Technology grads have designs on success

Pictured: NC grad Nick Kotsios works at his desk at Nalco Mobotec in Niagara Falls.


Nick Kotsios never had to look for a job after graduating from Niagara College. He just went back to work.

That’s because the former Mechanical Technology Engineering student landed a full-time job right after graduation at Niagara Falls-based Nalco Mobotec, where he completed his co-op placement.

Kotsios, 34, is not alone. Most of the other designers in the office – the air protection division of Nalco, a global leader in air quality, energy and water solutions – have also graduated from NC. Like Kotsios, their co-op placement opened the door to an exciting career where they design solutions to reduce pollution and emissions. Their designs, such as modified boilers for pollution reduction or urea injection systems to convert harmful nitrous oxide into nitrogen and oxygen, are implemented at industries around the world.

“We’re problem solvers,” said Ron Hurst, global vice-president of Engineering and Operations for Nalco Mobotec. “Our designers start with a concept, build a detailed design, present it as a detailed drawing, see it being built, see it get installed at a plant and, during operation, they see how the components run.

“They get exposure to the entire process.”

For Kotsios, this is one of the most rewarding parts of his job.  “It’s very exciting to see something I designed, get built,” he said.

As much as he enjoys his current position, he had never considered it as a potential career. After obtaining his Accounting degree from Brock University, he enrolled in NC’s Mechanical Technology program unsure about where it would lead.  After his co-op placement however, he never looked back.

 “I didn’t know what I was getting into, but what I learned in my program at NC has helped me progress and get through all the challenges that came up,” he said.

He is thankful for landing a job in the Niagara region, where he grew up, and for the way his career has unfolded since his college graduation in 2009.  His role as a designer is constantly evolving and he enjoys the opportunities he has to travel, since 80% of the company’s projects are overseas. 

Bryce Lauesen, 36, also began working for the company as an NC co-op student. Since his first co-op placement was with a mechanical contractor in the construction field, he never considered a career as a designer until arriving at Nalco Mobotec and realized how much he enjoyed that aspect of the job.

He has been involved with a variety of projects since he began working full-time after graduation. One day, he is modeling a power plant; the next, a rotamix injection device design. He takes pride in the fact that devices he designed have been installed in the U.S. and Poland, and finds the work rewarding.

“Now I get paid to doodle,” he said. “I get to create things.”

Bernie Gravis, the company’s chief designer championed to bring in NC co-op students into the company and hire them to help the company transition from traditional drafting to computer 3D modeling.

“We had a lot of people coming in who were very strong technically but didn’t have the computer skills,” he said. “I thought we should bring in students who were computer literate.”

While technologists don’t typically concentrate on design work like engineers do, it plays a major role at Nalco Mobotec where, as co-op students, they receive training that builds on the skills they learned in the classroom.

“Once they get our training here, they come out of it in a good spot,” said Gravis. “Wherever they go, they’ll shine.”

Down the hall, 20-year-old Dana Platten, who will begin his third year of the Mechanical Technology program in September, works on 3D model of rotamix ducting systems. 

His paid co-op placement is helping him earn money for tuition while equipping him with valuable on-the-job experience before he graduates.

“This really expands on what I’ve been learning in class,” he said. “It’s really educational and I’m learning a lot.”


Note: This article appeared in Niagara’s Sun Media newspapers in June 2012.

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