DMC will celebrate its 25th anniversary this summer. To mark our silver anniversary, we thought it would be fun to interview those who have been at DMC the longest to reflect on the past 25 years and the future of DMC.
First up is Tim Jager who joined DMC in 1999. He works in the Chicago office as a Project Director and leads the Embedded team.
What were you up to in 1996?
I was in college in 1996. I was studying mechanical engineering and working on the solar car team. It was pretty cool to build a solar car and race it across the country. I had super long hair back then.
I always had a passion for electronics. While I was studying mechanical engineering, I did that on the side building electronics and stuff. That’s what I do now at DMC.
Tim circa 2001
What was your favorite movie in 1996 and what is it today?
When I was in college, I really liked Martin Scorsese. I had a pipe dream of getting into movie making as a kid. Goodfellas was my favorite movie. I watched the entire film on mute once so that I could focus on just the cinematography. I also did the opposite of that while driving to and from Champaign in college. I would listen to the audio of the movie on tape.
These days, my favorite movie might be Ghostbusters. It seems weird because it wasn’t my favorite when it came out. One summer, my kids watched Ghostbusters or Ghostbusters 2 every day and I think that it just got in my head. Rick Moranis is great.
How did you join DMC?
I was in college walking between classes and I took a shortcut through the student union. I stumbled on a career fair and started wandering around. Everyone had suits on and stacks of resumes while I was walking around in regular college dirtbag clothes.
A guy sitting in the corner at a booth with a demo box full of spinning motors caught my eye. I went over to talk to him because I was working on project trying to make my own pan tilt head for a camera in my aspiring filmmaker days. I talked to him about motors and learned that he was from Yaskawa. At the time, Yaskawa sent promising candidates to DMC.
I interviewed at DMC, but they had just hired someone the day before. At the time, they couldn’t hire two people at once. It was about seven employees total. They said, “We’ll get in touch when we have an opening.” I got another job, but four months later I heard back from DMC. I bailed on the other job.
The other job I had was also consulting, but it was focused on the pumps and fixtures inside of chemical plants. I liked that DMC was working with motors, motion control, and robots. The programming aspect intrigued me. Even though I studied mechanical engineering, I liked programming things. The small size of the company was interesting to me. It felt more like a club than a corporation where “We just work on projects and hang out.”
How has DMC changed over the years?
There has been so much growth at DMC in the number of people and offices. A lot of the things we have now, we had mini versions of before. We have also become more socially conscious.
There was a time when we weren’t as good at recruiting. Finding the best people is something we learned how to do. We had some missteps. Finding the best and the brightest people is a process that grew over time. A classic thing that Frank likes to say is that “College Frank couldn’t get a job at DMC today.” Our standards have changed.
When DMC was smaller, we were much scrappier it was always about the next project. Now we have more breathing room.
What are the best or worst updates in technology since 1996?
The world wide web was awesome in 1996. You could go on a web page and look for information and learn things. Now, every page has a million ads and the content is buried in SEO garbage. There's so much marketing around web pages now, and I miss the raw web of 1996. You didn’t need ad blockers, but maybe a pop-up blocker.
From an electronics standpoint, things have gotten insanely cheap and accessible. My first cell phone at DMC was also my first cell phone ever. It was one of those Nokia phones. It's like a brick.
How has your field changed since you started at DMC?
Embedded didn’t exist at DMC when I started. It has changed a lot. We started it and took any project that came our way to begin building a portfolio. We took on risky projects to get our feet wet with a service area. We were learning as we went. Our very first embedded project with a microcontroller was back in Evergreen office. Our first real embedded project was in the Kingsbury office around 2009.
The office on Kingsbury Street where DMC's Embedded practice was born
What's the best place you've traveled for work?
I was in an anechoic chamber the size of an airplane hanger. It was super weird. It was like being in a big stadium, but if you closed your eyes and spoke it sounded like you were in a tiny coat closet.
Do you have a favorite DMC project?
UL Hazloc is one of my all-time favorites because we got to blow stuff up. I also liked working on this medical product that produced electrical stimulus for muscles. The R&D & testing phases were fun. We all took turns seeing who could handle the highest power setting the most.
Tim on his ten-year anniversary at DMC
What's the most surprising thing about working at DMC?
I tell my kids; I literally learn something new every day. The most surprising thing is that we are consultants, so we never know who is going to call with a cool project that they need help with or what kind of interesting technology that we’ve never heard of before we get to help with. There’s a day-to-day surprise of learning what’s out there and what we get to touch.
I tell people who are considering whether to work at DMC, if you’re not sure what you want to do working as a consultant is a great way to get super wide exposure. It’s like working at 25 different companies in a year and seeing all the things they do and how they do it. You get a taste of all these aspects of the engineering world. You get to peer under the hood at all these companies. If you’re unsure what you want to do it’s a great way to figure out what you want.
What's your favorite DMC event?
I am a huge fan of DMSki. I've been on almost all of them.
Do you have a favorite DMC Moment?
Launching a cheap party balloon from our deck with a makeshift transmitter on it and tracking for it over 100 miles.
What are you looking forward to at DMC in the years to come?
I’m always looking forward to hiring new people straight out of school. They’re drinking from the firehose and absorbing information, making mistakes, and figuring this out. It's a lot of work. It feels good when you see someone turn the corner from “I am just figuring it out” to “I am good at this, I am a professional. I'll never stop learning, but I am super good at this.” You see people turn that corner and it makes you feel good when you know that they can then start to teach the next person.
Do you have any other reflections on DMC turning 25?
I’m super proud of how far we've come. No company is perfect and we don’t always make the right decisions. There are always regrets, but in general we've done a good job of getting DMC where we are today and the future is very bright for DMC.
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