Evan Larrick views engineering as key to making the shift towards a sustainable society. The Sandvik Global Graduate program gave him a chance to contribute to this shift through his work at Artisan – sometimes referred to as the Tesla of mining.
Evan Larrick had never heard of Sandvik when a recruiter contacted him through LinkedIn to tell him about the Global Graduate Program. The company was not well known in the US state of Ohio, where he grew up, or in the neighboring state of Pennsylvania, where he studied applied physics and mechanical engineering at university.
It was about renewable energy, so it was right up my alley.
“I looked into the program and the company,” he says. “The first thing that struck me was, OK, they’re involved with machining, materials technology and mining, and this isn’t really my thing. But then I noticed that everything they did revolved around sustainable ways of operating, and in a machining or mining company that was pretty surprising to me.”
He applied to the program and went through a rigorous series of interviews, during which he was impressed with what he saw as a Swedish or European way of doing business. “My first impression was that you could ask questions or reach out to anyone in the process,” he says. “It was an appealing approach to the work.”
The beginnings of a sustainable engineer
The graduate program, comprising three work rotations, ran from September 2019 to February 2021. Once Larrick was accepted, he spent his first rotation at the Sandvik Coromant US headquarters in New Jersey. His tasks included documentation and entering new customers into the system, to gain familiarity with the business world. “It was less about engineering and more about sales,” he says.
It's easy improve to improve and innovate.
His second rotation was supposed to be in Sweden, but Covid-19 put a stop to that. Instead, from his home in Ohio he worked virtually with the heating technology division Kanthal. The team was designing a new component for a burner system at a biomass plant. “It was about renewable energy, so it was right up my alley,” he says. “I was retrofitting a custom component that could use some of the waste heat to introduce more energy to the system.”
For his third rotation he landed a spot with Artisan, the California-based maker of battery-powered vehicles that Sandvik acquired in 2019. There he worked on a lifetime analysis of lithium-ion batteries. “I had long been interested in lithium-ion batteries, and that gave me a firm understanding of how they work and how their capacity changes over time,” he says. That rotation grew into a full-time job with Artisan, where Larrick now works as a systems engineer.
One challenge of the graduate program, beyond the obvious problems posed by Covid-19, was working globally. “Everybody is in a different time zone, and people have different working cultures,” he says. “The challenging things were also the things I benefited the most from, which is getting to know how people from different cultures can work and communicate.”
Evan Larrick was drawn to engineering through a longtime attraction to science. “Science is one of the main ways to affect people’s lives and the way we interact with the world,” he says. “It’s easy to improve and innovate. Small additions contribute to a huge web of improvement.”
He sees engineering as key to sustainability, his particular passion. “We have a moral responsibility to stay in tune with the world and the climate, and humane treatment of people and animals,” he says. “If you step back and take a broad approach, you can see ways to pair that with financial incentives. The only way we’re going to make a shift is if it is financially feasible. The way to make the shift is to be creative and come up with small improvements that end up mattering.”
Based: Ventura, California, USA
Education: Bachelor’s in applied physics, master’s in mechanical engineering, both from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Work: Systems engineer, Artisan
Hobbies: Running, reading, photography, playing the drums, hiking in the US national parks.