S4E39 Kyle Valiton | Common Pitfalls of Startups, Dealing With Stress, Setting Budgets

 In Being an Engineer Podcast


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Who is Kyle Valiton?

Kyle Valiton graduated from Cal Poly in 2010 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and has since gained experience in a wide variety of roles from web development to R&D engineering to operations consulting.


Aaron Moncur, host




engineers, work, people, project, stress, startup, team, problem, engineering, terms, feeling, engineering team, great, consulting, learn, kyle, build, starting, career path, career


Aaron Moncur, Kyle Valiton, Presenter


Presenter  00:00

Hi, everyone, we’ve set up this being an engineer podcast as an industry knowledge repository, if you will, we hope it’ll be a tool where engineers can learn about and connect with other companies, technologies, people, resources and opportunities. So make some connections and enjoy the show.


Kyle Valiton  00:18

Once you kind of figure out how things work, I think the the next level is kind of how people work with things.


Aaron Moncur  00:38

Hello, and welcome to another wonderful episode of The being an engineer podcast. Our guest today is Kyle Valiton. Kyle graduated from Cal Poly in 2010, with a degree in mechanical engineering, and has since gained experience in a wide variety of roles from web development to r&d engineering to operations consulting. Kyle, thank you so much for joining us today. Welcome to the show.


Kyle Valiton  01:02

Appreciate you having me, Aaron. And looking forward to the discussion.


Aaron Moncur  01:05

All right. So what made you decide to become an engineer?


Kyle Valiton  01:09

Yeah, well, very similar to a lot of your guests Thinker as a child, and kind of supported by, you know, the the folks that, you know, my parents and other people, too. Yeah, just just foster that and keep that going. And so actually, funny enough, didn’t really know what the term engineer meant, though, until about my junior senior year in high school. And then that was kind of the counselors kind of pushing me in this direction. So it’s been it’s been a learning process ever since obviously, I’m very grateful to have really, the Cal Poly support. For sure. And then, of course, some early mentors, getting right out of college that really set that path for me.


Aaron Moncur  01:53

You know, I’ve heard really good things about Cal Poly specifically about its engineering program. What do you think was was different or unique? Or maybe better there than some of the other universities where you could do an engineering program?


Kyle Valiton  02:07

Yeah, I think, you know, they have their talking point that is, you know, learn by doing the hands on approach. But really, other than that, I think the the environment, the reputation that comes with Cal Poly, there’s a bit of a level that you need to hit it just in general, there’s, like, if you’re going to be here, you should perform, and you should try things. And that’s really, so for me, I think that this the ability for professors at that time to just say, I’m redoing this thing on the side, can you help me out? Or can you give it a try? So that type of mentality of like, we’re a group of people, we’re trying stuff. So I was multiple clubs, a part of multiple clubs at the time. Ended up being in a formula hybrid club, building electric hybrid vehicles, which was great, you know, just before, you know, kind of Tesla took off. And, and so that was, but yeah, projects like that, where it’s just a club of people, Hey, come out, we’re going to try this thing. We have the funds to do it. So let’s, let’s take this apart, let’s let’s build something. Yeah. So the reputation kind of the reputation kind of fostered the, the further momentum in that direction, I think,


Aaron Moncur  03:22

yeah, I love their slogan, I like to say doing is better than learning about doing. And that’s basically what they’re saying, learn by doing. Right? Well, you work at a company now called Build to launch as an r&d and operations consultant. What can you tell us about build to lunch?


Kyle Valiton  03:41

Yeah, Delta launch was my first foray into the consulting world. I left a, I worked, I guess I was working at at a startup. My second startup that I can officially say, was a startup, you know, we have a bunch of endeavors that we try after college or with friends, but I’d say I worked at a startup medical device startup right after college. And that experience and the mentors in that organization really propelled me to kind of see everything under the hood of specifically a medical device startup. And I was able to confidently kind of put my services out there after leaving that company. And that’s, that’s literally, that momentum has been driving that reputation since. So build to launch is still going, you know, still making the Bay Area’s an amazing resource in terms of networks and colleagues in the area. So just picking up one project after another in the startup ecosystem, so I’m happy to say I’ve been a part of eight different startup life cycles now. Now. And so that’s been really you know, that’s really where I get most of my perspective from is just seeing so much with you know, all the dynamics at the Engineering level, you know, not just at the, the management or executive level.


