Brian Garland is a hero of industry and he unpacks his amazing journey from his childhood in the coal mines of Western Pennsylvania to the steel mills that he worked in starting at 17 years old all the way through to shop ownership and machining. At the center of his career adventures was his passion to help others and that comes out with every story Brian shares. He walks through a key headwind for industry and that is attracting the next generation which is critical to this countries success. He shares some of the improvements he's seen in the machining industry and how employers are stepping up their games to highlight the wonderful opportunities that exist.
His advice for those evaluating their careers is spot on. Go and ask others about what they do, why the love it and how can you get started. While it sounds simple too often people shy away from these conversations and Brian see's this as a great opportunity to learn about industries and about yourself.
Brian shares about his family and what he enjoys doing for fun. He's married to a wonderful wife and has 3 children plus a five year old grandson that are the center of his world. Brian is also our first ever Opera fan as you'll hear in the lightning fan. He finishes up with his personal why which centers around helping others. You'll quickly hear through this conversation how Brian's heart for helping people has lead him throughout his career and he is our hero!
Guest: Brian Garland - Machine Shop Manager at Magic Leap
Host: Chris Grainger
Executive Producer: Adam Sheets
Podcast Editor: Andi Thrower
Personal why, why do I do this?
Because I love doing it. I love making things and I love solving problems and that in turn translates into helping people, love helping people. So it's a big thing.
Welcome to EECO Asks Why a podcast that dives into industrial manufacturing topics, spotlights the heroes that keep America running. I'm your host, Chris Grainger. And on this podcast, we do not cover the latest features and benefits on products that come to market, instead, we focus on advice and insight from the top minds of industry because people and ideas will be how America remains number one in manufacturing in the world.
Welcome to EECO Asks Why. Today we have a hero episode. I'm very excited to have with me, Mr. Brian Garland, who is the CNC prototype shop manager at Magic Leap. So welcome Brian.
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Now where's Magic Leap located?
We are located in Plantation, Florida. That's our headquarters. We do have, offices in Austin, Texas, one in Sunnyvale, California. There's a couple little satellite sites, in California as well. We have a R and D center in Switzerland. So we're pretty well all over the place. So we're really happy about that.
That's great. Now in Florida, where is where's Plantation? What part of Florida is that?
South Florida. We're about three miles north of Fort Lauderdale.
Wow. Okay. Beautiful weather, I guess, year round, right?
Year round, but right now it's pretty brutal. It's super humid. Yeah.
Well, Brian, we got connected. There was a listener that actually works at Magic Leap and they connected us together. I'm very excited. That's the first time that's actually happened where just a true listener brought us together, but, maybe help us get started. Tell us about your journey to where you're at right now because that really helps us on these hero conversations. Just learn a little bit about you.
Sure. I grew up in Western Pennsylvania and Appalachian mountains, a lot of coal mining steel mill towns, back in the day. My dad had a shop in a little town, it's called Robinson. It's just was this little coal mining town and we did machining fabrication, heavy equipment repair. We did a lot of work for mining companies. Dad always had me and my brother do something in the shop, whether it was an hour or whether it was all day, whether it's sweep the floor or do something productive with whatever projects were going on. So we started working at an early age.
Right out of school I went and worked in a steel mill, one of the last running steel mills. And I call it a steel mill, technically we didn't roll any steel there, but we had foundries and big, big machine shops and starting there was 17. One of the few people that actually started in there that young and what they called lower shop, that's where we did all the finishing work of rolling mill rolls castings, different things like that.
I was there for about four years and I moved on to a manufacturing company that was closer to home, worked there till they shut down. And I went from that company to a medical research and development company. That was a very interesting job. We can talk a little bit about that as we go, but we made a lot of cool things, heart valves, pacemakers, we made a non-invasive glucose sensor. It checked your blood glucose without actually having to put a hole in you and draw blood. That was very interesting. Cancer treatment machine. So we, we were exposed to a lot of different parts of the medical field.
