Spotlight on an Engineer – Tristan Novak

Spotlight on an Engineer – Tristan Novak

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“When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this – you haven’t.”
― Thomas A. Edison

Device Solutions engineers are part of a long and storied tradition dating back to the 17th. century when the English scientist William Gilbert coined the New Latin term electricus. They are curious, persistent problem solvers, who like nothing better than a good challenge. As part of our commitment to honoring the past and contributing to the future of this tradition, Device Solutions will be showcasing and sharing the stories of the engineers who spend their days doing what Thomas Edison described as, “…finding out what the world needs and trying to invent it.”

Spotlight on an Engineer – Tristan Novak

Tristan Novak, one of Device Solution’s most recent hires, likes to say that he was born to be an engineer. “My dad is a mechanical engineer with Timken and my mom is a total techie. She can fix anything. She and my dad worked hand-in-hand, so I spent most of my childhood working on projects with them.”

For this reason, Tristan always assumed he would follow in his father’s footsteps. He enrolled in Clemson University’s General Engineering program with a goal of majoring in mechanical engineering, but by the end of his first semester had decided to switch to electrical. “Electrical engineering just seemed really cool, especially the part about building circuits that can do things to help others,” says Tristan. “It was, and still is, a very exciting, growing and widespread field.”

Tristan went on to get his Masters of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from NC State, where he did a variety of internships and worked as a teaching assistant for the university’s “Senior Design Experience (ECESeniorDesign).” It was on ECE Senior Design Day, an event held at NC State at the end of each semester to showcase student projects, that Tristan met Greg Patterson, the CEO of Porticos, a product design company. Although Patterson wasn’t hiring electrical engineers, he offered to introduce Tristan to Device Solutions’ CEO, Bob Witter.

“Tristan is a great example of the power of networking with our partner companies,” says Witter. “Porticos is one of our Mechanical Engineering partners at the NC State’s ‘Senior Design Day.’ Tristan followed up with Greg about employment opportunities, and Greg sent him to me because he thought Device Solutions would be a much better fit.”
Tristan was interviewed both by Witter and Michael Pail, the Hardware Engineering Manager at Device Solutions. “I knew about halfway into his interview that we would want to hire Tristan,” says Pail. “His work ethic, his engineering experiences in both undergraduate and graduate school, his love of ‘tinkering’ and his attitude were the perfect mix for a Device Solutions’ hire! I remember telling Bob Witter that we should hire him, and we should do it soon before he accepted a job elsewhere.”

Witter, who doesn’t ask technical questions during interviews, had other things on his mind when he talked to Tristan for the first time. “My biggest concern in hiring people fresh out of college, is understanding their long-term goals. Working for a relatively small engineering firm like Device Solutions takes a different breed. We don’t have sophisticated training programs for our new hires. We throw them in the deep end, encourage them to ask a million questions, and make sure they are getting answers. The environment is very fast moving, sometimes chaotic, and always an adventure. So when I interview young candidates, I am looking for self-starters, folks who are most of all adventurers!”

To say that Device Solutions was a good fit for Tristan would be an understatement. He left his interviews thinking, “Wow, this company actually does tangible, hands on engineering. I want to work here!”
Tristan began work in May of 2015, and according to Pail has “…flourished with the fast-paced, collaborative environment here are Device Solutions. He not only seeks guidance, but now is often a source of information for others; just way we like it here, the team growing stronger with each addition.”

Witter, who says, “adventure is what Device Solutions offers,” is not surprised. ” From the interview on, Tristan asked lots of questions so I knew he would not fail at Device Solutions. And, I could tell from the activities he enjoys, that adventure is part of his DNA.”

In addition to being an adventurous engineer, Tristan is an avid rock climber, hiker and cyclist. He is part of the cycling team sponsored in part by Device Solutions known as “Team on Draft,” which raises funds to combat Multiple Sclerosis. “I like the nature of this small company,” says Tristan. “There’s not much bureaucracy, everyone is accessible, collaborative and willing to help. They’re also realistic about getting things done. Everyone knows we have deliverables and deadlines to meet. Alongside all of this, Bob and the management team maintain an incredibly positive and driven work environment, which is a great accomplishment.”

Pail’s final comment about Tristan is a testament to both the company and Tristan himself. “The only difficulty with Tristan is keeping him busy,” says Pail. “While being incredibly thorough, he is also a very fast and efficient worker, and usually is not satisfied if only working on one project!”

Now that is a difficulty worth having!

– Jena Ball