Aaron Moncur  05:05

Yeah. So built to launch is more or less an incubator? Yeah,


Kyle Valiton  05:10

it’s Yeah, exactly it started out was just, you know, my own consulting thing. But now I’m starting to productize some of those services in the sense of giving early startups a report card for how well their engineering team is doing, or, or how prepared they are to scale. You know, a lot of the common pitfalls and first fundamentals, but just baking them into, like an engineering consulting type of relationship. And so that allows me to kind of get my hands dirty under the hood of a startup in ways that is kind of unique, you know?


Aaron Moncur  05:44

Yeah, after working with all of these different startups, what are some of the themes or patterns that you’re seeing, especially where engineers are maybe fumbling? A little bit?


Kyle Valiton  05:54

Yeah, you know, common pitfalls, especially, you know, I think the engineering team, to leadership team in terms of, you know, the founders, maybe even the marketing team, depending on what stage it’s at, but, but the level of communication between the departments needs to be so strong through that first product launch or through even after that, the go to market success, because there’s so much riding on it. And I see startups scaling, in the traditional sense of leaders kind of growing their teams, but then you end up with the silo problem. So I think the big thing is just, you know, staying a team, from when you go from, let’s say, five people in a startup to 15, or 20. Even keeping that team environment and making sure everybody’s on the same group chats, and seeing all the data coming in. Because because it’s just too it’s not there’s there’s too much work and trying to package, the deliverables that the engineering team needs to accomplish versus the deliverables that the marketing team needs. It’s, it’s there’s too much management there. So I see that it’s just better to have everyone see it almost like an open thread, in a way for the business in terms of seeing the information stream across and be like, Okay, that’s good to know that so and so’s working on that. I’m going to focus on this problem.


Aaron Moncur  07:20

Interesting. Any other pro tips that you might have? I mean, we hear this time and time again, I have guests join me on the show. And I asked them, what are some of the pitfalls you see engineers falling into commonly or some of the problems and engineering teams that you see routinely and communication comes up all the time? Any other pro tips for Halleck, specific tactical things that engineering teams can do to facilitate really good communication in their in their groups?


Kyle Valiton  07:51

Yeah, I think it definitely comes top down, for sure. So if you’re an engineer starting to work at a company, you’re probably coming into something that’s already been built, in most cases. So it does take leadership to have a culture of openness, and not feeling like more information, than think of one big thing is more information can sometimes kind of cloud, like preoccupy the minds of the engineers is like one way to think about it. But if it’s thoughtful, and it comes, it comes with a decision at the end of it. It’s not just like, Oh, hey, there’s 50 problems over here we’re dealing with, it’s like, it’s more packaged. It’s like, oh, hey, we’re, the marketing team is dealing with this. But they’ve got a solution for it. And this is what it is. That’s what they’re going to work on. You know, that type of communication. It’s very thoughtful. But I think the open thread aspect is important, because it’s not is that it’s not more work. It’s just making sure that people are aware. And just having a platform, it doesn’t like eat, we all know, email is not the best platform to have, like 20 cc chain. Emails is not the way to have an open thread, right? You have to pick something that’s not just email, to have that discussion. But just people seeing that progress is happening all over the organization is is pretty key in some in some way.


Aaron Moncur  09:18

Yeah, there could be slack, or teams or whatever. We use teams. And we have kind of a hybrid, I guess we have projects within the team’s channel where you can speak specifically about that project. But then we have a general channel as well. And I’d say I’m guessing maybe 70% of the of the total traffic through teams goes through that general channel. So everyone sees it, and you get a good sense for what’s going on in the company. And it’s not just the technical aspects that we talked about there. Right. Sometimes we’re making a joke or sending a funny meme or things like that. And right and so you get everyone gets to see that which has been helpful for sure.


