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Always think bigger: Life after Union

Hometown: Albany, N.Y.
Major: Mechanical Engineering

The summer after his first year at Union, Cody Bellair established a student moving and storage business on campus, a franchise of a larger company called All College Storage. He found the job listing in Union’s Becker Career Center. 

“The company backed it financially and gave me some entrepreneurial coaching,” he says. “But I had a lot of freedom. They told me to get creative, try things out and attempt to maximize profits.”

He got his business plan approved by college administrators, obtained insurance and liability protection, hired student movers, rented moving trucks and storage space, and presided over marketing, scheduling and logistics. In the end, he broke even, but he came out way ahead on experience.

“It was hard,” he says. “And, of course, all the moving fell during finals week. But it’s always been my goal to start my own company. What better way to gain experience than to try it out?”         

Fail now, not later

A true entrepreneur, Cody sees every experience as a learning opportunity.

“One of my mechanical engineering professors said something that really stuck with me: ‘I’d rather see you fail in this course than when you’re designing a bridge.’ It made me realize that now is the time to try things out.”

This perspective gave him the confidence to apply for an internship outside of his field. At Environment One, an international manufacturer of complex metal parts, he worked in the IT department. The original job description had requested an electrical engineering or computer science major, but a Becker Career Center counselor spoke with the hiring manager about Cody’s technical, critical thinking and communication skills.

“Union produces well-rounded engineers,” Cody says.

The Union connection

The summer after his junior year, he began another exciting internship, at PVA, a worldwide company at the forefront of motion and application technology. Again, the Union connection was pivotal.

Ashley Johnston ’14, another ME major, reached out to see if Cody was looking for a summer internship. He was.

His duties at PVA’s offices in Cohoes, N.Y., are focused on implementing lean manufacturing, “that is, how do we reduce the lead time, or the time it takes for us to build a machine in a built-to-order environment? How do we minimize errors and defects in the process?”

Cody works closely with Ashley to create and implement meaningful methods of collecting and analyzing data, and to use that data to gauge the impact of their improvements.

“I love the work I do,” he says. “And I feel valued as a junior engineer. I’m given real projects that directly affect production. I've created my own niche where I use my computer literacy to implement technical solutions to data problems.”

He also sees the influence of his work on his career goals.

“I thrive among people who have a clear goal in mind with the creativity to propose pragmatic solutions to everyday tasks. This internship has moved me in a new direction, and I'm excited to see where it takes me.”

JOANNE STERN '06, Technology columnist:

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