Unconventional Engineering

April 27, 2016
Liz Kramer

Liz Kramer, BS 2007

Liz Kramer ’07 believes that an engineering degree provides a valuable framework for problem solving, a skill that employers constantly look for in potential hires. “People respect an engineering degree,” says Kramer, “and they are more willing to treat you like you know something, or are capable of learning whatever their field entails.” Kramer’s career path—which she describes as “anything but typical”—reflects her belief.

After graduating from Johns Hopkins, Kramer joined a biodefense consulting company. Though she only had a Bachelor’s degree in materials science she worked alongside PhD-level employees. “I was put on special modeling teams with the PhD-level employees due to my engineering degree and the amount of math classes I had completed in college,” she recalls.

In another role, she joined Pick Up America, a mobile nonprofit, and walked roads from Colorado to California to assist in the nation’s first coast-to-coast roadside litter clean-up effort. This position had benefits for both the environment and Kramer’s professional development. She participated in weekly school outreach events, gaining vital public speaking experience and a valuable real world insight into materials science.

“Being in the trenches I got to see firsthand what happens to various materials when they sit under the wind and weather for long periods of time. It gave me an awesome perspective on the natural degradation profiles of the common types of materials our society produces. It also helps frame the trash problem in our oceans much more vividly. All of that non-degrading plastic gets washed off our roads, into streams, rivers, and eventually our oceans. Most people think litterers are a thing of the past, but the 100 tons of litter my crew pulled off the side of the road indicates that we still have a very trashy country and some consumer values to honestly reevaluate.”

Today, Kramer is a Senior Research Analyst at Lenderking, where her responsibilities allow her to utilize her engineering knowledge and creativity in research and development, outreach, and design. That flexibility is also due to her engineering background since landing her current position was another unconventional stroke. Kramer had been unemployed and accepted a door-to-door sales job. Lenderking was one of the companies in her sales territory.

“I walked into Lenderking and was amazed at the machinery I saw. I knew instantly what a press brake was and inquired as to what their business was, and when I learned that they made and sold research equipment, I knew there could be something more here than just a sale. A week later I was hired.”

Recognizing the opportunity in unconventional experiences has only served to benefit Kramer, and is the source of her advice for aspiring engineers.

“Say yes! It’s more interesting than no. Don’t worry about what you get paid in the early stages of your career. You will have much more success if you chase valuable experiences rather than money.”

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