Kyle Valiton  09:57

Yeah, well, you know, I’ll make a small comment. Just one In addition to that, please, it’s C may seem small, but like on team chat, you know, one of the companies I’ve exited for, we just started a thing where every time somebody said something thoughtful, we just hearted it, like, you know, they’ll heart reaction. And like just that one little emoji. Now it’s like you go through a thread. And like, there’s hearts everywhere. And, you know, and that’s, it’s so simple, right? So small, but it’s, it really does alleviate a lot of that pressure that can come with a high stakes project.


Aaron Moncur  10:31

It’s funny how a few pixels on a screen in the right color and shape can evoke the right emotions in a team, right? Like you said, it’s such a small thing, but it’s really not that small of a thing that makes a big difference. Right? Well, you’ve worked in both corporate and startup environments. Do you have a preference of one over the other? And like, what are some of the differences that engineers should be aware of before deciding to work at a startup versus more of a corporate established entity?


Kyle Valiton  11:06

Yeah, great question. Because I think that’s actually one of the big forks in the road that most people aren’t made aware of, until it, they’re kind of at the job interview of like, oh, I guess I’m going to be a startup engineer now. But really, it’s it’s a career path. So, you know, startups, you see more, you learn more, you become more of a generalist. And in the corporate world, you know, things are kind of foreseeable by design. So, you know, you have expectations to meet. And if you meet those expectations, for for a consistent period of time, you’re going to do just fine. And so it goes to kind of I think there’s a bit of a just an attitude towards it in terms of like, you know, what, why are you in the engineering field, you know, like really thinking and then on the core, so corporate side, right? I mean, if you just think purely money, purely financial, being consistent, and working your way up the corporate ladder will, and getting those stock options, and working at a company that has a proven track record of success will give you a higher return on your time. But in the startup world, there is a little bit of that, moving against the current kind of that that rebellious that like, there’s a different way, there’s a better and different way to do things. And that so you start with that nugget? Do you have that? Like do you have that like Inkling like I just want to do it better in some way. And then from there, choosing like yourself, choosing the opportunities, doing those calculations as measurements yourself? Is the startup going to be a success? And do do I feel that truly in in looking at the numbers looking at my gut? Because otherwise, it will just be like, I mean, if I look at my career, you know, I look at it now with with a badge of honor. But there’s a lot of failures in there. Because that math wasn’t done upfront.


Aaron Moncur  13:05

I’m going to take a little bit of a tangent here, before we started the show, you said something to the effect of engineers are clamoring for community or connection. Can you talk a little bit more about that? Where have you seen that? And what kind of community do you think engineers are looking for? Why do you think they’re looking for it? Etc?


Kyle Valiton  13:26

Sure, yeah, I think I, if you go through traditional path of maybe college or some some post high school degree, and kind of follow that path there, eventually you hit a point where it’s just you kind of running off the cliff to do your ideal job. And let’s say maybe you’re interviewing for a specific job, or that first job out of college kind of splits everyone up pretty quickly. And there’s a lot of pressure on that. And so I think, without a proper social network of sorts, and a good community of fellow colleagues that you’re kind of following as you go through those first few positions, it’s very easy to just get caught up in your own career goals, and you kind of lose a connection to what everyone else in your class or your, your, your network is, is learning. But that stuff is actually really critical right out of college, like what it what are other people’s experiences in their first night in their first but just in their engineering role. Like keeping that thread of information. Allies is really critical, because because you can end up you know, years into a position and just you kind of feel like you’re coming out for air. After a couple years. You’re like what’s happened? What was everyone else up to? And it’s generally not a good feeling I’ve seen so having a support network and sharing your experiences with with other folks, other colleagues. Very critical.


Aaron Moncur  14:57

What do you think the solution is for that?


Kyle Valiton  15:00

Yeah, solution wise. I mean, I think, you know, as a, as a millennial myself, I, I almost jumped on the, I guess social networks was kind of that was our thing, you know, kind of the rise of the social network and all that stuff. But now, you kind of have the rise of like the closed networks of the discords. In the chat rooms are kind of kind of decentralized and kind of making their own wave like, I recently, there’s a climate tech slack network that I just casually heard about through a colleague, and I go sign up to it. And it’s got 17,000 people, wow, network. And so you’re just like, oh, right under this, like, this casually. 17,000 people having very active career focused discussions, just right under our noses, basically. So they’re there. But there is a little bit of searching and asking around to realize they’re there.


