KMC Engineers have "The Knack" ... and a rich life beyond the cubicle

 Posted by Patty Duffey and Gail Jones

October 23, 2012

Engineers are sometimes lightheartedly teased for their intense and intuitive focus on solving or fixing mechanical and electrical things, as mimicked here in "The Knack." Yet, many of our engineers also excel at taking on new challenges and activities beyond work with confidence and ease.

From home schooling four children, coaching and building their own homes to beekeeping, gardening and wine-making, KMC Systems, Inc.'s engineers engage in a multitude of other pursuits.

The company’s policy of every other Friday off enables many to expand upon their external interests. Some believe their life outside of work makes them even more productive at their jobs.

Below is a glimpse of four employees who bravely shared how they use their time off to the fullest extent. Collectively, they have more than thirty hobbies and each is passionate about both their professional and personal lives.

4 Engineers
From Left to Right: Eric Yeaton, Kathie Breen, Trisha Bouthot, and Phil Hills

Eric Yeaton, Senior Mechanical Engineer

Eric, who has been with KMC for more than five years, has numerous hobbies that keep him super busy after work hours. Following his great grandfather’s favorite past-time back in the 1920’s, Eric added backyard beekeeping to his list of passions two years ago. Now, Eric clearly has bee fever.

 “I love my bees,” Eric boasted. “I love watching them, love how they help the community, and love learning as much as I can about them.”

Eric is a founding member of the Capital Area Beekeepers Association (CAVA) in Concord, NH, an organization that supports local beekeepers with successful hive maintenance techniques and training, and helps advance apiculture, the study of bees, throughout the state. A big focus on swarm suppression techniques helps keep the queen bees nearby so the hives can thrive.

His previous accomplishment in building his own log cabin in only nine-months helped him set the stage for his new bee passion. A hands-on craftsman and avid outdoorsman, Eric makes the boxes and beehives himself. Initially, he purchased three boxes of bees (10,000 per box) to start building his three colonies, which now include one with 30,000 bees, another with 10,000 bees and a third just started. One tough task is to find the queen bee, which can be likened to finding Waldo. The “queen” lays 1,500 eggs a day so he looks for the eggs (which look like rice granules) to locate her.

Eric can spin off many bee facts and says there is a lot to learn about how bees behave and forage, swarm, and guard their colonies. As an example, he indicated it takes two million blossoms to make a pound of honey and bees visit the blooms and fly 50,000 miles to produce 400 pounds of honey a year. 

Even though it is a natural and mostly healthy event, swarming is the activity Eric fears the most as it entails the natural reproductive cycle of the queen bee leaving with other worker bees to reproduce other honey colonies elsewhere. To Eric that means one day he could have 30,000 bees in one hive and the next day find an empty hive with no bees in sight. To date, he has experienced swarming with two of his colonies leaving with the queen bee. At any one time, he has 40,000 bees foraging.

This month Eric came in second place at the Deerfield Fair for his honey and scored 98/100, losing only two points due to the presence of a few crystals and a slightly elevated sugar level.

Eric enjoys the fruits of his labor, drizzling his bees’ honey on everything from toast and pork chops to ice cream. Sharing it with family and friends also brings him joy.

The best part about beekeeping for Eric is his connection with nature and love for his own property. Not only does Eric manage his three beehives, but he also hunts for deer and turkeys in his own backyard.  He also has a shooting range onsite where he practices in preparation for competitive shooting events.

Eric shares his country life with his wife and two-year-old son. The story of his courtship has a fun twist. He first met his wife, who is fours days apart in age from him, when he was in fourth grade. She lived next door to him, although they attended different schools.  Their first play date invite back then did not go so well. He asked her to go biking with him, but she turned him down. Later in life, they were re-introduced through a mutual friend, bringing them together now in relishing Eric’s love of the outdoor world.

Trisha Bouthot, Electrical Engineering Manager

Trisha Bouthot models multi-tasking as a busy mother, career executive, coach, athlete, and wife. Rising at 5 o’clock each morning, she eases into the day, grabs a cup of coffee, scans the news headlines and charges up her energy for the work ahead. Despite all that she does, getting a good night’s sleep remains a top priority. Her other priority is mastering the work-life balance.

Trisha has been with KMC for six years and in 2011 was promoted to the position of Electrical Engineering Manager and is also the Program Manager for the Nautilus instrument development program.

Over the last three years, she has been working on her master’s degree in systems engineering, through a satellite program at WPI. She attended classes on Wednesday evenings for four hours and just finished her degree three weeks ago. Studying had to be squeezed in between all the other family activities and after her daughters, ages 5 and 8, were tucked in bed at night. Since graduating, she has enjoyed some relaxing TV nights and catching up on best-sellers of the last three years.

Her daughters are very active with school, dance classes and competitive soccer. Every day requires a lot of coordination, with mapping out the week’s events often becoming a challenging and time-consuming task. With the help of her husband, they are able to manage it with extreme calm. 

Also, an avid soccer player, Trisha plays in a women’s 35-and over indoor, recreational league October through June. While the team, dubbed “The Housewives of Epsom, NH,” has only won one game this season, the players all have the passion and commitment to win a few more games. Trisha contends she is a competitive player, determined to get the team’s rankings higher.

Trisha’s husband, a teacher, is assistant coach for their older daughter’s soccer team, while Tricia is the assistant coach for their five-year old daughter’s team. Practices, games, driving, and carpools become part of every day’s activities.  

Her biggest challenges are “Making time for myself, and not having as much me time.” Her finely-tuned time management skills and supportive husband who “jumps in with both feet” help her succeed.

