Amber (Leaf) Mirabal
ICC Engineering Graduate: 2005
Transferred to: North Dakota State University
B.S. in Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering
MBA at Benedictine while working at Caterpillar
Currently Employed: Land O'Lakes, Inc.
Title: Associate marketing manager, Purina Dairy Feed
What is your career highlight or proudest career moment to date? My proudest career moment is that I work in an industry (agriculture) I love and have so much passion for. Plus, I have been able to pick my jobs and design my career with ease.
Why did you choose Itasca Community College to start your engineering education? What do you think is the best thing about the Itasca Community College? Honestly? Because Ron Ulseth spent hours talking me into it. HAHA! However, it was the best decision I ever made. The best thing about Itasca Community College is the location, the endless activities you can participate in, the engineering family that is there to support you, and the best friends I made while going to school there.
How did ICC Engineering help you shape your personal and professional goals? ICC Engineering taught me to never give up. Getting an engineering degree is hard. To this day, I will say that it was one of the hardest goals I ever accomplished. On top of that, getting an engineering degree taught me how to solve problems. In my career, I do not practice engineering. However, I am constantly tasked to make million dollar decisions and solve million dollar problems. I often find myself breaking the issues down and figuring out what the steps are to get to the solution. This is the basis of engineering. There are also the softer side of things that ICC focuses on and that's figuring out how to be a presentable business person and having appropriate manners, and also managing your "TDL" (To Do List). Every Friday to end my week, I make my TDL for the next week to ensure I am staying on track and getting things done.
In what ways did ICC prepare you to be successful at your transfer school and in your career?
Transferring to NDSU wasn't an issue at all. I never worried about it. All of my credits transferred and I graduated in 4 years. It was a simple process and I didn't have to stress about it at all.
As far as being successful in my career, there are a couple things that really stick out. First, life is a balance and engineering school is one of the first places this is going to hit a person full force. I remember being in a class one day and Ron saying, "You are going to have to learn balance. In every moment of your life, different things are going to have to take precedence. Sometimes your family needs to be first, sometimes it's your health and fitness, sometimes it's your career, sometimes it's your personal life." I think about this almost daily. We juggle so much. I'm a wife, mom, daughter, career woman, etc. and I'm constantly struggling for balance. However, I think of that life lesson I was told and it couldn't be more true. You have to prioritize and sometimes sacrifice. It all works out in the end but I just keep thinking of that balance beam and what way I have to lean at that time.
Engineering school is hard. It's hard for everyone but for me, it was REALLY hard. Some people are more engineering inclined. I'm not. I figured out early on that I didn't want to be a "true engineer." I don't want to design anything. No one would want to drive on a bridge I designed. HAHA!!! I'm definitely a non-traditional engineer. However, the reason I didn't change my major is because I knew that if I stuck it out and got an engineering degree, it would open so many doors. My engineering degree is the reason I got my first job at Caterpillar, Inc. I couldn't have asked for a better place to start my career. Now, I'm in an even more non-traditional engineering job, but I'm in a position that is very scientifically technical. Who knew feeding dairy cow was so scientific, right?! The classes and labs I took getting my engineering degree put me in a position to learn faster than someone that doesn't have that experience. The really fun/humbling part is when I tell people I'm an engineer, I gain instant respect.
What advice would you give to a prospective ICC Engineering students? If you are going to get an engineering degree, go to ICC. There will be no regrets. It is truly the best place to start your engineering career. Both my husband and I went through the program and if any of our kids decide to get an engineering degree, I will totally push for them to go to ICC. As a bonus, think of the money you will save! :)
What advice would you give to a current ICC Engineering student? Engineering school is hard. Really, really hard. Don't give up. Your engineering degree will give you a sense of pride and self confidence that no one can take away from you. It's worth it. Plus, think of that paycheck you will make when you sign for your first job. It'll be a good one, most likely better than your peers who didn't get an engineering degree! Cha-Ching!