skip to main content

Podcast: Engineering is Rhythm with Mark Van Den Avont

Podcast: Engineering is Rhythm with Mark Van Den Avont

3/6/2020 Maddie Rice

 

The pod is back! This time, with junior in Mechanical Engineering and HexNest founder Mark Van Den Avont. Mark and Maddie talk about founding a startup as a freshman in college, achieving a healthy work/life balance, meditation tips, and how much they hate ASMR.

Listen on Soundcloud, Stitcher, and Apple Podcasts!

Transcript: 

Maddie
Welcome to Engineering is Blank, a Granger College of Engineering network podcast where we get to the root of STEM with Grainger engineering students. I'm your host, Maddie rice and today I'm joined by Mark Vanden Avon.

Yay. How are you, Mark?

Mark
 I'm good. How are you Maddie?

Maddie
I'm doing great. I'm doing great. Thanks so much for coming out in our new digs for the podcast.

Mark
Yeah It's good to be here. It's a nice place.

Maddie
It is a nice place. You guys can't see it, so use your imagination. But hopefully you can hear the difference in the quality of this podcast. Yeah, I'm excited. This is not really a new season, but we've been on break for a while, sir. It’s our first one back in the semester, so I'm excited to get started. How's your, like, time back this semester been so far? 

Mark
 It's been nice.

Maddie
Yeah?

Mark
It’s been, uh like a interesting--last semester was interesting for me rather, I had like a lot of classes that were just kicking my butt and this semester I wised up, and I'm getting to like be a person again, which is really nice. 

Maddie
That’s always good to be a person. (laugh) That’s a good thing to be. 

Mark 
Like, see my friends. I like laugh and like, hang out like
 
Maddie
That's good. 

Mark
And watch TV. 

Maddie
Little stressful last semester. Yeah, yeah. Would you say it's always like that, first semester is more stressful?

Mark
I don't know. I took four lab classes last semester.

Maddie
 Oh my gosh.

Mark
 So that was just-- 

Maddie
Is that even allowed?

Mark
 Apparently, no one no one said anything. My advisor was just like

Maddie
Did you overload?

Mark
 No, I took it was only a 13 credit hours. But it was just all like super hard classes.

Maddie
Oh my gosh

Mark
 Which is a bad call So I'm taking like 16 or 17. And my life is so much better because I'm taking no labs

Maddie
Really?

Mark
I'm just coasting. It makes no sense to me how I can take more credit hours--

Maddie
The number doesn’t really reflect the workload I guess. So what is--what is your major and your year?

Mark
I’m in mechanical engineering and I'm a junior

Maddie
a junior in mechanical engineering, cool. Do you have a minor or is it just...?

Mark 
It depends. So I'm on track right now to get a like a material science minor.
 
Maddie
Okay. 

Mark
But I don't know if I want to.

I can either graduate early or get a minor.

Maddie
Oh, sure that’ll--

Mark
And so I’m like kind of balancing it.

Maddie
Yeah. You've got a little bit of time to figure it out I guess.

Mark
 Yeah. 

Maddie
Well, that's good. So... you said you're in how many classes now? Because that’s about like, 15 credit hours?

Mark  
I think it's 15 (?). I think it's like five,

Maddie  
Five classes. What are you taking right now you think? Like your favorite class

Mark
Favorite. Oh, I'm in. I mean, EB it's a cross listed. 41. It's biomechanics, whole body biomechanics, whole body biomechanics.

Maddie
 Yeah.

Mark
And so one of the deans of mechanical engineering, which is like my, obviously my program is teaching it. She's like, an amazing person, I actually just came from that class really she’s like, so energetic and like really interesting. 

Maddie
That's awesome. 

Mark
And it's like structured really intelligently. Like a lot of classes will just go and if we're going to learn biology will just like start learning biology. 

Maddie
Yeah.

