Brian Mick: ‘It takes people skills to create change in an organization’
On Boy Scouts, fast cars, and a fruitful engineering career
By Caroline Osterman
I’ve been building things since I was a kid,” Brian recalls. When I asked him how he decided to become an engineer, he reminisced about his lively, inventive childhood. He would build whatever he could get his hands on — Lego spaceships, toy rockets and planes, dams in the stream out back.
“From the first rocket that we blew up, I knew I wanted to be an engineer.”
Brian became a true leader in the Boy Scouts of America. The youth organization — Boy Scout Troop 602 of Shelburne, Vermont — fostered both character development and leadership in a young Brian. His growing affinity for engineering took the stage when he led a program in his community to build a gazebo on the town beach.
Brian went on to attend Cornell University to complete an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering, graduating in 2010. Out of school, he first took some time off to hike the Appalachian trial, spanning 2,200 miles from Maine to Georgia. He then worked at Blodgett Ovens — first as a production associate, feeding steel into an automated punch press, then eventually spending three years as an engineer, designing new pizza ovens and improving the efficiency of existing ovens.
In 2013, he applied to the UC Berkeley Master of Engineering program for its excellence in engineering, short duration, proximity to good companies, and good weather. During the program, Brian lived across the Bay in San Francisco, commuting by Bart every day. “San Francisco is a side of the Bay that most Berkeley kids don’t see often,” Brian reflects. “I liked the ‘outside’ perspective.” He spent his time in the program doing MEng coursework, reading, and solving crossword puzzles with friends. He tried to keep the year well-balanced and relaxed — “I was here to learn, not stress out again!” He also played a lot of Frisbee on Memorial Glade, proudly defending the MEng title on the field.
For his Capstone project, Brian’s team worked with the American Jobs Project, a non-profit that that identifies pathways to create good-paying jobs in advanced energy and manufacturing through data-driven economic development. The Capstone team, American Jobs Project, wrote papers to state governors on how to create jobs in advanced energy fields. Brian covered Nevada, North Carolina, and Iowa. He also went to an Energy Storage Expo as a part of the project. “I had a really good experience with lots of companies, and there were lots of opportunities to network!” Brian says.
Three years out of his MEng program, Brian has paved an exciting and promising career in mechanical engineering. “I love cars… fast cars,” he says. “Ergo, get a job at Tesla.” He is now a Manager of Battery Systems Engineering, responsible for battery system integration, packaging, and performance. As it turns out, Brian had networking to thank for the gig — he had met another engineer at the Energy Storage Expo and was able to drive the showroom Tesla Model S around the block.
“I told him about my background and how I really wanted to be at Tesla,” Brian recalls. “He handed my resume to a recruiter, and the rest is history.”
Networking isn’t the only ability that has proved to be valuable in Brian’s career. He attributes his skills in leadership, presenting, persuading, negotiating to the Berkeley MEng program. “Anyone (well, most anyone) can solve equations and spin numbers — it takes people skills to create change in an organization,” Brian explains. “You need to have persuasive arguments, friendly banter, calm demeanor. You can’t crack during a presentation to the executives!”
Finally, Brian leaves MEng students with some key pieces of advice:
- Network, network, network.
- Listen up in Entrepreneurship class. Learn to persuade others to lend you their time or money.
- Listen to Alex Beliaev — I remember everything he ever taught me and it’s all still valuable today.
- Don’t forget to see Napa, SF, Half Moon Bay, San Jose, and Mount Diablo. There is a lot of neat stuff around — don’t get stuck in school for a whole year.
- A Master’s degree is optional. You should want it. There is no reason to get anything less than an A if you want the degree. Work hard, study hard.
Brian Mick of Shelburne, Vermont earned his Master of Engineering degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2015. He is currently a Manager of Battery Systems Engineering with Tesla, focusing on battery system integration, packaging, and performance.