From there I had my own shop for awhile. That was interesting. We did a lot of work for DOD and some other folks. Went from there to a company that made building machines for anybody who would buy them. Some of our customers were in the military, but also some folks overseas. They wanted to buy these building machines. And it was an interesting, interesting setup. So you could take these machines and roll them out on a job site and build a building from scratch. Very neat. Very neat. So we can talk a little bit more about that too. It's a complicated process.
But, around the crash. There was really no work. I was out of work for about a year. And I took care of my dad for that year. He was he's disabled. So I got to see him every day. That was awesome. I mean, downside was, there was no work, but at least we got to spend that time together. And after that, I went on to Colorado. I spent five years in Colorado working, running a machine shop out there, doing the programming, a little bit engineering for them. Most of the time folks where I grew up, you spent your whole life there in that area. So it was, it was kind of unusual. And a big move, big step. And then from Colorado made it down here in Florida. I've been here for about six years.
Okay. Same company from Colorado, just now in Florida?
Nope, totally different company. So, but it was interesting. What was neat about the different moves is if you pay attention, you can pick up a lot of different ways of doing things. Learn from people that are there or for me, I like helping people. In Colorado, this, this fellow I worked with, he was awesome. Salt of the earth type of guy. And one of our big things was you bring something into the shop and I'd say, well, you know, we gotta do this and he'd say never, it'll never. And that got to be the gag. Right? Cause every time something come in, we both look at each other and say, you know, that will never work. Yes, he was, he was awesome. I miss him terribly. I just, he was a lot of fun but he spent 33 years working in oil field maintenance and repair, and just encyclopedia knowledge about oil field mechanics, pump jacks, things like that. It was quite an experience. So I do miss him. He was, he was something.
That's an impressive journey. I mean, I was writing notes to keep from the steel mill at 17. Two manufacturing facilities to medical research just jumped out like that was wow. You've been a shop owner. You've experienced that pain and agony, I'm saying you don't have more gray hair than you do. You must, hide it well. And now building machines and now to the shop manager, some of you you've really been all over the board.
Yeah. And you know, the funny thing about that. I mean, I grew up in early eighties, late seventies, early eighties. And back in the day, job hopping was considered a really bad trait. Unfortunately, with the way the trade manufacturing is going in this country, you almost have to job hop whenever you reach a certain, you know, a certain pay range. If you have a family because we started our family when we were 20 and you know, you have kids to take care of. So you have a certain pay range, need to be. You just went to the job that you to keep your, level of living in the same. I mean, it's just, you know how it is, if you have kids, you can, you have kids to take care of. And, they are not cheap and they keep getting more expensive all the time. And I don't know. But it's just that job hopping trade or the job hopping that was something that most employers would shy away from. You know, it's like, oh, this guy's not going to be committed, but now things have certainly changed.
I have, they have, from, from your standpoint, you have seen so many different industries. What are you seeing as some of the challenges out there?
Well, the big challenge is getting young folks interested in learning the trade. Most folks when they come in, especially if you bring them in for a tour of a shop, they're just super excited to see all this automated machinery and everything. All right. Okay. That's great, but to find and interest young folks and starting out on the manual side to learning some of the basics and then moving on to the CNC machines. That's the tough part. That's the tough sell.
I think there is still a perception that it's a dirty trade, right? You're going to go in there and you're just going to be filthy all day. And, and that does happen in different trades, right? Or different parts of trade when I was in Colorado and we worked on a lot of oil field things and different others. We got dirty. I mean, no doubt about it. We're cutting heavy material, even in a steel mill, you got dirty, but you're paid fairly well for it. So it's one of these things, but, it's hard to interest folks. I mean with the way the media is today and a lot, you know, all, all these other influences. I mean, it's, tough to get the kids interested. And for me I'm in the 50 plus range. I'm not going to be able to do this my whole life. Somebody's going to have to backfill and take over. It's hard. It's hard to get kids interested.