Aaron Moncur  16:00

Interesting. Yeah. We’ve been working on something in the background, that is pretty much exactly what you’ve been describing a community for engineers. In fact, by the time this episode comes out, it might be publicly launched. And it’s tools, education and community for engineers starting off as a website, but growing into in person events, and educational seminars, guest speakers, things like that. So we’re pretty excited about it. And I’m just thrilled to hear you say that this is something that engineers want and need, because we feel the same way. And we’re building something to do that. Okay, back back into kind of the to the where we left off here. You’ve talked about this idea of storytelling in prototyping and design. And what does that mean? And maybe can you share an example or two of of this storytelling in practice?


Kyle Valiton  17:00

Yeah, yeah. Glad you brought that up. Good research I. Yeah, so. So one of the key things that I see in terms of an engineer kind of growing into their role, and potentially going to a leadership role, and it really grant of expanding their their opportunities, is this key trait of storytelling, and you find most of the good leaders and managers out there, do a really good job of framing what it is you’re trying to work on and what you’re trying to achieve in some way. So I like to use storytelling at as early as just the prototyping phase of being like, Okay, before we start getting our hands dirty, start building stuff. Like I like to do, the first thing I ask is, you know, what’s the story of the user before and after they do the job, basically. So like, so just at that base level, like, tell me what you truly want to happen from this project. And that could be as small as, you know, a single operation on a manufacturing line. That could be as you know, as big as the product itself. But like, you can use that framing for any level of project or task. But but just it’s just such a nice, low effort. First step, to be like, let’s just talk about where we’re going to be before and after, before you get into the brainstorm session, the back and forth the clashing of personalities in the room, you know, all that stuff, right? Just just set that set that statement up there. Like this is what we want to happen. Okay, great. Now, let’s get started.


Aaron Moncur  18:37

Nice. Yeah. All right. Well, let me take a short break here and share with the listeners, this is the part in my mind, I think, cuz they say the same thing every time, right? And it’d be really interesting to hear from some user or some listeners, if this is the case, I say this the same spiel every time and in the back of my mind, I think, Okay, this is the point where people just click, fast forward 30 seconds, fast forward 30 seconds. Okay, he’s off of the ad now back into the show. So maybe I’m not going to do this, this same spiel right now. I’m just gonna say team pipeline that US custom equipment, fixtures and automation, reach out to us. Let’s talk. And we’re back to the show. So if you fast forward 30 seconds, you probably missed a little bit. And we’re talking with Kyle Valiton today. So Kyle, I think is engineers, we are consistently being asked to solve hard problems, right, which is what we love to do, we wouldn’t want to just solve easy problems because that wouldn’t be fun. What has your mindset been in the past as you’ve worked on solving difficult problems?


Kyle Valiton  19:41

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely difficult problems are the name of the game right in terms of our abilities, that that is what we are tasked to solve. There, which is kind of daunting and can be stressful until you kind of learn to deal with it, but essentially my go to for mindset is that end result is kind of pretty key. And making sure that that’s realistic, just fundamentally like is, do I have some amount of certainty in the end result. And I guess, a better way to phrase that is maybe not safe space, but at least this idea of like, abundance mindset when you approach a problem. So you create, you give yourself some sort of safe space or runway to approach the problem. So that you eliminate that impending deadline that like high stress, you know, like, when we think about what is stress, it’s the deadline and the uncertainty combined, it’s, you know, so like, if you give yourself a runway that you can at least take a breath and look at this from a reasonable angle. And you’d obviously chop that up as you need to, I think that’s the first step and really kind of protecting that, because if a company just wants, you know, the best solutions fast, you know, we all know the the cheap, fat and give it to you a cheap, faster, high quality, big to kind of thing. So like, really carving that out for yourself. Hopefully, the manager is doing a good job of that. But if not, you do it for yourself, just so that you can come up with the best solutions. And it works out in the end, right. We all know, rushing early, just means delays later, in some way.