Additionally, she attributes KMC’s family-friendly workplace culture as part of her support system.

Many women struggle to balance work and life, but Trisha’s well-constructed plan to live “a day at a time” makes is all seem effortless. According to Trisha, “Nobody has to give up what they love to do.” 

 Engineer hobbies

 Philip Hills, Senior Electrical Engineer

At age 11, Phil, frustrated by his science teacher’s inability to answer a question, knew one day he would homeschool his own children. In fact, it was a requirement in proposing to his wife years later that she would agree to educate their children together versus through a traditional classroom. They trained at the Home School Conference and became members of the Christian Home Educators of New Hampshire. 

Today, their children are ages 18 through 25. The two oldest, both boys, are in the Coast Guard. His third child, a daughter, works in a veterinary hospital after completing nursing school and hopes to work in international relief medicine. His youngest daughter lives at home, attending college locally to study hospital administration.

Home schooling led Phil to create many of his own hobbies.

“I would ask my children to express an interest and then we would go and do it,” Phil explained.  “When you homeschool children, you have a tight-knit family. When one learned something, the others joined in.”

One of his son’s, 10-years-old at the time, wanted to learn revolutionary war reenactment. Phil joined him, later serving as captain of the Third New Hampshire Regiment, in which his wife and children are also members. His wife sews most of their uniforms.

He renewed his EMT license following another son’s interest in the subject, and is now on the First Aid Team at Elbit Systems, often leading the training of employees. All four of his children are trained EMTs, who serve on his town’s rescue squad.

When another child became a pilot after applying for a Civil Air Pattrol scholarship after high school, Phil joined him by being awarded his own scholarship from a lottery drawing for pilot training from Elbit/Kollsman. Kollsman, founded with a focus on aircraft instrumentation, thought it advantageous for engineers to understand aviation. “So, after 30 years, from first being interested in learning to fly after college, I fulfilled my dream and became a pilot as well,” Phil remarked. “Two years ago, for fun, I rented a plane, and flew with my son to the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut and back.”

Phil later became an amateur radio operator (Ham), holding the highest level license of Amateur Extra following another son’s interest. His wife and all his children are now Hams.

One of his proudest independent achievements was the building of his own 3,000 square-foot, 2.5 stories, four-bedroom home, without borrowing any money. Managing a large project of that size helps Phil handle many technical tasks at KMC, where he has worked for the past six years.

“I did it all myself except I contracted out the digging and side work, as I needed scaffolding,” Phil said, adding he did some hire out some contractors like a plumber initially to get started, but always completed the task on his own.

“My children say my hobby is collecting hobbies,” Phil joked. “I love to keep learning and trying new things.” 

Asked how he finds the time for all his passions, Phil explained he watches no professional sports as he prefers doings things himself versus watching others do them. And he created a time management tool which he calls a “to-ignore list.” 

“There are seasons in life when we must concentrate on certain things, but in order to do so, we must also choose to de-emphasize other things,” Phil explained. “So, I make conscious decisions to put things in the ‘to-ignore’ list. For example, when building the house, all weekends, vacation and even holidays were spent with the whole family working on the house.” 

Later, when his oldest son was planning to leave for college, he postponed working on the home focusing instead on concentrated family time, hiking, sailing and vacationing in Colorado and Arizona. Now that most of his children have moved out, Phil is slowly putting more finishing touches on the house.

 Kathie Breen, Software Quality Assurance Manager

Co-workers are likely to see fresh flowers on Kathie’s desk every Monday morning, most of them hand-picked from her garden. Gardening kept her involved with her children when they were young, some of those years as a single working mother before she later remarried.

When her children, now ages 25 to 43, were little she would give them each their own garden plot and buys plants for them to nurture. With little free time for herself as a young mother, she was determined to make the most of her busy life. “You have to find your joy in what you can work with,” she advised.  “If you find something you enjoy doing, bring your kids into that activity so you feel you have a life too.”

Gardening continues to help Kathie professionally as well. “Gardening is relaxing for me,” she remarked. “I don’t take music out. When I weed, I solve problems. It’s quiet. I am with myself, my mind is clear, which helps me at work.” Kathie manages a six-person department at KMC Systems, Inc. She also has worked as both a systems and software engineer in other positions during her 15 years at the company.

The flowers she brings to work extend her joy. “Flowers to me are happy, cheerful and make me think of outside sunshine, warm days and all the good things about life,” she said, adding, “Plus I like having color around me.”

Now that her children are older, Kathie just completed one of her own dreams: getting a master’s degree in systems engineering, just to enjoy being back at school as a middle-age adult focused on learning. She also does yoga, pottery, helps her husband with his wine-making hobby and loves hiking the White Mountains.

“I am very goal-oriented and have never needed a lot of sleep,” Kathie said. “The guys tease me at work saying I act like I’m 30 because I have a lot of energy. I never get sick.”

Like Phil, Kathie was moved by a classroom experience, albeit in later years as a mother visiting her child’s third or fourth grade classroom on career day. She was “horrified” to observe the girls called “honey” and “dear,” and see their belongings left in neat piles. The boys, on the other hand, were called by name and had their stuff thrown all over the floor.  She later called the teacher urging her to teach these young girls of their unlimited possibilities and that they are not helpless.

“I raised very strong daughters, who know they are strong and capable,” Kathie noted.  “Women should do whatever it is they want.”

Together, these four KMC engineers show the unique ways they balance work with family--and how they bring their passion for life to all they do.

Topics: Medical Instrument Rapid Product Development, KMC360, IVD instrument development program, Medical instrument Design, KMC Systems, medical device design