Home Engineering & Design Shining a Light on my ‘Local’ Engineers!

Shining a Light on my ‘Local’ Engineers!

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Rusty Sutterlin (far left) and his teammates
Rusty Sutterlin (far left) and his teammates

Author: Charli K. Matthews

Y’all know I’m a big fan of manufacturing and engineering, so If you’ve seen my latest #ChatWithCharli on Facebook, it won’t come as too big a surprise that I am highlighting some local talent right here in Alabama!

I had the great pleasure of talking with Rusty Sutterlin, who works with Inventure Renewables – a company that pioneers process technologies to produce biofuels.

Q. How did you decide to become an engineer? What inspired you?

Rusty: When I was a kid I took apart everything. I had to learn how it worked. That curiosity got me into trouble! It’s not always good to pull apart your parent’s electronics, vehicles, and home – especially when you have a hard time reassembling them (::chuckles::). When I got to college, I felt like I had a good mechanical aptitude.  However, I was curious about chemicals. The world of molecules and atoms made no sense to me. So I took a college chemistry class, and this class only intrigued my curiosity more. I was finally starting to get a glimpse into the fundamentals of how things worked.  So I kept on taking more chemistry classes, and finally, I had taken so many chemistry classes that I was close to getting a major in chemistry (::laughs::). I went ahead and obtained my bachelors degree in chemistry and followed that with a Ph.D in Chemistry. I then worked on a post-doctoral study in chemical engineering.

Q. What do you love most about being an engineer?
Rusty: We often start with someone’s problem, which develops into an idea for a solution to the problem. Often, that solution cannot be solved with traditional approaches, so we have to do some ‘proof of concept’ studies. If the proof of concept is sound, then that develops into a prototype. Once we perform multiple parametric studies on the prototype, then we go through the preliminary engineering and final engineering steps; then onto construction and commissioning. What I love most is seeing something go from just an idea in a person’s head to a tangible, operating system. That is very rewarding!
Q. What advice would you give to the next generation of engineers?  
Rusty: Become a master of the tools and equipment that you have. However, never allow yourself to be closed-minded and think that your current tools and equipment are the only way to solve a problem. Always try to think of an ‘outside the box’ solution too.  Keep an open mind and listen to others. Go into a problem with the attitude that the other people around you know more than you do. Ask questions. Listen, listen and listen.  This will open your mind to new approaches.  
I would also stress to follow the golden rule and learn how to be an effective communicator. This is not always easy for us engineers. It has been said that 15% of an engineer’s salary relative to other engineers is based on technical knowledge.  The other 85% is based on their ability to interact with others, communicate with others and show leadership.
Rusty, on behalf of the entire team at Empowering Brands, THANK YOU for your contributions!! 

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