Aaron Moncur  21:27

So, yeah, our engineering manager says, when you need to go fast, slow down.


Kyle Valiton  21:33

Yeah. Right. Right. Yeah. It prevents that like pigeonholing mindset to have like, because I have to go so fast. I could only think of one way to do this. And, and that that could play good project for months, you know, just thinking of one way to do this. But then you talk about in the break room with a colleague, and they’re like, Oh, why, why? Why just think about this way. And you’re like, I can’t think about this way. But that’s no really you can like like, get yourself out of that pigeonhole mindset set, give yourself a runway to approach the problem. From a more stable position.


Aaron Moncur  22:08

I liked that you brought up stress. And this is not a topic that we’ve discussed very much on the show. But I think it’s a very relevant topic. We are charged with solving hard problems as engineers. And so by virtue of that charge, we are going to experience stress. I was recently given a few definitions of stress that I like a lot. So I’m going to share those. And then I have maybe one or two thoughts also to share about stress. And then I’d love to also hear kind of how you think about stress and how you deal with it. Maybe some strategies that you’ve come up with over the years were learned. So the definitions that I’ve been given recently are, stress occurs when we place our focus on an uncertain future. That’s one placing our focus on an uncertain future. The other one is stress occurs when the mind resists what is stress occurs when the mind resists what is I think those are both really deep thoughts. And one could spend a long time thinking about them, and really understanding what what that means. But I’m not going to pontificate endlessly right now. So the the, the couple of thoughts that I have surrounding stress is one stress, we shouldn’t just think of stress as a feeling. We all experience stress as a feeling. But really stress, we should think of it as your body’s alert system. It’s a wave of notifying us that, hey, there’s a problem here. You can do what probably most people do, myself included in many situations, which is we just, we just feel the stress, right? We just experienced the stress and it’s uneasy, and scary. And we don’t like it, but that it kind of stops there. It’s just this feeling. Or we can recognize that this is my body’s alert system, telling me that there’s a problem. Okay, what is the problem? Let’s define what the problem is, Why am I feeling this stress, and then we go attack the problem, at least you’re taking action, then at least you’re trying to bring resolution to whatever the situation is at that at this time. And then the other thought is that stress is a psychological phenomenon. And there’s a physical corollary, right? There’s physical stress. For example, if we’re running a marathon, eventually if we keep running and running and running, eventually we’re going to exhaust ourselves and just fall over because we don’t have any any strength left, we have physically exhausted ourselves. And stress is the same in that if we continue to place our focus on this uncertain future without taking any breaks. Eventually, we’re going to be mentally exhausted as well and mentally, psychologically, we’re just going to fall over and we sometimes get surprised when this happens, even though we would never be surprised if someone told you you’re going to exhaust yourself after 10 hours of running and fall over. Right? That’s natural when you think of it from a physical standpoint, but from a mental standpoint, we don’t we don’t always think about it like that. Alright, that’s pretty much all the high level thoughts I have about stress. Now, Kyle, how do you think about stress? And what are some? Do you have any strategies that you’ve learned over the years to deal with it?


Kyle Valiton  25:19

Yes. Great summary, by the way, that was that was really nice. The AI, a key tool, I think, is preventative. So the decisions we make early in a project or process or even just us taking accountability for a problem, that’s where you can prevent it the most, you may not see it. But I think as experience grows, you do see where the stress will come from, when you’re looking over a project, looking over a scope, looking at your team and their capability, like all of that, and you can kind of plan for it in a better a better way. So for sure preventative. And then you’re just to reiterate the you know, the setting that runway, creating that safe space for your team so that they don’t feel distressed someone, someone may have to bear it, right, like someone may have to be the person speaking to the delays on the project, the over budget, the the fact that maybe the current design is not actually working out the way everyone thought it would. Someone has to bear that for sure. But the nice thing is, if you if you start with the core principles of knowing it’s coming, getting people on the team, regular updates, this is getting harder, this is getting harder, I have more risks, you know, like you’re you’re preparing the greater team for what is happening in the challenges and hopefully getting some more assistance. So that everything is a slow progression. And you don’t end up with a situation where you’re looking back and you’re like, wow, I, I we kind of we kind of mess up the last three months by not being more aware of what’s going on. Yeah, I think preparedness and just communication so that so that people know what’s happening, and you actually get more support where you maybe thought you wouldn’t have gotten it?


