Leading the charge

Meet Robert Linder, PE, a mechanical engineer with a focus on commissioning, retrocommissioning, energy audits, and overall problem solving.


Who: Robert Linder, PE

What: Owner Services Department Manager, Karges-Faulconbridge Inc. (KFI)

Where: St. Paul, Minn.

About: Bob is a mechanical engineer with a focus on commissioning, retrocommissioning, energy audits, and overall problem solving. He specializes in field engineering and has responsibility for a group of 21 staff members. KFI has a strong presence in Minnesota and is extending its market throughout the country. Bob is on the National Environmental Balancing Bureau board of directors, and is a past ASHRAE board of directors, region VI director, and regional chair.

Q. When you first wanted to be something in life, what was it?

A. I had career aspirations similar to many other children—a professional athlete. Major League Baseball was going to be my sport of choice. However, my inability to hit a curveball—as well as a fastball—helped me to quickly rethink my choice.

Q. What changed your path? Or what helped keep you on that path?

A. I have three older siblings. They all chose engineering and went to the University of Wisconsin. How could I break the trend and not follow in their footsteps? My first engineering job was a summer intern at Research Products testing Aprilaire humidifiers. A few weeks before I started, Mercury Marine called my house and offered a summer internship testing outboard motors. However, I was not home at the time of the call. My mom answered it and told them I already had a summer job. My career path was set. So long, marine engines; hello, HVAC.

Q. What is working well in the engineering profession?

A. Our professionals are really stepping up in response to the need to improve energy efficiency and minimize our impact on the built environment. We are leading the charge in identifying and implementing improvements to existing buildings and designing optimized systems in new buildings. These continued efforts will have a major impact on building energy use.

Q. What is not working well in the engineering profession?

A. Unfortunately, there are two traits that I often see in new graduates and younger staff. The first is the aura of entitlement. They often lack the commitment to themselves and their profession. They need to step up and invest in their future, such as reading trade journals, taking additional classes, joining and participating in professional societies, etc. Don’t expect employers to include these things in the 40-hour week; they need to take it upon themselves. The second is the need to understand the difference between dialog and communication. Sending an e-mail is not as effective as having a personal discussion. Don’t hide behind electronic media. People respond, and respect, hearing it directly.

Q. What one thing is missing from engineering education?

A. I found engineering classes to be very thorough on the technical skills, but weak on the soft skills. I understand that it is difficult to teach these skills, especially to engineers, but I think more exposure is necessary. Technical writing and presentation skills are crucial for expressing ideas, and personal communication skills are critical for engaging and maintaining our customers. I would also suggest that more emphasis be placed on management skills, both fiscal and personnel.

Q. What one piece of advice would you give to someone considering a career in engineering?

A. Go for it. We need you. The number of engineers graduating from college is steadily decreasing. Engineering is a great career choice. It offers the opportunity to make a difference in our environment while providing a path to individual financial security.

Q. How would your coworkers or clients describe you?

A. My clients know I am going to follow through on our contract and deliver quality results, on schedule. My coworkers know that while I have high expectations for their work; I am confident in their abilities and will treat them fairly and with respect.

Q. What life adventure is still on your list?

A. To relax I enjoy boating on the St. Croix River. It is a beautiful waterway between Minnesota and Wisconsin that flows into the Mississippi River. Someday I hope to explore it more. I would like to do The Great Loop. It is circumnavigating Eastern North America by boat. The 7,500-mile journey will take me down the Mississippi and other inland rivers, around Florida, up the intracoastal waterway, and back through the Great Lakes region.

Q. What one word best describes you?

A. It depends on the point of view. I think the word is “passionate.” However, I am sure my wife would come up with another word—one that probably should not be printed. In all seriousness, I believe in taking on responsibility and exceeding expectations. I don’t do things halfway. If I am going to do it, I am going to do it well.

Q. What makes you laugh?

A. My Labradors make me laugh. The simple pleasure of unconditional love by a dog can’t be beat. Their excitement when I get home from work is such a pleasure. Watching them run around without a care in the world makes me forget the issues of the day. As far as on television, I love dry humor. I can’t get enough of “The Office.” I think I used to work with some of those characters.

Q. What do you wonder about?

A. I understand that the term “smart car” was from “Swatch Mercedes Art,” based on a joint venture between Mercedes-Benz and watchmaker Swatch. However, they still look really dumb to me. I don’t think I am alone on this.

Q. Where is the best place you’ve ever been, and who were you with?

A. I have been fortunate to travel throughout much of Mexico and the Caribbean. There is no beating the white sand beaches, ocean, friendly people, and, of course, the sunshine. My favorite spot is probably Cabo San Lucas. It is a great combination of old and new Mexico within a few blocks of each other. I surprised my wife by proposing on Lover’s Beach at Land’s End during one of our trips there.

Q. What do you want to learn more about?

A. My role requires me to be well-versed in building control systems. However, it is difficult to keep up with the ever-changing controls industry. Sometimes it seems as if keeping up with the industry can be a full-time job. I intend to stay informed through contractor provided training sessions, online literature, and good old OJT (on the job training). Currently, I am focusing on learning more about system integrations.

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