Alumni Profiles - Nate Burgers '99
An International Career
Since he graduated in 1999, Nate Burgers has lived a lot of places: Italy, Germany, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Sweden and, currently, South Bend, Indiana. He has also worked on manufacturing a lot of vehicles: military vehicles, airport rescue vehicles, cargo vans, automobiles, trucks, garbage trucks, fire trucks and, currently, ambulances. “It’s probably the thing that’s kept me intrigued the whole time — the equipment we’re working on,” he said.
It’s not the career he foresaw as an engineering student: “When I was at Calvin, I envisioned myself working for a U.S. corporation,” Burgers said. However, after spending an engineering interim between his junior and senior years touring manufacturing facilities in Europe, the 32-year-old Minnesota native widened his vocational focus. His first post-graduation job — which he landed with the help of Calvin engineering faculty — was with Fiat Group in Italy. Burgers spent six years with the company in various roles, including stints in sales and marketing and quality improvement.
In 2005, Burgers took a job with Oshkosh, a move that took him first back to Italy to manufacture fire trucks and then to his present job, overseeing all operations in the Oshkosh plant in South Bend. He enjoys working on emergency vehicles: “An ambulance isn’t just a box on wheels anymore. There’s a lot of technology and a lot of innovative things showing up in the industry,” he said of the units he produces, which incorporate advanced life support and neonatal technologies.
He’s been well-trained to handle the intricacies of the many manufacturing processes he’s had to learn, said Burgers: “It’s one of the compliments I get on my education. A lot of schools teach theory, but Calvin works hard to teach not only the theory, but also the practical application of it. That’s something in my career that’s allowed me to distinguish myself from other engineers.”
Customer service is a big part of his job, he emphasized. “These days, there are people that almost never get out of these units, and they work 12-hour shifts. They have to have safe environments, so safety is something we’re pushing here.”
Burgers enjoys working with his current clientele: “A lot of fire stations have EMS teams, so a lot of the customers we get are firefighters themselves,” he said. “Everyone wants to be one as a kid. Everybody thinks they’re tough guys, but they’re actually compassionate guys as well because they’ve seen so much and dealt with so much.”
The values he learned as a Calvin engineering student prepared him well to deal with the customer-service part of the job, Burgers said: “Integrity, social responsibility — that has a big effect on corporate America when you get out into the world. One thing Calvin truly pushes is to see all aspects of a decision, from human to social to religious. People see the difference because you’re not just a cookie-cutter engineer.”
Engineering professor Ned Nielsen said that Burgers is a good example of the kind of graduate the Calvin program produces. “He’s a dynamic, outgoing, young guy. He’s adventuresome and hard-working and willing to accept a challenge and very good at common sense,” Nielsen said. “He’s also a good example of the influence our international programs have on our students.”