Aaron Moncur  27:10

Yeah, that’s great. Thank you for sharing that. One area in which I have experienced stress occurring is when managing a project, right? Especially an r&d project where you don’t really know what the end looks like, you know, what you want, you think you know, what you want the end to look like? But it’s r&d, right? We’re inventing something where there’s no guarantee for success? What are some best practices that you’ve employed over the years to successfully manage r&d projects,


Kyle Valiton  27:40

I kind of have a approach that I like to tell people, which is like crawl first than walk than run in terms of the progression of things. And so if it’s fresh project or a fresh problem, I want to solve it in the simplest way possible, I want to get the easy wins out of the way, even holistically, like, sure I may not be able to give you 1000 products a month off the line guarantee. But if I can give you something that that gets us in the ballpark, or just gets us something, you kind of alleviate the stress of that. But then you also kind of give your team a starting point from which to be like, Okay, well, we have one solution, that’s great. Now we can get fancy, or now we can take some risks, especially as you know, as a contractor, it’s, you have budgets, and for me, that’s the biggest that’s that’s where I hit the biggest resistance is I want to make the fanciest tool I’m picturing in my head, it’s amazing, it’s going to do great things, I can’t necessarily promise I’ll be able to do that within the budget. So. So having a budget ceiling is a pretty critical. That’s, you know, we all want to build the perfect thing. But that’s actually where I struggle the most with is making sure that I’m under budget to start with. And then hopefully, I understand a little bit more about the scope and the problems. And then I can get fancy after the core problem is solved. But that’s that’s where I see the bid. The biggest thing is right scoping out quoting a proper project, and then having the appropriate amount of funds to where you’re not footing the bill. Because you wanted you want a higher quality product to leave the door. Yeah,


Aaron Moncur  29:15

right. Yeah, even with time and materials type projects. I do like having, which is what you said, some kind of a ceiling or a budget. It doesn’t even have to be the final entire project budget. It could just be like a phase budget or something where if we if we get to this point, and we’re not at this milestone, let’s stop not not necessarily permanently, but let’s stop and assess where we are. Stick a little break and ask ourselves, are we really doing the right things here? Does it make sense to keep going or should we stop permanently at this point? That’s a great kind of natural assessment


Kyle Valiton  29:53

phase. Yeah, that’s totally true, right? Like almost like you increase the magnitude of spends As you learn as you you exit these phases, so it’s tiny, tiny chunks. And then once everything is understood, you do the big, the big push for the implementation. Yep. Right?


Aaron Moncur  30:13

Well, in addition to working as a W two employee, you’ve also worked as a consultant, what you’re doing right now, what are the pros and cons? And what should engineers do to prepare themselves if they are considering going the consulting route? Yeah, well, pros


Kyle Valiton  30:31

are diversity of projects, for sure. And actually, kind of natural diversity of your network. If you do a good job, for 10 Different companies, you know, that’s 10. To add in, let’s say, there’s 3030 employees at each company that that you pass by, that’s 300 People that have a good impression of you. So like, just from a career growth and networking standpoint, I believe consulting is very powerful. And just from a personal learning standpoint, honestly, just just given being given further, under the hood, look at what the company is doing and how they’re doing it, and kind of giving them that extra level of, of authority to make the call on things has been, it’s helped me kind of reduce my stress, honestly, like going back to stress, you know, by me being able to influence some of that change a little more deeply. I feel better about the problems being put in front of me, because I’m making call for it. Yeah. Yeah, in terms of cons, you are your own marketer. You are your own kind of everything until you’re making enough to support all those ancillary support things that you would have to think of as an engineer working in a department. So there’s definitely a lot of just in case I might call late nights, just inconvenient nights where you think you can clock out at five, but you actually can’t, because you’re you have a call with your accountant or you’re dealing with a tax, there’s some there’s some issue that you have to deal with. And it doesn’t, it can’t wait necessarily. So so you get kind of those inconveniences. But again, I think as a whole, it’s absolutely worth it. And it does kind of put you on the path from an engineer to a to a startup founder, which is something I’m very, very much working towards is is that type of progression, because now you actually are getting support knowledge from everybody you’re working with across the


