Despite growing up in beautiful southern California, Brian Fleming chose to leave behind the sun and the beach when he came to college at Iowa State University.
Fleming did not just pick Iowa State randomly, though. He is an Iowa State University legacy as both his parents, Joe and Therese Fleming, graduated from ISU in the early 1980s. While his mother studied accounting, Brian followed in the footsteps of his father, an industrial engineer who holds his B.S. and M.S. from Iowa State.
While the industrial engineering (IE) field was somewhat familiar to him, the state of Iowa was less so. He saw this as a good thing.
“I decided early on that I didn’t want to stay in California because I thought I would be too comfortable and never break out of my shell. I was a shy guy,” Fleming said.
Though Fleming eventually found IE, he came in undecided as a freshman. By the end of his first semester, however, he had found a home and family in IE.
“After meeting some people within the IE field and seeing how broad the opportunities were, I declared IE as my major,” said Fleming. “I think that was one of the best decisions I made during my time at ISU.”
Several courses and faculty members stand out to Fleming as he reflects on his time in college. Fleming said he learned a lot about manufacturing through I E 348: Solidification Processes with Frank Peters, C. G. “Turk” and Joyce A. Therkildsen Professor in industrial and manufacturing systems engineering (IMSE). Specifically, Fleming said his understanding of materials and CNC code came to be a real asset right out of school as it helped him to build his technical vocabulary and better communicate with his colleagues. Fleming said effective communication is one key to being a great engineer.
Fleming cited I E 430: Entrepreneurial Product Engineering and I E 434X: Entrepreneurial Product Engineering Design Project, both taught by IMSE affiliate instructor Jim Fay, as also being influential in his professional development. These courses taught him more about engineering’s business side, and how to listen to people and design effective products based on their needs. Fleming added that Fay has become a mentor for him and that the two remain in contact today.
Through his I E 434X course, Fleming and his team developed a product called Serona Craft Butter, which was inspired by today’s robust craft beer scene. They went on to take first place and $500 in prize money during the Engineering Pitch Competition in February 2019. After that, the team continued on to win the university-wide competition.
Fleming said that I E 305: Engineering Economic Analysis with associate professor Lizhi Wang, was perhaps the most practical class he took in college.
“Learning about the present versus future value of money as well as the calculations behind it has been extremely useful in both my career and my personal life, as I am fascinated by personal finance,” he said.
As if his course work did not keep him busy enough, Fleming was also involved with various student organizations and other commitments. He served as an undergraduate teaching assistant (UTA) for I E 148: Information Engineering and was a student ambassador for the IMSE department as well as a peer mentor for the College of Engineering. He said helping to establish the Entrepreneurial Product Development Engineering Club is one of his proudest accomplishments, particularly since the chapter has remained active since he left campus.
Fleming completed his B.S. in IE in Spring 2019 and joined Emerson Electric’s Engineers in Leadership Program. This two-year rotational program places engineers from any discipline into two one-year rotations. Fleming’s first rotation actually took him halfway across the world, to Cluj, Romania. He spent the year working on continuous improvement projects for Emerson’s European supply chain.
“This role allowed me to travel all over Europe for work and fun. I learned a ton about international business and what it is like to live and work in another country,” Fleming said.
He returned stateside in June and began his one-year rotation as a project manager for the strategic operations team for RIDGID Tool, based in Cleveland, Ohio. He said that he hopes to stay with Emerson once his rotational program ends, and wants to eventually move over to the marketing, product management or business development side.
Much like Fleming left his comfort zone when he relocated from San Diego to Ames, he encourages others to move out of their own comfort zones when they come to college.
“Your time in college is a unique period of your life,” said Fleming. “There are few other places that afford you the opportunity to learn from world-class experts, travel abroad for school, be surrounded by eager young minds and have access to many social and professional groups. Take this opportunity to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Learn difficult things, join student orgs, make connections with peers and professors and, most of all, have fun.”
Fleming was featured in this 2018 video produced by Iowa State University’s College of Engineering, which examined “What are industrial and manufacturing systems engineering?”