using the normal human resources/job posting route, but so far all that had got me was disappointment and no success. I called up my friend Travis Kearney, the General Manager of Big Rock, and asked him for the contact information of the Doppelmayr construction manager I’d met a few years ago when they were installing the new triple chair. I wrote him the following letter on November 1, 2005:
Not sure if you remember, but I’m a young engineer from Northern Maine that applied for the control system job opening at Doppelmayr this March. The job was awarded to somebody else, and I have since been wondering what would be the best way to prepare myself, experience or otherwise, for a career with Doppelmayr.
Plain and simple, what does Doppelmayr look for in an engineer? I have controls, power, and project management experience and am very passionate about the sport you cater to. To further build my credentials for an employer like Doppelmayr would it be important to possibly get my Journeyman’s License or build my knowledge of a certain PLC. Basically, what would it take? I know that catering to the ski industries is exactly what I want to do with my electrical engineering degree and I am prepared to take whatever means necessary (through education or professional experience) to succeed in that direction.
If you have any thoughts or insight to how you’ve gotten to where you are right now with Doppelmayr it would be greatly appreciated. I am sincerely interested in pursuing a career with Doppelmayr and hoping to learn the roadmap to do so.
Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you,
The construction manager promptly responded to my email and forwarded it on to the electrical engineering department manager. Hours later I received an email from Mike K., the Electrical Engineering Manager, and the very important first connection was made. He wrote back that there were no current job openings in the electrical engineering department, but to submit my application so that he could have it on file to consider for any future possibilities.
FREAKING AWESOME! I had finally made it through. There might not be any job openings right now, but at least I’m writing back and forth to the electrical engineering manager!!!
Keeping Things Going
Over the next several months we wrote many emails, lengthy emails discussing my aspirations and credentials, and the very challenging work they do at Doppelmayr. I called Mike from time to time to keep the dialogue going and then one day, on January 19, 2006, I received the following email from him:
I thought I would check in with you and see how things are going with both your personal and professional life. I hope the knee has healed and you are back out on skis by now. Take care and I hope to hear from you soon.
Electrical Engineering Manager
Doppelmayr CTEC inc.
Can you please confirm that your cell phone number is the same (207) XXX-XXXX
Seemed insignificant enough, but after responding, and receiving his response back I quickly learned that an electrical engineer had unexpectedly given his notice and there might be a job opening. I instantly felt my whole body flush with excitement, I was sick to my stomach, overwhelmed with happiness, just feeling my whole life click into place by hearing nothing more than their “might be a job opening.” Guess it all had to do with who was delivering the message!
We explored this prospect back and forth over the phone, in email, more or less having a super in-depth interview from thousands of miles apart. The more I learned about the electrical engineering position and Doppelmayr the more I knew it was everything I wanted in my life. I flew out to Salt Lake City February 6, 2006, had the best interview of my life on the 7th, returned home the 8th, and received my job offered two days later on the 10th. I was the happiest man alive!
And I could keep writing on and on about this, about the days leading up to February 24, 2006 when I began my trek out west, the crazy adventure I had when I blew up the engine in my vehicle in Nebraska, and all the awesomeness that happened during my stay out in Salt Lake City, but I’ll save those for another time. What I really want to focus on is the whole reason I wrote this post.
Getting my Dream Job
Yup, that’s what happened! I got my dream job, but how did I do it? Not by passively sending my resume to the company and hoping for the best. No, I went after it and didn’t take no for an answer. When my first tries through the conventional job posting/human resources channels didn’t work I beefed up my credentials and tried again. When that didn’t work I dug into my personal network, found the right person to contact, and put it all out there, telling them… I know what I want and I’m prepared to do whatever it takes to get there. I was persistent, built a relationship and maintained contact with a company even when the job wasn’t available, and when it was I jumped at the opportunity.
Really, I just went after my biggest dream and never took no as an answer!
And Look Where It Got Me!
