Alum tells students to CLIMB

Joshua Vissers/Daily Mining Gazette Kevin Moran, now the lead mechanical designer at H3D Gamma, speaks to students from his alma mater at Michigan Technological University during the recent Five Under 35 event.

HOUGHTON — Recently, Michigan Technological University (MTU) invited five of its young and accomplished alumni to return and speak as part of its Five Under 35 event.

One of the speakers was Kevin Moran, a 2010 mechanical engineering graduate who now works as lead designer at H3D Gamma. H3D Gamma designs and builds spectrometers for detecting and locating gamma radiation for security, health and environmental purposes.

Moran centered his talk around the acronym CLIMB and related it to photos he took while climbing Mount Denali in Alaska.

He said MTU gave him climbing lessons. The first letter stood for commitment.

“When you commit, there are unknowns,” Moran said.

Climbing Denali was a “complete and total hip-shot” according to Moran. He had not climbed a mountain before but had been awestruck by Denali during a trip he took shortly after graduation. Denali’s peak has a lower elevation than Mount Everest, but the climb is actually higher from the mountain’s base. Moran felt he had to climb it, and four years after first viewing Denali, he was accepted to join a team making an attempt. He said he thought his experience at MTU, struggling through the snow in a wheelchair after sustaining injuries playing club hockey, probably contributed to getting accepted.

The L in CLIMB stands for learning. At MTU, Moran learned one of his strengths was building things.

“I almost snapped my feet off,” he said, showing a photo of a nail-gun-powered pogo stick he built.

The I stands for innovating.

“I’ve done a lot of dumb things,” Moran said.

However, he said that sometimes things other people say are dumb or impossible are not. Sometimes those people cannot see the possibilities.

Finding meaning in work is important to Moran, too, which is why the M is for meaningful.

“It answers why,” he said. “There’s reasons to keep going.”

At Moran’s other jobs, he felt he was mainly working for the paycheck, but at H3D Gamma, everything he does is to protect someone’s life from radiation or other threats.

The last letter, B, is for be uncomfortable.

“There is no comfort zone on Denali,” Moran said.

He said leaving your comfort zone is important to making progress. He said in his past he has often done uncomfortable things, like climbing Denali in freezing weather, but they all seem “pretty normal” to him now.

There are two phrases that Moran also hates hearing from students. The first is: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” which he said is an excuse for not trying hard.

“Stop working to know someone and start working to be someone to know,” he said.

He also does not like: “Work smarter, not harder.” He thinks both are a good idea.

Finally, he said, do not be afraid to make a mistake, and take ownership of one if you do.

“They’re not going to eat you if you screw up in the professional world,” he said.