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Manufacturing Engineering grad shares how he narrowed down his path to a career he lovesJanuary 28, 2020

Ryan McMinn, graduate of W Booth's Master of Engineering in Manufacturing Engineering, shares his story of discovering his career in manufacturing.

Most of us can trace our career choices to a few pivotal experiences that helped guide our paths. Ryan McMinn, now an engineer-in-training with Sofina Foods, knew from a young age that he wanted to pursue a technical field, though he credits two early experiences in his life with guiding him onto a path toward manufacturing engineering.

The first experience McMinn shared was fond memories of summertime visits with his grandparents. His grandfather’s passion for woodworking led to hours spent in his home wood shop. McMinn would help him change raw lumber into beautifully crafted pieces.

The second experience he shared was later in high school on a community service trip to Bocas del Toro, Panama. Seeing the region’s poor infrastructure and standard of living, McMinn was inspired to go into engineering, wanting to contribute to improving the quality of various processes through sustainable solutions.

McMinn attended Queen’s University for his undergraduate studies, originally interested in civil engineering. However, by the end of the common first year, he decided to declare chemical engineering as his field of study; specifically in the environmental stream. By his fourth year at Queen’s, McMinn was keen to continue to complete a master’s degree.

The opportunity to gain applied experience attracted him to M.Eng. programs, and he began looking into his options. When he discovered the Master of Engineering in Manufacturing Engineering (MEME) at McMaster University, he knew it was the right program. “I went over all the competing programs and decided the one at Mac was the one for me,” McMinn said on a phone call in early January.

What attracted McMinn to the MEME program was the opportunity to work with an industry partner on an in-depth project. While courses allowed him to further his knowledge of the environmental impacts of manufacturing, learn the ropes of modern manufacturing best practices and develop an understanding of how to program logic controllers which were ubiquitous in manufacturing systems, the project had the greatest impact on him.

Working with the industry partner, he developed soft skills to help him excel in his job. The project McMinn worked on was with Sofina Foods, evaluating the feasibility and scalability of a new sand filter system in the treatment of the cooling tower water. The manufacturer of the sand filter, Norkem Inc. had approached Sofina Foods with this innovative sand filter system, with the promise that it could reduce their reliance on chemical treatment and mitigate microbial growth in their processes. McMinn had previously reached out to Sofina Foods asking about the possibility of collaborating on a project. Evaluating the filter’s effectiveness in their application was an opportunity to work together. Comparing this new sand filter system to traditional chemical treatment, it was clear to McMinn that the new offering came out on top, providing significant cost savings, and a reduction in microbes.

Sofina Foods also invited McMinn to attend company events and opportunities to network. It was at the company’s Engineering Week, which brought the -national engineering team together to share best practices, where McMinn met the company’s Executive Vice President of Operations. In their conversation, the senior leader got to know McMinn and his interests.

Shortly after graduating, an opening appeared on the Sofina Foods recruitment site and McMinn was successful in competing for the role. “My experience completing the project definitely helped in my success,” McMinn said. He started full time in June 2019.

While McMinn says he always liked solving open ended problems and his path was to go into a technical field, it was his journeys and experiences that led him to tie manufacturing into his interests. “My two very impactful experiences set me on this path and with help from Queen’s and McMaster, I was able to narrow down my scope as I went,” McMinn said.