Mark
 But she's like giving us the tools to actually be doing like research like in the field. So like, we're doing like, weird we were doing like signal processing last week, which  like, shouldn't be in a bio class

Maddie
Right

Mark
 But you need to do it if you ever doing the type of research that we were learning about, like, the week before. So it's like, it makes sense. That's all holistic. And it's like, giving me the tools I want.

Maddie  
Holistic is a good word. One of my favorites, actually. So do you think bio and research is something you want to do Post college so did that like wheelhouse of things are doing in this class, or is it just cool to learn about now?

Mark
Yeah, definitely. It's like super applied to what I'm doing.

Maddie
Okay. Which is what? 

Mark
 I started a company a couple years ago, developing impact attenuation equipment, it's called fancy word for it cool. The folks at home might know what is gymnastics mats

Maddie  
Okay, I'm going to use the word gymnastics mats for now. But that's awesome. So how did you get involved in that? 

Mark
Yeah so actually my senior year of high school, I decided it'd be fun to join the gymnastics team. Mm hmm. And then, like, I made it like a month and a half. I was like, having a great time, and then I broke my spine. 

Maddie
Oh my gosh. 

Mark
I like, I'm fine now. 

Maddie
So okay, that's good. 

Mark
It's not a video. This is a podcast. Like if you saw me, you'd be like, you wouldn't have any idea.

Maddie
 Yeah, totally. Goodness. 

Mark
But like, yeah, I'm like, happy like, I lifted weights today. I'm like living a normal life. But that's intense, it like, scared me. You know? Like, 18 

Maddie

Yeah,

Mark
 Senior High School was like, everyone's like, second semester, everyone's like, checking out just like doing whatever they want, like, not going to class or you know, and I decided instead of doing that, I'm going to like, add more things to my schedule. And as a result, I break my spine. Gosh, not everything is bad, not everything's good. And somehow breaking your spine turned into like a super cool, like, experience for me and it helped me start my own company.

Maddie  
Wow. So you started that company when you were a freshman?

Mark  
Yeah, it was like October Yeah, I caught. We don't really have an official like founding date. But like around October, November, my freshman year, I started working on it pretty heavily.

Maddie 
That's super early. That's so cool. You can get involved so early like that. And what like two months into the year?

Mark 
I spent a lot of time like around the entrepreneurship community like here on campus. And in the last like two or three years, I've noticed it tech younger, like, pretty significantly, and I went through some of the programs and I was like hanging out with grad students like upperclassmen. And now like I go to like the same events or this, and like I see the people that are there, and they're just like me now they're all like underclassmen, or like the grad students are now the upperclassmen. And like, everything shifted, so everyone's younger. So I don't want to say I started that trend but I was the hipster of young entrepreneurs. 

Maddie
You can say it 

Mark
At Illinois.

Maddie 
Yeah, you're a hipster of young entrepreneurs. So are there programs on campus that you found or that you, found you maybe that helped you get started,

Mark
There's a lot of them. It's kind of a messy thing to look in from, like the outside perspective, as I've learned after, like, explain to other people. But there's essentially like three or four main programs and organizations that like a young, ignorant founder like me, could use when they're like starting out, like, take those first few steps.

Maddie
So what are those first few steps? How do you start how you go from idea to an actual product more or less? 

Mark
Yeah, depends on like what you are struggling with. So for me, early on, like I wasn't working on it with anybody. So I spent a lot of time like trying to find someone to work with it. So there's like an event called social fuse where you go and you get to pitch your idea, which is super good. The most important thing when you're starting a company, in my opinion, is to explain it to other people. Because like I'm, anyone is incapable of like doing anything on their own. You can't like convince other people to help you and especially like, help you for free because like you're like engaging and like lovable and all those good things. Like no one's ever going to help you

Maddie
Right 

Mark
And so like learning to sell yourself in like a wholesome and honest way is like so, so important from day one. So that's really helpful that way. But it also social fuse helps you like meet other entrepreneurs.