Never knew this story and of your persistence!! Really awesome to read Mike and very well written!
Thanks Alicia, not really something most people would know… but getting that job from forever away, in a company where I had no contacts/knew nobody took a little extra digging!
Best post yet Mike. You are pretty freaken amazing.
Thanks Jules… just trying to keep up with my sister and all her physical therapy notoriety 😉
Great read. Very inspirational. I am a Controls Engineer and volunteer with Mount Hood Ski Patrol. I noticed a AB PLC in the lift tower sitting bump and found this in my Google search.
Thanks Mike! When I was working at Doppelmayr we used mostly Allen Bradley ControlLogix 5000 PLCs and ABB/Eurotherm drives. About a year after my injury they transitioned to the European designed systems built around Pilz electronics. Definitely a very forward thinking, safety oriented, hugely interesting field to work in!
Was very inspired by your story! I’ll be applying to jobs for this fall back east after being on the West Coast for 2 years doing AmeriCorps. Great job! 🙂
The “Engineers” for Doppelmayr actually work in Austria.
That’s funny, because I worked with a bunch of “engineers” right in Salt Lake City. Glad you can add something positive to my website; really goes with the whole theme of what Quadomated all about. You must be a very impressive/happy person.
Really great post. I’ve had the same ambition for some time now as well. Being an avid snowboarder/mountain dweller and electrical engineering student. How was your experience with Doppelmayr? Did you get to travel to the project locations?
Way to go!
I’m glad you didn’t give up and decided to look for a more direct way to follow your dreams.
You got all of your engineering background in place as well as some practical experience and then found the decision maker! Showing that you have drive & determination and combining that with technical skills makes you a very unique engineer.
Great story! I’ve always been interested in moving out west and working for the ski industry, but I’ve also been told working for the ski industry doesn’t allow much time to actually ski since winter is the busiest time. Is this true? I don’t want to work in the ski industry and end up not getting to ski as much as if I was working for a different company.
Extremely inspiring story!! I am a recent Mechanical engineering graduate from the University of Massachusetts Lowell. I love skiing and being outdoors and this article certainly gives me hope that my dream job is tangible. Also, I am huge advocate for the disabled and find your courage and persistence incredible!
Hope all is well,
Super inspiring story, and way too parallel to my life right now! I stumbled upon this article while looking for an engineering job in the ski industry, actually. I am currently a senior in aerospace engineering and my only dream is to apply my engineering knowledge to my one true absolute passion; skiing. There’s nothing that would make me more happy – reading about your experience and your perseverance is so incredibly inspiring. I would love to ask you more questions about engineering in the ski industry if you have any time, thanks!
I am an engineering professor at the University of Utah, near where we claim the greatest powder on earth. Would love to talk to you in more depth about the technical aspects of your work with an eye towards combining your personal story of persistence with the technical details in my mechanics-oriented courses.
Just stumbled across this–I am a mechanical engineering student in the Pacific Northwest with dreams of working in the ski industry as well! It pains me to see places like Mt. Bachelor be so hindered by wind–they can’t even leave their chairs on overnight for the summit lift. I would love to design a safer, more robust lift that can handle higher winds! Great inspirational story here, thanks.
I just came across your article and this gives me so much hope and really encouraged me to not give up! I like yourself am struggling to get into the ski industry, I went to college for elevating device mechanic and got my ski lift mechanic licence also, I’ve always wanted to be apart of the ski industry scence I’ve grown up on the slopes snowboarding and skiing! and when I was offered to get my lift mechanic live eve I new this was my path in life. I am a women trying to make my way in a very male dominate field but I’ve always done male dominate jobs landscaping, warehouse, roofing, lumber yard.. I’m a hands on learner and enjoy being outdoors…I’m very passionate about doing this for living I’m just having a hard time getting the experience. I’ve applied multiple times to the ski hills around my area and further away, made multiple phone calls and gone on multiple interviews and still no luck! Any help or advice further would be great!