Quad Citizen: Austen Naeve

Quad Citizen: Austen Naeve

Automated Systems Engineer, Genesis Systems Group

Quad Citizen Profile

Fate can be strange sometimes.

Just ask Austen Naeve, whose concern over rising fuel prices during the 2008 recession led to the discovery of a new passion.  That passion later became a career, which ultimately led to his job as an Automated Systems Engineer for Genesis Systems Group, a worldwide leader in robotic systems integration headquartered in Davenport.

Austen grew up in Camanche, Iowa, located just outside of Clinton in the northern part of the Quad Cities region.  After high school he took courses at Clinton Community College, part of the Eastern Iowa Community Colleges system that also offers classes through campuses in Davenport and Muscatine. 

When one of his scheduled courses was moved from Clinton to Davenport, Austen had a choice to make.  With the price of premium gas for his Jeep hovering around $5 a gallon at the time, the proverbially poor college student switched to a different class offered closer to home in the hopes of saving money.  Little did he know what an impact that decision would have on his future.

The new class, Mechatronics, was a two-year course focused on technology combining electronics and mechanical engineering in the design of products and manufacturing processes.  Austen, a self-described “tinkerer” who likes working on cars in his spare time, was hooked.

“The class really focused on the things you’re going to be doing out in the field.  I fell in love with doing that kind of stuff and realized ‘this is what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my career.’”

After receiving his associate’s degree, Austen worked at Custom Pak in Clinton for a few years.  Soon a fellow VW enthusiast recruited him to apply at Genesis where the company was developing a new engineering group to focus on the aerospace market.  That was six years ago, and Austen is getting to apply his love for tinkering to rapidly evolving technology on a daily basis.

As an Automated Systems Engineer, Austen works closely with the design aspect of the robotics systems, providing guidance to make sure that all of the components work together.

“If you push a button asking the robot to move somewhere, I’m the one doing the behind-the-scenes work making sure the machine executes the command and the robot moves where you want it to,” he explains. “I work on systems that change all the time.  It’s never boring and never the same thing twice.”

Austen’s degree field offers a lot of potential, particularly in a community like the Quad Cities so heavily influenced by manufacturing. 

“Engineering technologies programs are a big focus for community colleges.  You can start on the manufacturing floor right away, connecting, wiring, building …. It gives you real-world experience and on-the-job training immediately.”

“Lots of people get defensive about robotics automation taking away jobs.  But it’s not like that.  Robotics requires integrators, programmers, and maintenance.  It isn’t removing a job; it’s shifting the skill sets needed.”

Austen has chosen to make the Quad Cities home for a variety of reasons, including the opportunity his company affords him to do work for major brands in the aerospace industry.

“It was an easy decision to work in the Quad Cities. I didn’t have to move away from family while still maintaining a good career; I can use my experience and skillset to work on some of the newest technology in the robotics field.  I can get off work, and my fiancée and I can go see our nieces’ and nephews’ ballgames.  Or I can grab dinner with my mom … including some of her fresh asparagus from the garden,” he says with a grin.

He also enjoys outdoor adventures such as kayaking on the Mississippi River or camping by the Wapsipinicon. Volleyball and motor sports – which, not surprisingly, have a lot of interest among the cadres of engineers in the community – give him a full slate of activities to fill his spare time.

Even though Austen’s job sometimes involves gritty work out in the field, the way the community has shaped him gives him a sense of pride.

“Hard work is in my blood.  Both of my grandfathers were farmers; my dad owned a trucking company after driving for some time.  I think the Quad Cities has that Midwestern work ethic where you stick with something until it gets finished.  People in the Midwest are willing to put in extra effort because at the end of the day, you’re putting your name on it.”

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