At InSource, we sincerely appreciate the bravery and commitment of the individuals who have served our nation with selflessness. As part of our Veterans Month series, we express our gratitude for their military service and recognize their significant influence in various fields. Join us as we look into the inspiring stories of our veterans in the Manufacturing Industry, honoring their remarkable contributions.
As we honor Veterans Month, we spotlight Jeff Miller, a seasoned engineer with a unique journey into the manufacturing world that speaks volumes about resilience, curiosity, and the transformative power of education. Join us as we learn and explore the twists and turns that led him from his blue-collar background to the forefront of innovation in engineering.
The Journey into Engineering
Initially, Jeff wasn’t attracted to pursuing a career in engineering. He navigated life without a clear sense of direction and was mainly motivated by the need for a college degree coming from a family that was primarily blue-collar, military, and previous generations as farmers, higher education wasn’t a common topic in his family, as there were no college graduates anywhere in the family tree. The idea of stability and avoiding the cyclic layoffs that plagued his uncles, who worked as machinists in manufacturing jobs, was a significant motivator for him.
Before joining the military, Jeff submitted college applications to three universities, but his choices were somewhat arbitrary. He needed to learn more about the options, so he selected the three he had heard of: Notre Dame, Duke, and Miami University. Surprisingly, he was accepted by all three, though he couldn’t even pinpoint their locations on a map, except for Miami University, which happened to be conveniently close to his hometown.
Financing a college education seemed elusive after high school graduation, and Jeff needed a stronger push toward higher education. He was already working at a Ford dealership, learning a trade skill, and moonlighting as a car detailer. During this time, Jeff met a new service assistant manager, a military veteran, and their conversations turned toward military life. The manager recommended that if Jeff were to join the military, he should aim for a role as a cryptologist. Jeff took his advice to heart and took the pre-ASVAB test at the recruiter’s office. Surprisingly, he aced the test, a perfect 25 of 25. He knew he was no genius, but that didn’t stop the recruiter from getting excited. It was a straightforward 25-question test heavily focused on math, where Jeff excelled. He took the actual ASVAB and scored high enough to be eligible for the cryptologist role he was seeking, and he ended up enlisting as a cryptologist in Naval Intelligence.
Upon completing his military service and armed with the GI Bill, Jeff explored the list of available degrees at Miami University, just a short drive from his hometown. He eventually narrowed down his options to Physics or Engineering. Creating and building things resonated with him, making an engineering degree the obvious choice for his future.
Fast forward to today, Jeff enjoys engineering for its problem-solving opportunities and a chance for creativity in a dynamic, challenging environment that provides new chances for innovative solutions daily.
Influential Impact of Military Experience on Careers
Jeff learned valuable leadership skills during his time in the military. Although some people believe that military leadership doesn’t translate to civilian leadership, Jeff understood that true leaders in the military don’t rely on fear of punishment. They lead by example, participating in the mission and actively participating in it. They don’t just bark orders from the safety of the rear; they are right there in the thick of it. In the military, the consequences for failing to perform your duties can be severe and may even result in legal action. However, Jeff learned true leaders understand that authentic leadership stems from leading by example and actively participating in the mission, not just giving orders.
What set these true leaders apart was their ability to view every team member as a vital component of the collective success. They recognized that their responsibility was to bring out the best in each contributor. This process involved building trust within the team to the point where uncomfortable conversations could be held. Yet, they were received as opportunities for growth and improvement rather than criticism.
Insights and Advice for Aspiring Professionals
Mastering the art of programming is an endeavor that opens doors to endless possibilities. It is a passion that Jeff wholeheartedly embraces. During high school, Jeff spent countless evenings exploring the boundless world of computer programming instead of attending social gatherings. His journey began in 9th grade with Basic, but it didn’t stop there.
In a stroke of luck, Jeff’s high school constructed a skills trades building that offered diverse opportunities, such as woodworking, auto repair, and Pascal Programming. Jeff eagerly dove into this new opportunity and dedicated three formative years to honing his programming skills before his high school journey concluded. This foundation provided him with a significant head start in his professional career.
Over time, Jeff ventured into self-guided exploration, diving into languages like C++, .Net, and ASP, adapting his skills to the evolving landscape of technology, and embracing the versatility to tackle any programming challenge that came his way.
A Testimony to Resilience and Growth
Jeff firmly believes that hard work and persistence are more valuable than natural talent, and he finds solace in this belief. He has often contemplated those who effortlessly excel without much exertion. Still, he has realized that prolonged ease can paradoxically make one less resilient in facing challenges.
While appreciating his capacity for hard work, it has served as Jeff’s training ground for facing the most challenging obstacles. He has learned the value of consistently pushing his limits and embracing bigger challenges, regardless of how easily success may come to him or anyone else. This approach ensures that he possesses the tenacity and determination to overcome formidable career obstacles when they arise.
Jeff Miller’s journey to becoming an engineer is a testament to his resilience, curiosity, and the transformative power of education. As we celebrate Veterans Month, let Jeff’s story inspire all aspiring engineers and manufacturing professionals. Despite his uncertainties, Jeff forged a path to innovation and success through hard work, creativity, and an unwavering commitment to continuous learning.