That's what we heard that too, Brian. Oh, so many guests talking about work force attrition and that skills gap and trying to get the right people in those roles. Now you've piqued my interest. When you said, when you have them come to the shop for a tour, their interest goes up. So how does that work? How do you find, is there other groups that are coming or you guys like opening, like just an open shop date? I hate to try to get people to come in. I'm curious on how that's working.
Well, unfortunately at Magic Leap we can't really let anybody in. We have a lot of sense of IP that you just can't do that. And, and that's tough because a lot of the really interesting high-tech equipment or in places like this and it's hard to let people come through. If you do DOD work, things like that, you don't want people seeing what you're working on.
I mean, that's the tough part. So, the next thing that I see, especially for us, when things get a little, little bit more on an even keel. I liked to have people from the community college come over or whatnot. If they're interested in engineering or coming through other parts of machining, you know, if they're interested in machining, have them come in and just take a look. It's hard. It really is. And now with, with the pandemic and all these other things going on, it just makes it 10 times more difficult.
We are trying, we are really trying, you brought up that, that stigma, that it's dirty work, its hard work. Dull, dirty, you know, type of stigma. It's just wrong. So yeah, I guess having these conversations is one way to break that down, right? And to bring awareness that, that it's really not that way. It's a lot of fulfillment in this type of work.
Since you brought that up, what I've noticed over the years, back in the day when I started in the steel mill there was no air quality control. They didn't turn any of the heat on until February. I feel like it had to really be cold, but that's not to say that the snow inside the building. The equipment and stuff it made a little bit of heat, but it was some rough go there for a few months, but now most facilities are very modern, right? They're climate controlled, especially if you're doing work, that is very high precision from beginning to end. Climate control is part of that.
So things have changed a lot in the industry, as far as that goes, depending on the type of work you're in. I remember when I was at the medical place in the nineties, one of the things we started getting involved in was mis-control in the shop. Cause back in the day, I mean, you look down bays where we had equipment. You'd see, you know, there's this steam smoke, coolant smoke rising off of machines. Nobody cared. I mean, that's just the way it was, but that's, that's just not how it is anymore. Everything's contained. All the machinery unless this is really, really big. Everything's covered. You've got safety, safety guarding, all that stuff. So, it's all moving in a positive direction for the better with concern for people's health and wellbeing, operator's wellbeing.
And it's so important. And let's imagine that we're at a career fair at that community college here in Florida. Maybe you're at the front room, or just a sidebar conversation with a group of people who are interested to learn about you know, CNC, prototype, type of work that you do. What advice would you give them?
I would say, if you like this sort of thing, do a little more research on it, there's a lot of different offshoots to what we do. I mean, there's medical, there's defense. There's just a ton of different things you can do now. Look at the newer technologies they have. I've been pretty forward over, over my career. Just for example, going from steel mills and things like that to medical device, research and development. Don't be afraid to go ask somebody say, Hey, what do you do? Can I come see? I mean, for me, if somebody came in the front door, "Hey, can I see your shop," or whatever? You'd have to make arrangements, but I'd be flattered. So yeah, come see. I mean, I'll show you what we do, you know, you might be interested and even if it doesn't necessarily interest you in say machining or what we do, maybe it'll interest you in engineering or something.
I mean, we have a fellow here he's in the 60 range. I was having a conversation with one of my superiors and we're trying to move him into more of a design role and not necessarily be standing in front of a machine programming. And he is very, very good at master cam. So we have solid works, Creo. Very good at that. And. This fellow said well, what are you going to do if he gets so good that, you know, we need them upstairs to do this. I said, absolutely. Get those skills up. And if he really desires to do that, move them on. I says, I'll find somebody else. I mean, it'll be hard, but I'll find somebody else. And he says, wow, that's, that's a good answer. But, but that's the key you have your people, train them, train them, let them go as far as they will go. This medical device place. I worked at same thing. If you wanted to learn any type of software, that's where I learned pro engineering.