Maddie
Okay

Mark
 Unfortunately, I never met anyone that I wanted to start like my company with, but like, going through that program is like a really good first step to, like get your company started, like on campus.

Maddie  
That's cool, that’s great. Did you--are you still working mostly just you on this project? Are you do you have a good team now? That's been a couple years.

Mark  
Yeah, there's a good chunk of us now actually working on this. So there's five interns. We have an adult he lives in the city of Chicago and he does a lot of the marketing branding.

Maddie
We have an adult.

Mark 
He graduated MBA last year.

Maddie
Okay. Okay, so he's not, yeah, an adult adult.

Mark 

 He's not like we joke. He's good. I just, I just turned 21 and a couple months ago, used to always joke that he's like, he's an old man, and I'm like a little child.

Maddie
That's so fun. So if he lives in Chicago, Are you guys having like meetings all the time over FaceTime and stuff? 

Mark
We’re yeah, so like FaceTime is really like an important tool. And we like stand for a lot. Recently, though, it's been a ton of engineering work for us. We've been kind of like bogged down by that recently. And so we've sort of pulled back I'm, like, are like, like, we don't talk every day. And we like talking enough to like, keep a relationship going. Because like, that's extremely important.

Maddie
Right? That is extremely important, like a connected thing. Yeah. So there's what like,
6, 7 of you then?

Mark
Yeah, it's sort of a nebulous number. People always ask me how many people are working on it. It's like, probably hundreds of people have touched it. Like in somehow, like, I go up and I talked to a professor at the end of class one day, and then like, she tells me something crazy important. And then that helps me with my research for the next like, couple weeks, 

Maddie
Okay

Mark
Like we have advisors that like, we send updates to and they're like, give us feedback on our process or i’ll like cold call someone and like talk to them. So like, it's honestly hundreds of people that have helped us. And like, depending on where you draw the line of like, are you on the team? Or are you not? 

Maddie
Right? 

Maddie
It's like, at least six that are actively working on it right now. But like, you could make the case for like 10 or 15.

Mark
Crazy. That's fun, though. So You're not giving out like, staff jackets or anything?

Mark
No

Maddie
But you're you’ve got a solid group behind you.

Mark
 Yeah.

Maddie
That's kind of cool. How does it feel kind of looking at the size that Hex Nest, right?

Mark 

 Yeah.
 Excellent. I get to kind of get the name out there. So people know So yeah, how does it feel looking at where you guys are at now? And then how it started? Like, you know, three years ago, four years ago?

Mark 9:43  
Yeah. It's depends on like, how you look at it. So like, from an investor's point of view, like they may not see a whole lot of value in what we've built yet because we have like the specific milestones we want to hit. But they're like, they take about three years for us to like, get there. So as we're nearing our three year point, we're getting ready to hit some of those. But from my perspective, like we've gone, like so far, like the infrastructure that we have, we have like, the biggest thing at first was like, finding physical space to like put like to be in while I worked, like we’re making all this equipment and it's like, massive the size of like a twin size mattress. So Like freshmen, I've got a dorm, like, I don't have money, I don't know, like, people are on campus to like bum a spare room in an apartment, like, Where am I going to go? And so like, we have like an office now. Like, I don't have money to spend on this, like, how am I gonna do that? Like we have enough money to like do a work and like building up software packages that we need to use and just like practices and like meeting agendas and like all like these different like, I just call it infrastructure that like our company needs. It's taken two plus years to get to this point.

Maddie 
Mhm. What would you say is maybe one of the most challenging kind of Growing Pains of hex 

Mark
it's definitely like turning yourself into a quote unquote real company. 

Maddie
Okay

Mark
Like there's so many nuances to what makes like a fortune 500 company like function,
 right? They have all these departments of like names that when I started I wouldn't know I don't like I didn't know what accounting was, God forbid on like my first day like now tax seasons coming up and I have to make sure like, all my books are square and like, wow, filing correctly and like my corporation is like doing the right things.

