Honored alumnus Tom Ingersoll urges students to learn their craft

Students filled the JSB auditorium on Thursday, October 5, to learn from the experience of Tom Ingersoll (BS ’85, MEM ’86), this year’s recipient of the Alumni Achievement Award for the Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology. Ingersoll has enjoyed a career as an entrepreneur and engineer, serving as CEO for ambitious startups and managing larger corporations as well.

At the beginning of his remarks, Ingersoll congratulated everyone in attendance for their choice to study engineering and technology, commending the students on their talent and work ethic. He challenged the students to think of great minds who possessed expertise in the field of engineering and technology, then offered up scriptural examples of Nephi, Noah and, most importantly, the Savior. As the master engineer, the Savior created worlds.

 “It’s the perfect engineering process,” Ingersoll said. “We learn in the creation that everything was done spiritually [at first]; they did a design before they actually built anything.”

Citing the books of Abraham and Moses, he added collaboration, constructive input, returning and reporting and incremental progress as other essential steps of the engineering process.

By understanding and implementing this process, or as Ingersoll put it, “learning your craft,” engineering and technology students will change the world.

“You have been born at the right time,” he said. “[In engineering and technology] we are at the inflection point in so many areas…you are just on the cusp of great things happening.”

However, Ingersoll made it clear that these great things will not just happen on their own. To do something truly remarkable, professionals in engineering and technology need to understand how to manage their careers. One of the keys to managing a career is to surround oneself with the most intelligent people possible. Sometimes that means having the courage to leave a company in order to find other opportunities that will stretch one’s limits and foster growth.

“If you find yourself in your career when you look around and think, ‘man, I might be the smartest person in the room,’ it’s time to make a change, time to move on,” he said.

In some cases, surrounding oneself with the best and brightest does not necessarily require changing jobs. High-performing groups exist in every large organization. Identifying and joining these groups will force an employee to grow and develop, laying the foundation for a successful career.

Ingersoll included hard work and grit as other key characteristics to a successful career. These two traits can help a student or employee overcome just about any obstacle. One obstacle they cannot overcome, however? Hubris.

“Hard work is really important, but [when] you kind of get caught up in what you’re able to do and not willing to listen to others, that’s the the fatal flaw.”

Ingersoll repeatedly cautioned the students to avoid pride, urging them instead to embrace input from others, third-party reviews and even criticism.

A question and answer session after his remarks allowed students to ask Ingersoll direct questions specific to their situations. One student asked what advice he would give to women in engineering that wanted to focus both on their families and their careers.

 “It’s a very personal call,” he said. “But women have a lot to offer in the world of engineering. Companies are going to be excited to have you as part of their team, and I think they’ll make all kinds of accommodations to allow you to do that.”

Ingersoll concluded his discourse with some familiar advice: “Don’t forget to pray.” He explained that throughout the course of his career, he and his wife faced several crossroads at which his career could have gone in completely different directions. At these crucial decision-making points, the two of them were often lured by some appealing job offer that included more money, more responsibility and a better title. However, after seeking guidance from the Lord, they would usually feel impressed to remain where they were, turning down the attractive job offers.

“It was really frustrating, but it turns out that those answers were divine intervention.”

Whenever faced with a big decision, Ingersoll encouraged the students to pray with their spouses for direction from God. “When you both get the same answer, you’ll know you’re on the right track.”

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