They had this pro engineer platform back in the nineties and I asked the one engineer. I said, well, what's that? I mean, he was show me and he says, are you interested? Absolutely. He said, well, here, there you go. Okay. Well, all right this is wonderful. And that's, that's how I learned it. He said, whatever you want to learn. And that's how you develop your people. If they're interested, you feed that interest. And you never know where it'll go.
I tell you, just listen to you, just that one moment. Think about what that did for your career, right? yep. Yep. I love the advice to the people out there listening, ask the questions. I mean, really? Just walk up to somebody and people love to talk about just like you right now, Brian. The passion you have and what you do, you know, as I used to run a machine shop here at EECO, and I know we did manual machining, and the best way we would would teach people was just that side-by-side mentorship. And just watching that lay turn and making those cuts and seeing what that does. So how does that work in your CNC world from a mentorship standpoint, are there programs where you couple the new people with that experience to really learn that way? I mean, how does that work?
Well, unfortunately, we haven't had a lot of opportunity here to do that. We are always short-staffed it seems like there's just so much going on, but if I had the opportunity to do that, I would bring somebody in and start them. We have a Kent Mill is very similar to a Bridgeport and we have a mill power control on it. So you can run manual or you can run CNC. That's generally where I'll start somebody and see how familiar they are with things. And if they're comfortable doing the type of work we're doing, and then just ask them, "Hey, are you interested in this Mazak Lathe we have back here, this mill, what do you think you think you could handle that? Do you want to learn a little bit about that?" And if they're interested I'll train them. I have no problem. I mean, like I say, I love sharing what I do and I'm not going to be able to do this forever. I'll do it as long as I can. As long as my body can handle it, I'll do it, but you know, you gotta be real.
You start getting in the 50, 60, 65 range. And I mean, I've been doing this all my life. Yeah. And, you know, concrete's hard on the feet and stuff. So you gotta. There's going to be an end point someday.
Now, when you, when you look back over those mentors that have helped you, does anybody stand out?
Wow, there's so many because I mean, I always say, I don't know everything about everything and I've been super fortunate to have worked with a bunch of great people from, well, I had a fellow I worked with in a steel mills. It's kind of funny if we have the time to tell you a little story about this.
I started in the steel mill when I was 17. I mean, I was scared to death. I got in there and we had bridge cranes that are radio-controlled and they'd go right over top you carrying whatever. Now they wouldn't carry a load of stuff over. They'd be out on the side of the bay, but man, it was scary because I mean, it's shaking and carrying on. I'm like, "Oh man. What did I get myself into?" And I was. I guess I was pretty scared. I thought, man, this is a mistake. So I ended up, my boss took me over and I was talking to this guy, his name is Tom Smith. I think he's passed on now, but we hit it off, started talking at each other. He says, let's go over to this, the smallest engine lane that we have and we'll see what you can do.
So I go over to this Monarch Lathe it's a 28 inch swing by 20 feet long. I said this is the smallest lathe you have here? He said oh yeah and if you do good here, we'll put you on a bigger lathes. I'm thinking, man, this is getting worse as it goes. And so he laid this little job. I was making board bars for the planer mill. So it was, it was easy. And he said, "well, I'll give you two weeks of training. We'll see how it goes." So, I mean, we did stuff at home and everything and in my tech school, we did a lot of stuff. It wasn't that big of a job. So I had it done in like four and a half hours. He comes back over. He goes, you're done already. I said, yeah, I said, what else you got? He goes, hold on. So he went and got the boss Dave Golden, I think he's passed on now too.
They were talking and I thought, oh man, I'm dead. They're over there, chattering away. And Dave comes up on a platform and goes, “oh, that's pretty good." and it was simple turning, I mean, yeah, easy for a first year student. And yeah. He says, are you going to stay? I mean, he looked right at me. He says, are you going to stay? If we get you on, are you going to stay? I said, yeah, I'm going to stay. And lied through my teeth because I thought I'll man, I ain't never going to make it, but anyway, I'm going to do it, you know? And he says, good. He says, I got a lot of work for you. And pretty soon these guys was 14 cliffs and this is no kid.