Maddie
So you guys are pretty legit. I've seen you guys in Daily Illini, like the newspaper and stuff like that. For like a like a while back. What is Cozad?

Mark
So Cozad was a competition that we won. I didn't win, we got second place.

Maddie
That's not bad.

Mark
Yeah, not bad. And we lost to a couple of researchers. Most of whom were from UCLA. Okay, 
so I think that a couple people out of like this university. So maybe we I think we got first place of like U of I people.

Maddie
Totally. In my book first place. 

Mark
Yeah, that's what we said. The check didn’t cash the same though (laughs)
No. But yeah, so we got second place we won some money.

Maddie
So is it like a competition?

Mark
Yeah, so it actually I think it starts like a couple days

Maddie Really? Oh, wow. 

Mark
I wouldn't quote me on that. It's It's very, yeah, it's very googleable It's Cozad, C-O-Z-A-D. And if you have an idea, don't have an idea want to like see what's going on. You can just like show up. It's a it's more of like a teaching experience at first. Essentially, the most important thing you learn is how to talk to your customers, and like actually build something that they want, which sounds obvious, but like no one really does a great job of that when they're starting out, like learning the process of how to ask what to build
 right?
Maddie
So weird.

Mark
Yeah, it's like so important. So I'd like I went through a program through the National Science Foundation to do to, like help us learn that's called icore. And then Cozad helps a lot with that, too. 

Maddie
Okay, so Cozad do they and they give money to, like the top three ideas.

Mark
There's a lot of money flying around in different ways at the end,
 
Maddie
okay. 

Mark
And so like, you learn how to talk to your customers. And it's like meetings and classes and like, it's experiences and you're supposed to, like, go out and talk to your customers and then it culminates with like a final pitch event. Like you go there. I think last year, there were like 40 or 50 companies, they narrowed down to like less than time, we all go up on stage and meet like, present, you know, what is your company and the judges pick the quote unquote best company, however, like their rubric reflects that. And then you get prizes and a lot of times they allocate the prizes based on like what you need. So like, 

Maddie
That's good. 

Mark
If someone needs an office like and someone like donated an office they’ll like hand, that person the office. So it's really optimized--

Maddie
Like the key or something?

Mark
Yeah, well, like Yeah. So like, it'll be like a plaque that says like, you know, office space

Maddie
They don't pick up like an actual building and-- 

Mark

Yeah.
That'd be cool though..

Maddie
That’d be insane. Good for them. Yeah. So what then, what is I venture then what what would be so

Mark 
So, that's an accelerator program. 

Maddie
Okay. 

Mark 
So I don't know if anyone's heard of like Y Combinator or Hacks or like some of those like big ones? But essentially, you get a check for anything that is an I venture they're going to take like some equity of your company, and then they teach you how to grow it. So my freshman year I was the, I think, was one other freshmen that started a company. In I-Venture at that point. And they just helped me grow it helped grow the company. So they gave me $10,000 just to work. That was essentially my internship after my freshman year, like at my company. Yeah, it was like it was like an amazing experience. And it was it was funny because like, At the other, like for the other people, they were so focused on like building the company and going through the program. But that was the first time I lived like in an apartment by myself. So I had to figure out like, how do I cook dinner for myself everyday like, what? Like, what should I be buying at the grocery store? Like those are like the questions that I'm answering myself and like what I'm most nervous about. And like, all these other people have like the same issues that I'm having. I had like a very interesting experience as a 19 year old kid living by himself, not in a dorm for the first time trying to like build a company. 

Maddie
Wow. So it kind of sounds like you grew along with it.

Mark 
For sure. That's, that's probably the biggest and most important work that I've done is teaching myself how to run a company. 

Maddie
Totally. 

