BTN LiveBIG: Maryland grad’s career moves into fast lane

BTN LiveBIG: Maryland grad’s career moves into fast lane

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Inspired by their experiences in college and elsewhere, these Pathfinders are passing by the typical, well-trod career paths and blazing their own trails. We’ll explore the unconventional approaches these Big Ten alums are taking to work.

University of Maryland student Eric LaRoche figured his immediate future was set.

LaRoche was days away from graduating with bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering and aerospace engineering. He already had a job waiting for him at Chrysler after going through an internship with the company. Thus, he tended to ignore the daily e-mails he received from the school’s career and internship services department.

“Since I was set to work for Chrysler, I would delete them right away,” LaRoche said.

Then a classmate asked him if he had seen the internship opportunity offered with the Red Bull Infiniti Racing team, which was looking for three undergraduates to work in the United Kingdom.

“I went into the deleted portion of my e-mail, found it, talked to a couple of people about it and decided to pursue it,” he said.

Now LaRoche, who’s from Hamilton Square, N.J., is just north of London, working for one of the most innovative racing teams in the world — Infiniti Red Bull Formula One — as one of three paid interns at the Infiniti Performance Engineering Academy.

Infiniti invited 12 finalists (including candidates from China, Australia and Malaysia) to the U.K. to compete in a three-day process of interviews, group psychometric testing, group technical challenges and individual challenges before selecting LaRoche as one of the winners. The three young men, including one from England and one from California, will live together for the 12 months they work for Infiniti.

“I think this is the pinnacle of whatever challenge I could ever have,” LaRoche said. “[Because of] the skills I will learn [and] the people I will be working with, I will hopefully be able to contribute to something big that could impact others as well.”

As an intern for Infiniti Red Bull, LaRoche is working in vehicle dynamics — “the study of the motion of the car,” he explained.

“It’s about how all of the components of the car — the suspension, the design — how it all works so that the car can go around as quickly as possible,” LaRoche said.

As one of those kids that takes things apart just to see how they work, mechanical engineering seemed like a good subject to study when he went to the University of Maryland.

“I remember a book called ‘How it Works’ from the 1970s, and it was the first book I remember reading,” he said. “It’s just natural curiosity for me to figure out why things work and how they work.”

While a student at the University of Maryland, LaRoche showed just how much experience someone can get through internships. Beyond his current stint with Infiniti and the previous one at Chrysler, LaRoche worked on an unmanned aircraft project at Boeing, U.S. Navy nuclear submarines at BAE Systems and environmentally friendly artillery at the U.S. Army’s Aberdeen Test Center.

The Infiniti internship will keep LaRoche busy through 2015. Then, he can think about the next steps of his career. With the experiences he’ll gain from working with the Infiniti Red Bull Formula One team, his sights may be set a bit higher when he returns from the U.K.

“This will open doors to any other possibility I might be interested in,” LaRoche said.

Adrian Newey and Eric LaRoche

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