And they started bringing pallets of stuff over there. I mean, pallets from burnout rings to, you know, make glands out of castings. I mean, it was crazy. It must've put 30 pallets of stuff there in front of that lathe and he says, there you go. He says, you can work all the over time you want your a young man, you can do it. Then I'm like, oh man, what did I get myself into, but it was good.
I mean, I got to do a lot of different things and there was an older fellow that worked in on an old American CNC. I mean, this thing was old and we all hit it off. Good. And that's one of the things that. I think it served me well, I enjoyed listening to the folks who've been in trade for a while, because the more you listen, you learn from these guys and you don't have to do it the hard way.
That's great. Now, Brian sounds like you had so many wonderful people that were helping you throughout your career. Last question on the career part. I'm just curious because you've done so many different things, which one of these roles and jobs were you the happiest?
I would say, the medical device place in the nineties because I started there, it was funny they called me back to the mill. I was there for a few months and unfortunately they went bankrupt, but I was running an 86 inch bullard, so I went to medical device place and it was interesting cause there was a couple of kids I went to school with, worked there. Didn't know they worked there. One kid worked in the shop, the other folks worked up front and we're all talking, Hey, how you doing? Blah, blah, blah. I brought my toolbox in and everything and after we got familiarized with everything. They gave me this little Lexium box about this big with 250 of these connector pins for a functional electrical stimulator. And they're made a hypodermic needle tubing, right? Super small. And here you needed to deburr these under a microscope. I'm like, "Yeah, right, this is a gag. Come on. Really? What do you want me to do?" And then they all looked at me as serious as it could be.
No, that's, that's your job. You need to, he needed to deburr them under a microscope. You gotta be kidding me. And he'd go from 86in Bullard to this. And again, I'm like, "Boy, I made a mistake. I don't know if I can do this," you know, but yeah, after about a week of deburring like that, and they said, well, you survived that. So you'll do okay here. But what was nice about that they always had to the learning thing, right? If you wanted to learn more, you could do. And after about a year there they knew I could do the CNC portion of things.
That is such a cool story, Brian,
That's the best job. Don't get me wrong. Love Magic Leap, great job, but that was by far one of the best jobs I've ever had. The owner of the company, he was an engineer. Super nice. I mean, he'd come down to the shop. He'd spend time down in the shop, just sitting there talking. How are you doing? You know, how's the family. And he knew all our kids' names and everything. I mean, this guy, he had an interest in everybody who worked at the company and at the time we had a hundred, probably 110 people, and he knew everything about everybody.
Wow. That speaks to the character and the culture of that company. For sure. Now let's take a turn down a dirt road here and let's talk about Brian outside of work. So curious, Brian, what do you enjoy doing for fun?
What do I enjoy doing for fun? Well, I'll tell you what I enjoy doing this for fun. This is like a vacation every day, other than deadlines and things like that. I enjoy making things. At home, you know, we're always working on something at the house. We're all constantly doing things with cars. I have an old Saab 95. You know, so there's always something broke on it, so I'm always working on it, but it's a snappy little car though, right? We do a lot of work for that. And my son is down here with us. Now he's going to go to aviation school. Try to do stuff with him as much as he can, you know, it's, it's tough down here. For the kids just not a whole lot to do unless they're in school or something like that or working, but, we used to enjoy going hunting and fishing and stuff, but again, down here, it's hard to do. You have to really make an effort to head north or whatever, but yeah, I mean, like they always say, do what you love for your job and you know, won't be like a job. That's what I do. I love making stuff.
Very cool. Now you've mentioned your son, you mentioned, I think earlier that you got started your family. And when you were 20. So what can you share with us about your family?