Mark
There's so much so many nuances to every day and like the work that we're doing, and knowing how to handle like different situations, like I've made come a long way and that's what I spend a lot of my time on is literally just like teaching myself stuff, right? But I have I've Lot of learning left to do in the next, you know, eight to 10 years it's gonna take to grow this company to like a mature size
Maddie  
Wise beyond your years it sounds 

Mark
I'm doing my best

Maddie
You're doing all right, you're doing all right here being self employed is your first internship. That's pretty good. What would you say is like a typical day in the life for you then?

Mark
Honestly, it's pretty different every day. Yeah, what I've learned to do is--, I was talking to my intern about this, just like a week or two ago, he used the word rhythm, which I really liked is like, not just like a rhythm of the day, but a rhythm of the week. And so we don't have the luxury being students of spending like 10 hours a day, on like our company, like most of the founders are spending like 80 or 90 hours a week on their company. I can realistically only spend like 30 in a given week while being like a full time student. And so that's half or third depending on like, Who else you're talking to. And so you don't get to have just a rhythm of the day my day spreads their day, you know, when you project it on to me spreads, you know, maybe a couple days. And so, 

Maddie
Okay

Mark
 I try to have sort of focuses of days. So on Mondays this semester I have a lot of my individual meetings where I talked to like the leads of projects that worked for me about like, what's going on for the next week, what's, what's your plan, etc. And that's sort of my Monday is checking in with everyone individually. Tuesday, Wednesday, like our work days, we're by ourselves, and then we all come together management talks on Wednesday nights. And then engineering meets on Thursdays and we have like another group work day on like Saturday now. And so each day has its own twists and its own flavor. And so it really just depends on like, the day is for like what I'm doing. And that's sort of been the best for my mindset. It's like so there's been a lot of studies now on like mental health of founders. It's a really Important thing that's been neglected for a while, not just in general, but also like for folks with startups. And it's really important, like if you want your company to grow, you need to have the mental fortitude to grow with it. And so I try to this rhythm is really important. I feel like amazing this semester with like this newfound rhythm,
 that's great. But that's something I'm really mindful of.

Maddie
So what do you think are the ways that you're kind of caring for yourself or spending time with yourself and checking in with yourself while you're doing all of this school work and all this work, you know, on your startup?

Mark  
Yeah, I mean, so last semester, I did a bad job. I'll be honest.

Maddie
We all do.

Mark
Yeah, it was always blips for everybody totally. But this semester, like I work out, five or six days a week, whether I'm running or lifting just to like, refresh. And then I try to like not let myself take too long of breaks during the day. That's my new thing is I won’t like, sit down and Watch TV for an hour to take a break. I'll try and just like take like a 10 minute break, refresh and then like, keep going. 

Maddie
Okay, so shorter breaks.

Mark 
Yep. 

Maddie
Working out.

Mark
 I try to meditate. I'm not great about remembering to do it though.

Maddie
I just started meditating like, I don’t know, two weeks ago?

Mark
Okay, yeah.

Maddie
How's it how do you do it? What's your me--do you have any meditating tips for me?

Mark
I get an app, especially for starting out. Do you have an app?

Maddie 
I don't, no.

Mark 
I--last year Headspace it’s like an app. It was like, for students they give you like a 90% discount. Wow. It's normally like 80 bucks a year. I think it's like seven or eight for what I paid. So like go get headspace so your a student

Maddie 
it's $30 for the whole year?

Mark 
Yeah, it's actually crazy.

Maddie
 Wow.

Mark
But in that there's like a happy like British man that talks to you. 

Maddie
Oh, that’s nice. Like I've seen ads for this I think.

Mark
 Yeah, yeah. It's like the bubbles. It almost looks like crickets like advertising. Yeah, the wireless. These happy creatures that like tell you how to relax. Really?

Maddie
Yeah, they're like It's a yes. Yeah, it's almost borderline ASMR kind of sounding guy. Yeah, if I remember correctly.

Mark
It's not though I can't ASMR like makes my hair stand

Maddie
I hate it so much, Thank you for understanding. 

Mark
Yes. No, but this the happy little British man he does. He does--It's not it's not creepy. I promise. Okay, good. For anyone worried out there.


