“Dedication to the design and manufacture of highly technical and specialized products” is a motto on the Modelwerks website. Wind Tunnels and Prototyping are listed under the “Specialties” tab. The woman who stepped in after a family death to keep the business going is just as dedicated and unique as the business is. Meet Xesha Koppernaes, a material science engineer living her dream playing “adult Legos” and making American manufacturing a stronger, more exciting place for us all.
Why Xesha Is A Woman In American Manufacturing Worth Knowing
Xesha firmly believes that “people should understand where their stuff comes from.” She absolutely loves leading a business that is manufacturing parts for companies at the forefront of aerospace, education, climate change solutions, and more. Her intentionality when she speaks of her skills and the value she brings to Modelwerks cannot be missed—while she didn’t expect to find herself 9 years into a career at a job shop, she recognizes just how many opportunities and how much learning it has afforded her that she would not have necessarily had if she had taken a more traditional engineering route and worked for an OEM or larger corporation after college. Xesha took what most 20-somethings would consider lemons, and has made cool, sweet, refreshing lemonade.
A Surprising Thing That Came Out Of The Conversation
In a R&D job shop environment, the culture has to be different. I had never before considered this. It sounds like a start-up, quite frankly. The days can be very long, and each day looks different, not by accident but by necessity. Xesha shares that it’s not for everybody, and in an industry that largely has been trained to expect a punch-in, punch-out daily grind, it can be difficult to find the right people. But, once they’re in, they love it, and this has helped the company retain and recruit more quality hires. Some people have left and then expressed interest in coming back to Modelwerks, which suggests to me that the culture Xesha and John have created in the shop is something really special.
Key Takeaway: You Can Find Joy In Your Work.
Even if you’re thrown into something completely foreign, new, outside of your comfort zone and skill set—you can find joy in it. Xesha is a living example of not just finding joy but creating it, for herself and others around her. She cautions that it takes time and focus, as well as being patient with yourself as you learn and see the outcomes of your work.
Favorite Rapid Fire Answer
This wasn’t an answer to a rapid fire question, but something I learned about Xesha during the episode is that her partner is a native Alaskan and avid outdoorsman. They have a preserved 70lb King Salmon hanging on the wall in their hallway that his grandfather caught decades ago. I love how it serves as both a decorative piece of art as well as a family heirloom.
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