Oh, my oldest daughter, she's 31. And you know, I have grandson, he's going to be five. They're up in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Don't get to see them too much. That's kind of a bummer, but she. Man. She was something else growing up. She unfortunately bore the brunt of our inexperience as parents, but she is something else.
My middle daughter is my stepdaughter. She she's awesome. She's the one that me and my wife, she's the one that's going to pick our personal care home, you know, she's going to take care of us, I guess. Like she, she was joking, I think when she said that. So, and then my youngest, like I said, we're trying to get him started in aviation school and stuff. He likes to work on things and cars and whatnot. So he wants to go get his air frame, power plant certification and do that. We keep things rolling and my wife, you know, she's my hero. She's had a rough go and I mean, she just keeps. She keeps things together and going every day and, but she is amazing.
Now is most of your family in Pennsylvania still?
Yes. Yeah. That's, that's tough. I mean, That's the downside with the way we all live our life today, because most people, you got to move where the work's at. You know, whatever career paths you choose and that's tough. One of the nice things on my aunt, she recently passed away. She came down with business a couple of times. That was nice. I mean, she was something else, but, you know, it, it makes it tough, but you know, you can get on an airplane, go back home. In a couple of hours you're there so. We've just got to make the effort to do it.
Sure. I mean, but it sounds like you have a wonderful family and thank you for sharing. We love hearing about the family with me. I just enjoy that. I think because we get so caught up in the work and we're forget, you know, sometimes while we're at work.
I am curious any things that you enjoy consuming for fun, like podcasts or books, things like that, that you find value in?
Well, I'll tell you what, as far as podcasts, I'm new to the podcast stuff. I do follow a couple of folks on YouTube. One fellow over in Oregon, he works on heavy equipment and I can relate to this fellow. The struggles of trying to keep people running and keep things going. It's kind of like the machining portion of it too. You're making stuff to keep people going. So that's interesting. And then there's a fellow over in Idaho. I like watching him. He has old Caterpillar equipment.
Yeah, we're getting, we're getting here to the end Brian and I love to do two things quickly. Lightning round we'll pound through this because I would like for our listeners to know a little bit about you outside or outside of work too, on some random stuff. So let's play that real quick and then we'll jump to your why's that cool. Sounds good. All right. So what's your favorite food?
Pasta, any kind of pasta.
Um, Boy. Oh boy, that's a tough one. Adult beverage I would say JD. (Jack Daniels)
All right. What's your favorite app on your phone?
Favorite app on my phone right now is, oh, geez. That's hard to say, I guess, I guess I'd have to say YouTube or Facebook. I use those the most.
What's the guilty pleasure you have?
All right. I'm with you there, my man. How about favorite music?
Old eighties. Okay. Country Western, you know, back in that time and opera, I love opera, but nobody else likes it. I'm a secret opera listener.
You are our first opera answers to that. Now how about all the time favorite movie?
Okay, cool. Cool. And then last one, dogs or cats?
All right. You got it. The very last question of the show, Brian has been wonderful having you on is, about your why, and it speaks to your passion. What's your passionate about? So if somebody wants to know Brian, what's your personal, why is what would that be?
Personal why, why do I do this?
Because I love doing it. I love making things and I love solving problems and that in turn translates into helping people, love helping people. So it's a big thing.
Well, Brian, this has been an absolute pleasure for us and for our listeners. What a journey for the listeners out there to want to connect with Brian, we'll put in our show notes, a link to his LinkedIn profile, as well as a link to the company he's at right now. And you can connect with them and check them out. If you want to get that tour and see some of the stuff that they got going on and interested in. He's your guy. So Brian, this has been a pleasure. Thank you so much for taking the time with us on EECO Asks Why.
You're welcome. Thanks for having me. And if you ever want to hear some more boring stories about crazy stuff, we did just ring me up.
Well you just let us know when you start that podcast and we'll jump in on that and help you guys out.
Sounds good. Thank you very much.
Thank you, Brian.
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