1. Kalc Vang
  • Teamwork is a crucial skill in the real world, and especially important for engineers.

    – Kalc Vang

  • Q&A with Kalc Vang
    Team Leader, Structural Adhesives Product Engineering
    Representing: North Dakota State University


  • Tell us about your role as Team Leader, Structural Adhesive Product Engineering within the 3M IAT group. What are you responsible for?

    In the Structural Adhesives (SA) group, our team oversees the division’s portfolio of strong adhesives that customers use for composite bonding and lightweighting needs. Our products help customers construct specialty vehicles, sporting goods and even buildings. My team ensures that our structural adhesives (SA) are able to handle our customers’ changing needs without compromising performance. As the Team Leader, I manage a group of product development teams, run the development timeline and ensure our commercialization schedule stays on track.


  • Have you ever been involved with any prior mentoring efforts? What have you participated in?

    Through our formal program at 3M, I have the honor to mentor students or junior scientists, guide my mentees around our large campus, show them the culture and introduce them to the many technical chapters that can help them grow in their personal development. My favorite part is actually providing mentees with direction when they’re still young in their careers and unsure of the next step. When in doubt, I stress the importance of grad school for STEM disciplines because it opens up so many more opportunities down the line.


  • As a mentor, you will be serving as an expert to a team of North Dakota State University students. What are you hoping to teach the team?

    I hope to balance what I teach the students in two areas: technical skills and soft skills.

                 

    Technical Skills: My main goal is to demonstrate how there are better ways to build containers without mechanical fasteners. Most engineering schools teach welding as the only viable bonding technique. I look forward to teaching my team about the benefits of adhesives and tapes—in terms of time to market, weight and other considerations. I aim to instill that there are multiple ways to design and put things together without sacrificing performance.

                 

    Soft Skills: Teamwork is a crucial skill in the real world, and especially important for engineers. When I was in school, teamwork taught me how to adjust my attitude and hear all perspectives. When my team accomplished something, it was due in part to our listening skills and motivation to succeed. I’m excited to teach young minds the best ways to successfully collaborate.


  • Academically, what was the most memorable engineering course you completed?

    One of my professors in grad school gave us the opportunity to use our skills and knowledge in a real-world context. He was a consultant and would share past examples of work he completed, and task us with finding an answer within a specific timeline. This was a good exercise for my classmates and I to practice critical thinking, teamwork and time management in a low-risk environment.


  • Do you have any advice for the team you’re mentoring?

    Absolutely—these pieces of advice are the ones I consider most important:

                 

    First and foremost, be open minded. Don’t limit yourself to one or two ideas. It’s better to have too many ideas and then narrow them down, rather than put up artificial barriers.

                 

    Second, let everyone have a say—not just the team captain. Success doesn’t come from one, it comes from many.

                 

    Third, learn how to provide constructive criticism. I always try to be positive, but realistic when I disagree. For instance, I might say, “Let’s analyze this a bit closer and see if there are any ways to improve this idea.”

                 

    Finally, take a step back and recognize what a cool opportunity this is. Working with a well-known company like 3M not only exposes you to engineering experts but creates lifelong memories and widens your professional network.


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