Maddie
I've been-- how long have you been meditating for? Like, like amounts of time? Like in what increments are you meditating? You think

Mark
I almost never do it for more than 15 minutes.

Maddie
Okay. I'm still at the like five minute.

Mark
Yeah. honestly, it can be like weird to be in your own head like that. Yeah, it's like my brother tried picking up like meditation cuz he's, like been stressed recently. And he's like, Mark, I can't do it. Like Yes. Like I know, you just keep telling me to do it. But like, it's different without music. It's different without noise, even if I'm not like intentionally doing it and it's quiet and I'm working on something like I can be like in my own head. But it's a different experience when there's quite literally nothing but like you and your thoughts.

Maddie
It's a very interesting way to check in with yourself. You know, I've been doing it just like sitting on the floor of my room on a pillow and to help me kind of, it's hard to zone out. It's really hard to zone out. I remember those things in like the 90s 2000s that pictures that would only reveal themselves if your eyes kind of zoned out and then you could lose everything. Mentally doing that is like impossible. Yeah, so that's hard. That's a big hurdle for me, but I've been using like a candle in front of me and kind of like staring at that until I zone out a little bit.

Mark
It's like a special type of meditation, right? The candle meditation.

Maddie 
Maybe I don't know Am I doing something cool and i didn’t know? That's a thing. Oh, good for me. I guess I can do that then.

Mark 
No, but the app is I think really good for like beginners out there. I'm still very much a beginner. But like, it helps me know what to think about it like zone out and like, for the first they like courses that they had space had that I like went through, and like the first like week and a half like you don't even Like really meditate, there's just like a guy talking to you and he's like telling you like, it's okay to do this or like, make sure to try not to do that. He's like teaching you like the skills that you can actually meditate and not like, freak out and like, stop.

Maddie
Yeah, I feel like just start new and maybe I did this wrong just like starting it was hard.

Mark
Yeah, no, it's really hard.

Maddie
It's like a nighttime thing for you, does it help you, like get ready for bed, like a middle of the day, like kind of reenergize? They're

Mark
I’m actually not good about doing it right now really trying to get back in the swing. But I'll just do it when I'm like really stressed out or if I like have like a big homework assignment do and I'm just not in the mood. Let's like sit down meditate for like 15 minutes,

Maddie
Like at work or in your own office or we're,

Mark
uh, I've been doing homework in my apartment recently. Okay, just probably not good for like, you know, I don't know,  I don'-- not as productive as I would like to be at my day. But like, I'll go into my room, shut the door, like, turn off. Just put my headphones in, just like meditate for 15 minutes. And it's just like enough to like, wake you up. That's nice. Like other people power nap and I've been trying to like when other people would like pull a power nap.

Maddie
 I need to switch from the nap to the

Mark 
I've tried napping people telling me it's like the greatest thing. It's like hours. I cannot--

Maddie   
If I’m tired I'll sleep for so long

Mark 
There's no 10 minutes for me.

Maddie 
Me do 100% agree and the ASMR thing does not do me any favors at all. So I had to find my own ways. Are you are you like a breakfast person? Are you like a morning shower person? No, definitely not. Not neither.

Mark
No, I'm not really a night person or a morning person. It's like crazy to people. I cannot get out of bed in the morning. But then at night I don't want to go to bed but I'm not sharp. Like I'm sharp. I'm like mentally aware once I'm like I've started my day. And it's hard for me to get going and so like it's like willpower in the morning. And then like at nighttime I try not to work that's when I like oftentimes will be doing work. But like I can feel like my brain not like firing fully

Maddie 
I like 100% no way You mean the like slow decline , it's like a pencil my brains like a pencil where the more I use it, I can like feel it getting more dull and I can see in the handwriting that it's just getting

Mark
You have been meditating with these metaphors. Yeah.

Maddie
Yeah, I think I'm doing the candle thing right and I didn't even know they had no staying sharp when you're tired is truly impossible.

