Infinite Careers Alumni Profile: Kevin Cedrone

Infinite Careers is a new collaboration between Career Services (GECD) and the MIT Alumni Association to explore career paths and the non-linearity of career decision making. Read profiles of alumni with unique career paths, hear their stories and network at a series of talks.

Hear Kevin speak on campus on Tuesday, October 24, 2017 from 6 - 7pm in 66-168.

Kevin Cedrone

Education

University of Waterloo, SB Mechanical Engineering (2008)
MIT, SM Mechanical Engineering (2010)
MIT, PhD Mechanical Engineering (2013)

Biography

Kevin Cedrone completed his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Waterloo in his native land of Canada. Kevin earned a PhD in mechanical engineering from MIT for research on efficiency and emissions in automotive combustion engines.

After his PhD, Kevin did postdoc research on new ways to convert waste natural gas from oil wells into diesel, gasoline and methanol. Kevin finally achieved escape velocity and left MIT to work skunkworks R&D on lasers, mechatronics and 3D printers at Formlabs.

Kevin left Formlabs to exercise his passion for global health and development. He is the CEO and Co-founder of EB Innovations LLC. They are commercializing an award-winning medical device to help people learn and practice essential life-saving skills.

Interview

  1. What influenced you to choose your major in Mechanical Engineering?
    My dad was an auto mechanic and inveterate tinkerer, so I grew up taking things apart and usually putting them back together. With a lifelong interest in Legos, a mechanic's toolbox full of tools, and no fear of getting my hands dirty, mechanical engineering was a good fit.
     
  2. What has been the most rewarding aspect of your career?
    The chance to work on a wide variety of problems, in several different domains. In particular, my work on medical devices seems like it could have the chance to save lives.
     
  3. What motivates you to do the work that you do?
    On my first day in Boston as a new grad student, Professor Susan Hockfield (then President of MIT) challenged us to leave the world better than we found it. That has always stuck with me. But there are many ways to make the world better. Day to day, the people I work with motivate me. I have been fortunate to find places where smart, passionate people are working on hard problems. There is a certain kind of joy when you finally find a crack in a seemingly intractable problem, and it leads to a new or better way to make practical or useful progress on the problem. When you build or join a team that is committed to the same goal, you make that magic more likely.
     
  4. What is the biggest challenge you encountered in your career and how did you overcome this challenge?
    The decision to leave Formlabs to work on my side project full time was difficult. I was working on a challenging R&D project at Formlabs. After a period of slow progress and disappointing results I was finally producing impressive, reliable results. Then, my side project team won grant funding that could support me to work full time and convert our handful of proof-of-concept prototypes into hundreds of devices for a multi-country field trial. In classic engineering fashion, I started with a decision matrix, but ultimately decided that I'd rather give my complete effort and potentially fail, than give a partial effort, potentially fail and wonder if my full effort could have made the difference.
     
  5. What professional development activities did you participate in when you were in school or early on your career?
    Student government in my department (Graduate Association of Mechanical Engineers) and more broadly (Graduate Student Council), networking through my interests (Flying Club, Sailing Club, Canadian club, Francophone club, etc.), independent learning (computer programming, statistics and probability, etc.) and attending hackathons.
     
  6. What professional development activities do you participate in now?
    Independent learning, hackathons, and mentoring students and junior engineers.
     
  7. Looking back on your experience at MIT, what advice would you give yourself if you knew then what you know now?
    Network more! Meet more people from the other side of Ames St! Take a class that seems scary hard. Do more EE and CS. Find a way to put "machine learning" on your resume!
     
  8. What advice would you give to current students that are interested in pursuing a Mechanical Engineering major and career?
    Mechanical engineering is a versatile major. It's such a broad field, and knowing a little bit about everything has served me well. It's great to be a specialist in a few areas, and still conversant with specialists from other areas. If you combine MechE with some EE and/or CS, you will have a wide variety of career options and good job security.
     
  9. Do you have any tips for networking or job searching for current students and recent graduates?
    Weak connections become strong connections. Start by finding a way to help other people before you think about asking for help from them. Find a group that spans/crosses domains. Your lab group isn't great networking a cultural group is better, since it probably draws across the institute and possibly across the city.
     
  10. What is something that you did not do at MIT that you wish you had done while you were here?
    I did not do enough networking. I think I realized the value of building a network (especially an MIT network) relatively late in my grad school career.
     
  11. What is the best career advice that you have ever received?
    Slow down. If you don't have time to do it correctly, when will you have time to do it over? If you think safety is expensive, try an accident.
     
  12. What does “work-life balance” mean to you and what do you do to maintain a work-life balance?
    A holistic view of time allocation. Some work things are personally rewarding, and some hobbies are professionally beneficial. I do my best to set realistic expectations about hours spent in the lab, office, etc. I try to be dependable, and realize that I may be able to work like crazy while I'm young, but it's best to build healthy, sustainable habits.
     
  13. What do you like to do outside of work (e.g., to relax, for fun, as a hobby, on your free time, etc.)?
    I brew my own beer. I enjoy cooking, especially baking. I'm a garage and basement inventor. I love biking. I usually ride 30-50 km before work a couple times a week, and 60-100 km on a weekend day. Then I undo all of that with some Kimball Farm ice cream.
     
  14. Do you participate in any extracurricular or volunteer opportunities? If so, how do you manage your time and balance your professional and personal responsibilities?
    Yes, I volunteer in my community. Productivity declines with exhaustion, and net output does not always increase with hours worked. A few hours of deep work is better than a full day spent partially productive. I try to put all my must-do obligations on a list, or in calendar appointments. I regularly review my lists to make sure priority tasks (for urgency and importance) are addressed, and I've become better at deleting, delegating and deferring other tasks.