Name: Harrison Goldberg & Connor Gaeta
- Education: Both Harrison and Connor have a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from University of Vermont
- Target Audience: Middle School
Ready. Set. Snow! Ski Engineers, Harrison Goldberg and Connor Gaeta, are armed with the necessary skills when it comes to designing the perfect ski. Both founders of HG skis talk candidly about the highs and lows of running a start-up business and their philosophy on life... and skiing of course, in this exclusive KidsAhead interview.
What is your job?
Harrison: We're both founders of the company, HG Skis, but I primarily focus on operations, both in ski design and the finances. We're still a fairly small company and Connor and I both tend to overlap a lot in terms of day-to-day responsibilities.
Connor: I do all of the marketing for HG skis, as well as manage the team. Like Harrison said, we both overlap at times, but if we had to focus in on one area, that's how it breaks down.
Why did you choose this career?
Harrison: I always really liked building stuff and I really liked skiing and I was trying to figure out how I could combine them. Then, when I was a senior in high school I made a set of skis for a school project and wanted to keep doing it. My shop teacher from high school kind of pushed me toward engineering, but the truth is when I was applying for colleges I didn't realize what I was doing, building skis, was engineering.
Connor: I knew I wanted to become an engineer and I loved skiing - so this was an ideal job.
Explain what an average day at work is like for you.
Harrison: Since the company is still really small, we both work other day jobs and in all of our spare time we work at HG skis. When I'm in the shop I'm doing administrative work and coming up with new designs for skis. The really fun part is that we spend a lot of time skiing and promoting our skis.
Connor: I definitely do a lot of deskwork - marketing and making sure our team is staying on top of their responsibilities. During the winter season I'm on the hill everyday skiing.
What do you like best about your job?
Harrison: I love the idea of improving things. Any aspect of my life that isn't working the way I want it to where I can improve something is such a wonderful thing. Right now we do what we have to just to get by and pay the rent. The dream is to design skis and be able to ski them every day.
Connor: My favorite part is being able to go to the mountain everyday during the winter. My passion is skiing and being able to build a career around that is really a dream come true.
When you were a kid, did you like science, engineering and/or math?
Harrison: The truth is that through school I never really liked math that much - I struggled with it a lot. In high school I really liked chemistry and physics and my school also offered another elective science course that dealt with robotics, which was really good for me.
Connor: My favorite subject in school was always math. In English, when you write essays you never really know when you're done, but with math you always find the answer in the end and you feel like you've accomplished something.
Was there a moment when you knew that you wanted to become an engineer? Tell us about it.
Harrison: Until I was in 8th grade cooking I thought I was going to go to culinary school and I wanted to own a restaurant one day - I actually still love cooking a lot. But, I had a moment in my dad's workshop in the basement when I created this product. There was something about me creating a viable product that changed me. From that moment on I knew I wanted to become an engineer - I wanted the tools and skills necessary to reach my goals and to be known as an inventor and innovator.
Connor: There wasn't really a specific moment for me. My dad an engineer, my brother was an engineer and I never really thought of any other careers. I guess I just always knew I would become an engineer.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming an engineer?
Harrison: The biggest challenge on the journey was definitely getting through college and getting an engineering degree. Now, it's that I have to do other jobs to live while we grow HG skis.
Connor: Harrison summed it up. Getting through school was tough.
Was there a person who inspired or convinced you to get involved in your field?
Harrison: My dad and high school shop teacher encouraged me to pursue engineering.
Connor: My dad was an engineer and talked about engineering all the time.
Which courses would you recommend to incoming high school students?
Harrison: I struggled the first year of college because I didn't take advantage of advanced math courses in high school. If you're pursuing any science you have to know math.
Connor: Making sure you're taking math in high school is really important. Math is the foundation for everything you'll do as an engineer and there is a difference between getting a passing grade and really understanding the math.
Do you have any suggestions for how kids in middle school can gain real world experience in your field?
Harrison: When you try to push someone in middle school into science it can be tough - because when you're that age you want to fit in so bad and sometimes science is viewed as nerdy. I think just tinkering or trying to build something you really like is a great way to gain exposure to engineering.
Connor: I think tinkering is great when you're that age. There were so many times that I blew the circuits at my house as a kid trying to build something and got yelled at by my parents - but I learned a lot.
Where do you see your industry going in the future?
Connor: If you look back at the ski industry, skis have really changed a lot. A few years ago we were using straight skis and before the straight ski there were wooden skis. Skis are constantly changing and improving as the sport changes. I think we will see more skis designed to handle terrain parks and jumps since that's what more skiers are doing now.
Harrison: The geometry of skis has changed a lot over the years along with the sport. What people do on skis has changed a lot. Engineers are designing skis that can handle hitting trees and metal rails and I think the next big change will be new materials. While the shape and design of skis has changed overtime, materials haven't changed in 30 years.
- Harrison and Connor both named Sugarbush, VT, averaging 269" of snowfall annually, as their favorite place to ski
- Both founders hope to be working only one job, at HG skis, in the next few years.
- Not only are they young and cool, they're smart. Harrison and Connor found a niche with HG skis - the only ski company designing skis specifically engineered to handle the icy east coast slopes.
Chemistry - the science that deals with the composition and properties of substances and various elementary forms of matter
Culinary School - cooking school
Geometry - branch of mathematics concerned with the properties of and relationships between points, lines, planes, and figures
Physics - branch of science traditionally defined as the study of matter, energy, and the relation between them
Robotics - programmable machine systems
Rokenbok - toys that teach problem solving, promotes critical thinking, and introduces math & engineering skill
(adapted from dictionary.com)