Industry Profile: Leitner-Poma Engineering Intern Nathan Vanis

31 Aug, 2010

Job Title: Engineering Intern
Employer: Leitner-Poma of America
Years on snow: 10
Days on snow: It’s been increasing each season, but about 30
Currently Riding: This summer it’s been my Yeti 575, but for snow season 09-10 Never Summer Evo R, Rome 390’s
Currently I am: In the process of moving and getting ready for my last year of college at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln

Shay: Tell us a little bit about yourself
Nathan: I’m not your average Nebraskan. I come out to Colorado at least once a month and have been doing so for nearly 2 years now. In the winter I’m riding as much as school and work allow and when it’s not snow season I’m mountain biking and climbing.

Shay: How has snowboarding changed your life?
Nathan: After the first time I went snowboarding, I knew that it would be something that would have an impact on my life. I was fascinated with everything and that fascination turned into an obsession. I was on snowboard forums, reading magazines, watching videos; basically if it dealt with snowboarding I wanted to read it/ watch it/ etc. After becoming so enthralled with snowboarding and the industry, I wanted to pursue a degree that could help me get in.

Shay: How did you get your start in the industry, who or what opened up more opportunities for you?
Nathan: As I’m sure you can imagine, the snowboard industry isn’t exactly booming in Nebraska. So for me, I just ended up emailing, calling, and visiting anyone who would give me the time of day. At Leitner-Poma, I got in contact with one of their engineers and started asking questions. I flew out one weekend to visit them in April so I could get a first hand experience of what was all really done out there. From there, I maintained contact and was able to come out for this past summer and be an intern in their engineering department.

Shay: How has your previous education or work experience helped you in your current job?
Nathan: Still being in college, I don’t exactly have a lot of industry experience. I’ve been working as much as possible while attending school to help build a good foundation and I feel like having a resume with a number of previous internships was definitely beneficial. In engineering programs, students are taught how to problem solve and how to think analytically, had I not went to school for engineering, understanding the calculation used in the design of lifts and gondolas would be next to impossible. Even though you won’t actually be taught how to design a lift in college, you will learn a lot of the concepts and equations that are used.

Shay: Tell us about your role at Leitner-Poma and a description of the work you do?
Nathan: As an intern, I’d have small design projects, create drawings and 3D models for other engineer’s newly designed parts, and whatever else they asked me to do. The design projects and creating 3D models were the most interesting and exciting for me. Taking a flat, two-dimensional drawing and turning it into a 3D model that you can rotate, test how it will perform (using finite element analysis) and actually see what it will look like before it’s fabricated is a pretty cool process.

Shay: What’s an average day like at work for you?
Nathan: I’d arrive at work between 7:00 and 7:30 am. Before I picked up where I left off the day before, I would usually check around to see if anyone had anything else that had come up that they needed me to do. Then it was onto the computer where I’d open up my current drawing and design files. Drawings for each part are definitely time dependent and sometimes I could spend days on an individual drawing or I could finish one in less than an hour. I can count on one hand the number of days I was there less than 9 hours.

Shay: What are some memorable experiences from working in the industry?
Nathan: In the short time I spent at Leitner-Poma, I’d say getting to see the parts I designed and created drawings for, get fabricated and used on actual lifts was one of the most memorable. There’s a great feeling of accomplishment when you’re able to see a task get completed successfully start to finish. Also, the people I worked with out at Leitner-Poma were great as well. There is so much time and energy that goes into the design and fabrication of lifts and everyone at I worked with was dedicated to doing a great job. Working with people like that motivates you and helps keep work enjoyable.

Shay: What do you think are the biggest challenges that the snowboard industry faces and what changes would you like to see for the future?
Nathan: Money isn’t exactly flowing out of everyone’s pockets right now (not that it ever has really, but…) and that can make riding a little more difficult. The less people ride, the less money that’s getting pumped into the industry and lacking funds translates into a chain reaction of problems for everyone. I know when I was looking for internships at companies; some weren’t offering any due to the lack of a budget to support one. With certain positions in the industry, it’s hard to gain the necessary experience when no entry level or intern positions are offered.
Changes I would like to see in the future; more Leitner-Poma lifts and gondolas being installed? As for the snowboard industry itself, I have an engineer’s brain and am always fascinated with new technology and innovations. My disclaimer for that would be that they need to be USEFUL and PRACTICAL.

Shay: Education vs Experience…which do you think is more important?
Nathan: In my opinion, I’d say it really depends on the part of the industry you wish to work. Having only worked in an area that is based on engineering, I’d say education. However, because of my education I was able to come out to Leitner-Poma and work, which translated into me gaining experience. That experience was an education and it is of the type you’d never obtain during a formal education. So I’d say education helps get you started, but the real life experience is more important.

Shay: What advice would you give to people wanting to work in the industry?
Nathan: No one is going to be a better promoter of you than yourself. Don’t be discouraged by where you’re at; Nebraska has been my home for the last 22 years, but because of my persistence and motivation, I was able to spend the last three months in Grand Junction, Colorado at Leitner-Poma of America. Once you get in, as clichéd as it might be, hard work does pay off.

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About the author


From the beginning of time, I was Shannon. From the beginning of snowboarding, I was Shay. From the beginning of online communities, I was Shayboarder. In the end, I’m the writer, photographer, editor, publisher, guru of sorts, product tester, curvy girl, and most importantly the snowboarder behind it all. Follow me on this journey through snowboarding, mountain biking, traveling and fun experiences!

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