Aaron Moncur  32:34

foreshore. Yeah, yeah. And as you do that, you’re meeting more and more people. It’s almost a kind of a natural, organic form of networking, which is something else that that you feel is very important. And I don’t disagree with that. Tell me a little bit about your experience networking, how has it been valuable for you? What are some some good ways that engineers can go about networking?


Kyle Valiton  32:59

Yeah, it’s been immensely valuable. Let’s just start from the problem solving standpoint. I know, you know, we work for companies, we have to hold our NDAs in place, but we can always speak in generalities in terms of what we’re dealing with, or maybe what kind of technologies we’re trying to integrate or something. And being able to share that and talk with other engineers. You really, I mean, especially now, like there are so many solutions that exists to a problem. It’s actually it’s, the hard part is finding the right expert to talk to to guide like making sure you’re not choosing a servo motor kit that actually is super buggy, and has limitations you don’t know until later in the project, like those types of things is an immediate benefit of just being able to talk through your problems with outside eyes. But then, obviously, from another network standpoint, is it’s very easy for engineers, because it’s like we were saying at the start of this, it’s so it’s such a needed thing that I find the engineering communities are very open, and very accepting and all of that. So you end up with 10 friends easily at the end of every night, which is something I find, which is very different than let’s say a another type of gathering. I’m not going to call it industry.


Aaron Moncur  34:15

Right, right. All right. Well, let’s see here. Let’s talk about career path. Just for a minute. I, I always find it interesting that we choose a career before we really know what that career is, right? We go to college for those of us who go to college and we choose choose this major, right? I chose engineering. And did I really understand what engineering was at the time? No, not really. But people who were close to me said, you do well as an engineer, and I trusted them and it worked out well for me. But suffice to say that we don’t really understand the career that we’re going into when we choose Major, or if we not going to university, which is, you know, we choose something that we’re going to do. Once Once you’ve graduated, so your student going to college, you get your degree in engineering. Is it too late to change career paths at that time? Or what advice might you give to young engineers who are just starting out?


Kyle Valiton  35:21

Yeah. The first piece of advice I’d give to just anybody considering any type of career is do a bite sized project that someone in that career would do, like, take a bite out of that role. And just make sure that you’re just, it feels good when you complete it, you know, like, does that is that a nice? Did you get that feeling of like, wow, I actually achieved something I want, I want to do a little bit more of that. For sure. So wrap the bat, just do projects. And I mean, really small, you know, do it in a class setting, do it in, but make sure it’s coming from you, someone else isn’t putting that on your plate, you are choosing the project, you’re saying I’m interested. And then complete it fully, regardless of whether it’s good or not, right, just see it to the end. And then make judgments from there in terms of, you know, okay, I could see myself doing more of that. That will be my immediate reaction to choosing career. But then in terms of after, I think in your 20s, or just just after college, let’s just say you pick a career path. And so your first couple of jobs maybe aren’t the best, or there’s just there’s just some, some second guessing in terms of decisions. I think within a career, assuming you like what you do at that fundamental level, like those little bit, you do, like let’s say you do projects, technical projects on the side, or you like technology, like engineers are interested in things. So make sure you are a things type person. If you’re still playing in that ballgame, then it’s more just a matter of, I think you should talk to more people, you have to get more, give yourself more avenues of adjusting. By sharing those experiences, I’m working that job, it kind of stinks. But you’re sharing that with other people. And it’s amazing what that what kind of advice you get, or just just by speaking it out loud, it kind of allows you to manage what it what it truly is that you’re trying what what is the real decision underneath that feeling that you’re trying to make?


