Industrial Lighting Spotlight
HD Machine & Engineering
It takes a unique person to transition from a job greeting customers in a cow suit to becoming VP of Engineering at a successful machine shop and Engineering firm. It is even a rarer person who can make that advance in the course of just 8 years. But that’s just what Alan Alberto has done.
Alan worked his way through college as a Chick-fil-A mascot and chicken sandwich assemblyman. It was there at that first job that he developed a respect for hard work, loyalty and the importance of doing work you love.
Since retiring the cow suit, Alan has worked as an engineer on many impressive projects. He has designed and built automated machinery and equipment that is used to manufacture many of the items that we use in our daily lives. Some of the companies that he has contributed his engineering skills to include Apple, Caterpillar, Panasonic, and Yamaha to name a few.
In 2017 Alan started his own Engineering firm and needed machined parts for the equipment that he was building. He found the perfect partner at HD Machine in Flowery Branch, Georgia. HD Machine was able to deliver high-quality parts quickly and they had a well-deserved reputation for reliability.
Alan and HD Machine’s Owner Hong Dinh hit it off right from the start. After working on a few projects together, they decided to join forces and HD Machine & Engineering was born. Since the new company was formed Alan and Hong have continued to grow the company and build machinery that keeps their customers coming back.
On a recent trip to hand deliver a few LED Andon lights to HD Machine & Engineering. I ask Alan if he would sit for a few minutes and answer some questions about his journey from Cow Mascot to VP of Engineering.
How does what you learned working in fast food and as a mascot translate to the job you have today?
Chick-fil-A is unique and a terrific place to land the first job. They are not just famous for tasty chicken. They are known for great customer service. They instill a lot of discipline and teach the importance of a good work ethic. I give a lot of credit to my mom for making me get a job at 15 years old. She knew it would be good for me and it was. That job helped me with my confidence. I was kind of an introvert throughout grade school. Being anonymous in the cow suit allowed me to be my wild and crazy self without anyone knowing it was me. I think it freed me up a bit and let the best parts of my personality surface. We are often afraid to stretch ourselves. The cow suit defiantly stretched me.
Why do you think that you were selected to be the Cow?
The truth is no one wanted to dress as a cow. When the Manager asks for volunteers everyone looked away. Since I was new, they made me do it and I am glad they did. It was a lot of fun and made for some great stories. Working with the public and having fun in that suit was one of the best things for me in ways that I did not even realize at the time.
You look very young to be the leader of a company like HD Machine & Engineering. How do you gain the respect of others that are a good bit older than you?
That’s a great question and it has been a challenge. First off, do what you say you will do. So many people can’t be counted on.
They make promises that they do not keep. I believe that just being reliable and someone who can be trusted to look after the interest of customers, friends, and employees gains respect and trust. Even though being younger than my peers is a little challenging, it also has its upside. Lots of my customers come to me for new ideas and a fresh perspective.
The one thing I notice visiting here is that everyone seems to be working hard but also having a good time. How do you keep your people both happy and productive?
I am lucky to have some great workers here. They like to joke and cut up. I don’t micromanage and only care that we meet our goals and commitments. I encourage having fun while you work. I think it makes our team more productive and encourages good ideas. Honestly, I am here every day and would not want to do what I do if it was not fun.
You have designed and built a lot of sophisticated machinery for some very large companies. How did you get the knowledge and confidence to tackle some of these projects?
I was lucky enough to land my first job in an engineering firm that built a lot of cool equipment. The owners were fearless. they believed they could build anything. We did lots of projects that were difficult, and we ran into lots of problems. We stayed focused and never panicked (maybe a little). In the end, our equipment always worked. We also worked a lot of hours. So, I got a lot of experience in a short amount of time. Thinking back on it, I have gained something from each job that I have held.
How did you even get a chance to work for some of these larger companies? It seems that getting your foot in the door would be very difficult.
The most important thing as far as landing some of these jobs has been the friendships and relationships that I have developed. I have been recommended by people I have worked with for some of these projects. I think It goes back to the first question that you ask. Do what you say you will do. This build trusts. I have also learned that if you treat people fair, they will return the favor. Most people want to help you and I have had a lot of help along the way.
What advice would you give to young Engineers that are working their way through college?
You have to finish what you start. There are lots of pitfalls in college. Between the lack of money, the lack of time and friends wanting to go have a good time, it’s easy to get detracted and lose sight of your goals. On top of that, Engineering school is just hard. You have to just keep plugging away and stay focused. This relates back to the machinery that we build. Lots of projects are hard and there can be many reasons to say this project will not work. But I have seen time and time again that if you keep working at it, everything will turn out good. I would advise young Engineers to keep plugging away. They will get there.
What do you like to do, when you are not working?
I am engaged to be married and spend a lot of time with my sweet woman. She keeps me laughing and helps me forget whatever might be on my mind. I also have been working on a few fun projects on the side. I started a small clothing line named FUJI Athletics. The idea was to create a brand that motivates you in every aspect of life. Somewhat like a club for young adults. Its slowly grown to be a small business. I have also been working on a book which talks a little about it. The book is just in its infancy.
A book!! What is that all about?
I’ve gotten myself into fitness and have taught myself about nutrition. I have made a habit of going to the gym regularly and have been committed to fitness for years. I have tried just about everything. I keep a sketchbook where I jot down lessons I have learned and quotes that I find important. The book will be a merging of the lessons, quotes and fitness ideas that I think people can benefit from. I can’t wait to share it with you guys!
Last but not least. What has your experience been like working with Stack-Light.com?
We often need industrial lights for our equipment. Our lighting needs range from tower lights to work lights in our assembly area. Your website lists a broad assortment of lights that are high quality and reasonably priced. We use several of your LED work lights in our machine shop on our milling machines. We also use your LED tower lights on most of the machinery that we build. Since you are located less than 20 miles away and keep your products in stock, I can get a light quick, if I need to. The other thing I would say about Stack-Light.com is that you have a great team. The folks at your office are always super helpful. I often talk to Erin over there and she is terrific to work with. My experiences with your company have been excellent.