Mark
It is impossible (laughs)

Maddie
Sorry. Sorry for anyone that's like a freshman listening. It--

Mark  
The all nighters a myth.

Maddie 
Have you pulled an all nighter?

Mark I have never like fully done an all nighter. I've gotten like two hours of sleep once 

Maddie
Totally.

Mark
 I was messed up for like a week. I'm like, I'm sensitive. Like my body like I can't mess with it. Sleep. That's what I've learned. 

Maddie
That’s good. Sleep is almost sacred in college.

Mark 
Yeah, I like I was so miserable to be around for a week after I like slept two hours and I just made up for it. Like I slept like 12 hours the next day and like, more than that the rest of the week. And like, I mean, I was just awful. I was awful to be around I

Maddie 
Did you get sick? Sometimes people get sick.

Mark
I felt horrible. I just like didn't want to do anything.

Maddie
Oh my gosh. I know last semester I know someone that we both pulled an all nighter and I was okay but he had a fever of 102 the next day you're not sick your body needs sleep maybe was like a day later. I think maybe he was up like late all week and then the nail in the coffin was that all nighter?

Mark
That was my my roommate my sophomore year. That was his favorite thing to do. He'd just be hanging out two days before exam like no I'm gonna I'll see you tomorrow like I work better like when I do an all nighter

Maddie
That’s absolute bs. That is not true.

Mark
God bless him.

Maddie 
Sorry, dude. I guess to each their own. Everyone has their own way of working but that blows my mind.

Mark  
Yeah, I tried to help him. I just--I don’t know. You gotta, you gotta just like-- we're great friends I love the guy but like I can't study with him (laughs)

Maddie
I cannot either

Mark 
“Let's work on this project” “Sure, what do you want to meet like two hours before it's due?” I'm like no.

Maddie
So we've covered your your classes, your work stuff. You kind of like checking in with yourself stuff. What do you do like just for fun just for you. I love rock climbing recently. Really? That's fun.

Mark
I've been trying to get myself to do it more. I took like an awkward break that was like in high school that's like what my friends did like on a Friday night we all go we drive like a half hour away and go to like the local rock climbing gym. We just like climb and then like that’d be out night but like I got like really good and like technically strong but like climbing once a week doesn't get you like super buff, right? And so like I could talk about climbing and like see but like, by like physique wasn't like and then of course I get in crazy good shape. I like doing gymnastics and then like instantly that's over. 

Maddie
Yeah

Mark
 But then like I didn't really climb for a while, and then I just kind of got back into it. And I actually went on a week long climbing trips throughout the South in Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.

Maddie 
For winter break?

Unknown Speaker   
Yeah, winter break.

Maddie
Wow. That's awesome. Did you go with a group of friends?

Mark
Yeah, I want with my best friend from high school also goes here. And then like the guy I'm living with next year and then a guy who doesn't climb, but just like wanted to hang out and like relax.

Maddie
That's cool. 

Mark
He had like a huge camera.

Maddie 27:32  
I was gonna I was literally about to say was he like the dedicated photographer?
Mark 
He was and he--it was his dad's camera and his dad bought in like the 90s. And at the time, it was like he said, it's like a super expensive camera. But he didn't really know how to use it. And like didn't know if it's like how well it's been maintained. It's like we have this crazy expensive piece of equipment operated by someone who doesn't know how to use it and it may or may not be maintained. And all of our photos are going on to this machine. And we're like god, I hope this camera--

Maddie  
That’s a risk. Rock climbing? Nothing. 

Mark
Yeah

Maddie
But risking losing all the photos like that.
That's the real risk


Mark
And knowing what I know now about mats and we were bouldering so that's essentially you take a bunch of like rock climbing mats out with you. And like you follow these mats. And like knowing what I know about sports mats and like, dedicated my life to it, and then now I'm like doing this outside. It's like, you have to know when to turn your brain off or just like it's okay to take a risk here and they are like, you gotta like live life.

