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25th Anniversary Interview with Ken Brey

25th Anniversary Interview with Ken Brey

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. 

Next up is Ken Brey who joined DMC in 1997. He works in the Chicago office as DMC's Chief Technology Officer.

What were you up to in 1996? 

That was the year I graduated college from Marquette. My degree was in mechanical engineering. I was living in the suburbs and working for the International Truck and Engine Corporation in the design group. I bought my first new car, the Saturn SL2.

Ken Brey at DMC

Favorite band/movie in 1996 vs. now

In 1996, my sister stumbled on some tickets and I attended a Kenny G concert with her. The last big concerts that I attended before the pandemic were Shakira at the United Center and Lady Gaga at Wrigley Field.

Ken Brey at a DMC holiday party

How did you join DMC?

I had previously known Frank from International Truck and Engine. Prior to working full time, I was an intern and he was a research fellow, doing a project for his master’s degree in control systems.

After I left college, I no longer had an email account. This was before cell phones and email addresses were common. Frank called the receptionist at International and asked if I worked there. That’s how he found me again.

He said, “I’m starting a company. Do you want to get in on the ground floor?” I considered the opportunity to be a springboard. Being an engineer in a big corporate setting seemed like a slow but predictable path. Being a partner in a small company seemed like it had growth potential.

Frank and Ken at DMC Chicago

How has DMC changed over the years? What hasn't changed?

Growth. We are a lot bigger now. There are so many more team members. The magnitude of the customers and many projects are so much bigger. Our capacity to take on larger, more impactful projects has grown.

The constant is the relentless nature of the business. To quote Newman from Seinfeld, “The mail just keeps on coming, it never stops." Another constant is that we've always had great people to work with.

Ken Brey in the DMC lab

Best/worst updates in technology since 1996?

There were a few controls products that didn’t make it. No one is going to be bothered by me saying that Think and Do software was one of the worst. It was an attempt to use an Office-optimized environment, raw Windows 95 or 98, to do controls with. The interface wasn’t great. It didn’t follow any standards. That might have been before the good standards were out there. Expectations were too high for the product.

DVT cameras were ahead of their time and made a damn good mousetrap. They were bought out and put under by their competitor and their best ideas forgotten. They best straddled the tradeoff of being highly capable and easy to use. Those are the two things that vendors in automation are always fighting against each other about.

Ken, Danny, and Dan

How has your field changed since you started at DMC?

Automation and test and measurement have vastly increased modularity. Solutions are now built by assembling highly developed components from a software and hardware perspective. At the beginning, a lot of development started with a blank slate clean sheet of paper every time. Over 25 years, we have internally developed and vendor-supplied components that we use to jump into a project from the midpoint instead of the beginning.

What's the most surprising thing about working at DMC?

The sense of admiration that I feel from so many of my very capable colleagues. If that’s not a humblebrag, I don’t know what is.

Ken's anniversary cake

Favorite DMC event?

Our holiday parties. We’ve had a lot of good venues. The glassblowing demonstration at Ignite Glass Studio was intense, but I gave the most rocking speech at the Lincoln Park Zoo party.

Ken giving a speech at DMC holiday party

Best place traveled for work?

I’ve had a lot of good ones. I enjoyed doing a project PoznaƄ, Poland and attending the Hannover Messe in Germany. Traveling to Austin, Texas is always a good time too.

Favorite DMC project?

The National Radar Test Facility. It pushed some technological boundaries and was a very large project with a lot of little pieces that all had to come together. It was like putting together the 1500-piece puzzle instead of the 200-piece puzzle.

Ken and his DMC bike outfit

Learn more about DMC's company culture. 

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