Aaron Moncur  37:24

Yeah, doing is better than learning about doing. Right. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. All right. Well, just a couple more, and then I think we’ll wrap it up here. So specifically, within the context of your role as an engineer, what is one thing that brings you joy? And conversely, one thing that maybe frustrates you either order, you can answer?


Kyle Valiton  37:46

Sure. From the joy perspective, I really like seeing the product being made by somebody else, specifically, something that I worked on, or a team that I’ve worked with just just seeing someone else. Like, take that on, whether it be a technician or an operator or just another engineer, and really drive it. That’s where I get a lot of my satisfaction, because to me, that is like the true definition of Done. If we saw if we did the hard part, we solve the hard problem. And someone else was able to pick up that solution and then run with it. I think that’s for me, that’s like where I get my satisfaction. Absolutely. On the on the cons side of I think it’s it’s just making sure everyone on your team has consensus of that goal going all the way back to like the idea of what’s what’s the story? You know, that’s where it gets kind of tough is it where you can get some friction? And if, you know, let’s say y’all agreed to the story, but some other things come out deadlines, budgets, team member shortages, something is basically keeping you from achieving that story. And you maybe you’re starting to get, I guess, I don’t know, if dissenters is too serious for yours. Your people are starting to desert the cause, you know, they’re starting to think, oh, maybe this is not quite and and they’re kind of getting in the way of progress. I think that’s where it can be a little bit of a struggle. But yeah, there’s always more projects, right. So it’s like, I tried to just keep that abundance mindset of just like, take a step back. What is the overall impact of what I’m doing? Is it okay to switch gears 180 here? Sure, I think we can make that work. Just so you’re not too, honestly is like not too emotionally attached to a project in any way.


Aaron Moncur  39:43

Yeah, and I think the great thing about being an engineer is we, we learn this very logical, ordered way of thinking and once you know how to think about a problem, you can do so many different things completely. The outside of engineering, right? If you find at some point that you’re not thrilled with engineering, I think it’s a lot easier to go from engineering to another profession, then the other way around.


Kyle Valiton  40:12

Yeah, I’d actually, I’d love to add to that, which is the fact that, once I’ve, once you kind of figure out how things work, I think the next level is kind of how people work with things. So like, like, you kind of have this systems approach of just, if you just kind of see everyone operating, let’s say in a department, you know, if you see that as a mechanism underneath the business that generates results, I think it allows you to logically come to conclusions for why even let’s say departments don’t work or, you know, org chart, like all that, all that kind of thing. And that is like an extra superpower on top of just how things work, is just realizing that like, oh, that’s, I see why you think that because of how your department set its rules up. And like, that’s where I kind of like to mesh my consulting is like the people problem. And then of course, just the product problem on the other side.


Aaron Moncur  41:08

Well said, well said, well, Kyle, what a great privilege. This has been talking with you today. Thank you again, for sharing some time with us. How can people get in touch with you?


Kyle Valiton  41:19

Yeah, so you can there’s a number of different resources. I work with a bunch of different organizations. So I set up a Linktree, they can find me at Buildlaunch.net. So two words buildlaunch.net. Yeah, start a conversation.


Aaron Moncur  41:35

Okay, terrific. Well, Kyle, thank you again for being on the being an engineer podcast.


Kyle Valiton  41:40

Thank you. It was a pleasure.


Aaron Moncur  41:44

I’m Aaron Moncur, founder of pipeline design, and engineering. If you liked what you heard today, please share the episode. To learn how your team can leverage our team’s expertise developing turnkey equipment, custom fixtures and automated machines and with product design, visit us at Teampipeline.us. Thanks for listening.


About Being An Engineer

The Being An Engineer podcast is a repository for industry knowledge and a tool through which engineers learn about and connect with relevant companies, technologies, people resources, and opportunities. We feature successful mechanical engineers and interview engineers who are passionate about their work and who made a great impact on the engineering community.

The Being An Engineer podcast is brought to you by Pipeline Design & Engineering. Pipeline partners with medical & other device engineering teams who need turnkey equipment such as cycle test machines, custom test fixtures, automation equipment, assembly jigs, inspection stations and more. You can find us on the web at www.teampipeline.us


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