Getting a Job that Floats Your Boat

Within minutes of walking into the Electric Boat Corporation, which had been established in 1899 to build the world’s first practical submarine, the 54-foot-long Holland, Mitchell Shinbrot (’83BSME) knew he had found the place he wanted to work. The company’s bustling shipyard, which he toured during the interview process, seemed like a wonderland to him, and when he was offered a job as an associate engineer, he eagerly accepted.

Although he had first earned a B.S. degree in physics from the State University of New York (SUNY), studying mechanical engineering at the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering had been a natural progression for Shinbrot. Both his grandfather, Irving, and father, George, were mechanical engineers, and both were alumni of the School of Engineering. (Irving had graduated in 1920, and George, exactly three decades later.) That impressive lineage aside, Shinbrot had loved to dismantle and rebuild machinery since childhood; a trip to Disney World was, to him, a chance to try to understand the design intricacies of the rides and attractions, rather than be a passive spectator.

Shinbrot attended the School of Engineering during the years when undergraduate classes were held in Farmingdale, New York, and he frequently travelled to the Brooklyn location to take additional classes. His advisor, he recalls, was the late professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering Sebastian Nardo. “When you were in his office, you were his number-one priority,” Shinbrot says. “I’ve tried to always behave in a similar way when I’m mentoring young engineers.”

Shinbrot, now an engineering supervisor at Electric Boat, gets ample opportunity to mentor and guide others. Fittingly, he has recruited many graduates of his alma mater: about 100 graduates of the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering are currently employed by the company. “Other supervisors have told me how happy they are with the quality of the engineers from the school,” he says, “and they encourage me to continue recruiting them.”

Because of the classified nature of some of the work, Electric Boat can hire only U.S. citizens, and Shinbrot is particularly pleased when young applicants tell him they were recently naturalized and feel called to work for the national interest. “All of our employees take a great deal of pride in everything they do,” he says. “Our engineers feel a sense of ownership, because they are involved in their products at every stage, from initial design to building to installation and maintenance. It’s a wonderful way to work.”

Even when students are not specifically interested in Electric Boat, Shinbrot encourages them to attend his sessions, during which he generously gives interviewing tips and conducts resume reviews. He considers it, in part, repayment for the kindness shown to him by the Electric Boat recruiter who had come to campus back in 1983. “I was very nervous and having a hard time getting through the interview, mainly because the light shining through the window was blinding me, and I was too embarrassed to mention it,” he laughs. “The recruiter was perceptive though, and he sensitively adjusted the window shade so I could focus on the actual interview.”

Although Electric Boat now employs some 12,000 people at its shipyard and engineering buildings in Connecticut and its automated hull-fabrication and outfitting facility in Rhode Island, it maintains a family feel. “It’s really wonderful to be here on our open-house days, when our employees get to show their spouses and children where they work,” Shinbrot says.

He’s happy, he says in conclusion, that so many School of Engineering graduates are part of the Electric Boat family and hopes that there will be even more joining the clan soon.