Alumni Spotlight: Jackie Ammons

Jackie Ammons graduated in 2015 with a degree in biological engineering and a concentration in environmental engineering. She currently works as a hydraulic components engineer at Caterpillar, Inc.

What brought you to the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering?

Many generations of the Ammons family were raised as Wolfpack fans and attended school at NC State, including me. I knew all along that I wanted to go to school at NC State, but I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do. Keeping up with family history, I was soon inspired by my dad as he graduated from the BAE program in 1980. After going to one of the info sessions for the engineering department I knew my background in agriculture had led me to the right path of choosing BAE. I quickly began to love the BAE program, but I was torn on what to do with my degree. The engineering courses focus on drawing, Autocad and modeling, but through other courses, and Dr. Boyette bringing in professionals from different industries, I realized there is more to engineering than drafting and modeling. I focused on what I knew I was good at – talking to people, managing my time and work, and continuing to use my technical background.

Did you take part in any undergraduate research or internships?

I had several internships and participated in various undergraduate research projects. I worked with Dr. Hunt and Jonathan Page in stormwater research helping with BMP work around the Triangle and Fayetteville areas. I had a summer internship with the small grain breeding department at NC State assisting in their wheat breeding program specifically. I also worked for the Biltmore Estate assisting the veterinarians, working in the horse stables, and frequently helping with anything agriculture-related. During my time in school, I worked as a lab technician and was involved in ASABE during my 4 years at NC State.

My first job out of school with Livingston & Haven sparked interest in the career field of fluid power and led me to my current job. During my time with the company, I received focused training in fluid power certification and supplier and vendor training leading to a solid understanding of what it’s like to work in a fluid power industry. Just seeing the wide variety of ways fluid power touches a piece of our everyday lives through manufacturing is what got me hooked. I wanted to be in the hydraulic field but had a desire to work primarily with construction and mobile machinery, thus shaping me into a hydraulic engineer today with Caterpillar.

What is the most important experience or understanding you gained in BAE?

Getting involved with clubs and extracurriculars in the BAE community is important as it leads to meeting influential people. I was involved with ASABE in a leadership role for 3 years and served as President my last year. We had the opportunity to attend several regional conferences and run for regional ASABE offices – this is what I feel really set me up for success. In addition to the extracurriculars within BAE, I was extremely motivated by my senior design course with Dr. Boyette because he is passionate about the work he does and wants each of his students to succeed. One of my favorite things in his course was when he would bring in BAE alumni to share their experiences and give real life examples of how to use what we’re learning in the real world, whether it’s a patent attorney, a designer, or someone in sales. I will always be a big supporter of BAE and will continue to encourage students to look into the program if they want a well-rounded engineering degree from N.C. State.

Tell us about your current position.

I am a hydraulic engineer at Caterpillar, Inc., I currently work at the Caterpillar design center in Clayton, NC, alongside over 250 engineering and purchasing professionals supporting all globally produced product lines. Caterpillar is the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines and diesel-electric locomotives. Within Caterpillar, I work in the Building Construction Products Division, supporting the company’s line of small, versatile construction machines and work tools. In my role, I support all of the machine groups within the division including mini-hydraulic excavators, wheel loaders, skid steers, bulldozers, and work tools. I work with hydraulic systems engineers to identify and source components specific to their machine from our supplier, serving as a liaison between Caterpillar and our global network of hydraulic suppliers. Strong communications and a thorough understanding of how each machine works with the operation of the hydraulic system are critical in my job. This role is unique to Caterpillar, as I enjoy working alongside many groups throughout the company, performing a variety of different tasks in areas including project management, supplier support and even purchasing.     

What are you most proud of so far in your career?

The most fulfilling thing in my role is being able to continuously learn. I work daily with people that are from different countries in Europe, China, Japan, India and South America. I’m learning new things about hydraulic components, that’s the obvious one, but I’m also learning about different cultures and learning how to work with people in different time zones with different viewpoints. I also love having the opportunity to travel to these places and connect with people face to face.

How did BAE help you in your career?

I believe that BAE helps prepare you for the real world. You have the opportunity to become involved with different relevant life experiences and join clubs like Pack Pullers and ASABE. Taking on a leadership role with ASABE, I gained the experience of collaborating with professionals from different companies by planning professional development events and scheduling/leading various meetings. This also taught me the skill of public speaking and presenting to a large group, which I feel makes you a better engineer. In the BAE program, the coursework is very diverse and uses mechanical, agricultural, electrical, materials science and chemical engineering – that along with hands-on experience in real-life scenarios is what makes you a desirable engineer and a good candidate for various career fields.

What advice do you have for current BAE students?

My biggest piece of advice is to get involved with as many extracurriculars as you have time for. Being an engineering student can be time-consuming but going above and beyond your typical workload is what will get you that first interview as you begin your career. Check out the BAE clubs, play intramurals, work with your professors. I enjoy still going to see my professors I had when I attended school. The students, professors, and others I met in BAE are now lifelong friends that I’ll have forever. Enjoy it!