Maddie 
Wow. That's true.

Mark 
It was like a very meta, like, not me thing to do. outside a little outside your comfort zone. Yeah, for sure. For sure.

Maddie
That's a really interesting, unique way to spend a break. But it sounds like it was fun.

Mark  
It was a blast. I needed like a break. 

Maddie
Sure. 
Mark
Yeah, just like being outside and like with no cell service. At the time. I like a pretty old phone. I just got a new one. But the battery would just like instantly die if it didn’t have like a charging pack or like plug it in, like all the time. So like my phone was both out of service and out of battery. I didn't bring my laptop. And it was great though I was on purpose like I intentionally like made those choices to just be and not worry about like life or stress, 

Maddie
Right? 

Mark
Just like climb and camp and hike and explore.

Maddie
That's amazing. Wow, what a nice reset for this new this shiny new semester you got

Mark
I know, I've been thinking a lot about it. I try not to be the person that like lives their life by New Year's resolutions slowly declines and like they're a horrible person in December and then like, all of a sudden they fix it in January. But it seems that's the way it's going this year. Anyway, they'll make fun of it, and then we do it regardless. But it's okay. It's a fun new year. 

Maddie
Um, alright, so I do have one final question. Everyone that listen to this podcast should know exactly what I'm going to ask. But every episode I ask, what is engineering in just a word or a phrase? Like a short phrase, if you can fill in that blank and engineering is how would you fill that in

Mark
I don't know I was I was actually thinking about this one ahead I listened to some of the podcasts. And I, I don't know. Everyone was like saying these like, super nice profound things. And I was like, wow, like, it's cool to, like use that word around people. But a lot of time I'm not doing engineering, it's like, feels bad, but like, I'm like managing other engineers. I don't know. I mean, it's really, uh, maybe I can say empowering to be around other engineers. 

Maddie 
OkayJust like the work you're able to do is super, super, super empowering for a lot of people, at least the work that like my team is doing nice, like, helping people. 

Maddie
Nice 

Mark
You just have to like, remember that, you know, like, it's for something that's going to take like three or four years of like you dedicating your entire life, and then you ship the product. Like, it's super, super important to like, remember the end goal because like today, like nothing's really gonna change other than like, you accomplish like the short term goal, but that short term goal Goal doesn't actually help people. You have to, like do so much work and to remember, it's empowering. I think that's like really important.

Maddie
That is important. I feel like people get kind of caught up in what they're doing day to day, and in the rhythm that you talked about, you can kind of it's great to have a rhythm, but you can get caught up in that groove, riptide of the everyday. That's a good one, empowering. That's a word that we can fill in the blank.

Mark  
Yeah There we go. Empowering

Maddie
Well, before before we go, do you have any websites or social media or anything like that, that people should keep an eye on?

Mark
Yeah, I'll actually I'll plug a position we're hiring right now go for actually, we're hiring for a market research intern to do a lot of cold calling Actually. It's not glamorous work, but it's really important. So I talked like a little while ago about super important to learn about your customers. We have one person working on it right now, but we need a second. And so if you want to apply you can go on handshake, find Hex Nest H-E-X like the shape and nest like where a bird lives. Apply for the market research intern position. And you can essentially help us do unglamorous but like crazy important stuff to actually let us help people and build the things that they want. Because that's an internal problem for every company. And you can like help us out a ton by doing so.

Maddie
Wow. Awesome. That's a great opportunity right there. 

Mark
Yeah, right there. 

Maddie
Well, that's what you get when you listen to the end of the podcast.

Mark
That's right. stay to the end. 

Maddie
Stay to the end, everybody. That's the lesson that we learned today, then so much more.
Well, guys, thanks so much for listening to Engineering is Blank. You can catch us on Fridays. And while you're at it, you can check out our other episodes on Soundcloud and catch up. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram at U of I Granger and we'll see you guys next time. Bye.