Steve Lacaj is a mechanical engineer based out of New York City with over a decade’s worth of experience in his chosen field. Steve graduated from a top engineering school with a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, following that up by earning a master’s degree in the same discipline. He has worked on various projects throughout his career, ranging from designing and developing new products to optimizing manufacturing processes for increased efficiency.
In his most recent role, Steve was responsible for leading a team of engineers in the development of new products for a global manufacturing company. He played a key role in improving the quality and reliability of the products, which resulted in increased sales and customer satisfaction. Steve’s technical expertise includes proficiency in CAD software, detailed knowledge of a wide variety of manufacturing processes, and several years of experience in project management.
In his free time, Steve Lacaj enjoys hiking and spending time with his family.
How have you achieved success?
I’ve achieved success in my career through hard work, networking, and always keeping an eye out for new opportunities. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, I think each of these three elements are equally important. Hard work is sort of self-explanatory. You have to love what you do, you have to be diligent, and you have to put in the requisite hours to become an expert in your chosen field. However, there is a limit to how much working hard will do for your career if no one notices or recognizes your efforts. That’s where networking and staying vigilant for new opportunities come into play. To some degree, you have to put yourself out there, introduce yourself to your peers and potential employers and clients, and sell yourself. If you can do that successfully, new opportunities are bound to present themselves, and then all you have to do is seize the ones that interest you.
What are some of the obstacles you’ve overcome to reach the level of success that you’re particularly proud of?
During the first few years after I graduated from college, I had a bit of a tough time implementing my own advice from the previous answer. I was a good mechanical engineer—I knew my stuff—but I was shy. I overcame that obstacle simply by gathering my nerve and forcing myself to deal with social situations. Each time I did that, it became slightly easier. Now, I’m at the point where not only do social situations no longer bother me at all, I actually enjoy and look forward to them.
What drives you to succeed?
Beyond providing a good life for my family, I take great pride in every aspect of my work. Additionally, there’s a sense of responsibility very specific to my profession. After all, as a mechanical engineer, I’m responsible for designing, creating, and assembling a lot of large, complicated pieces of equipment for factories, power plants, manufacturing centers, and heavy industry in general. If I get a detail wrong, the people who operate that equipment might get hurt. I take that possibility very seriously, so I always aim to do my absolute best, and I quadruple check my work before signing off on its use.
How has your definition of success changed over the years?
I guess my definition of success changes a little bit with the completion of each project I undertake. Every project has its own criteria and parameters for what constitutes success, and I pay special attention to these from the outset all the way through to the implementation stage. My definition for overall success is to keep my family healthy and happy, provide financially for their future, improve my professional reputation, keep working on projects that I enjoy, and carve out some time for at least one long hike in nature per week.
What has achieving success meant to you?
I won’t deny that it’s helped my bank account. Perhaps more importantly though, each success has improved my reputation as a professional. I say that might be more important because, in many ways, one’s reputation is currency much more so than currency itself, in that a good reputation leads to much more work—and usually better paying work, at that.
Do you have advice for others on how to be successful?
Sure. My personal philosophy for career growth is a pretty simple one, but it’s proven effective. First, get a quality education in a field that has promising prospects. Second, apply yourself totally to learning—and not just in college or graduate school, but for your entire life. Third, help people whenever you can. What goes around comes around, so the old saying goes. People who you’ve helped are much more likely to help you should you ever find yourself in need of assistance. Fourth, always think critically about important decisions. Don’t just take someone’s word for something that might affect you greatly in the future. That’s it. That’s my formula for success.
How do you feel a person reaching their definition of success affects their outlook?
I think successful people are generally a pretty open-minded group, which makes sense. It’s probably out of necessity because successful people always have to adapt to changing situations. Anyhow, that being the case, it would seem to me that successful people probably change their outlook all the time for any number of reasons, one of which would likely be the achievement of a major goal or set of goals. For my part, upon reaching my own definition of success, I became more optimistic about the future. At that point, it felt like I could accomplish anything I put my mind to. It was a wonderful feeling, and one I’m continuously trying my best to recapture
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