NCC Instrumentation Degree takes Alum Brandon Espey on a Global Journey

To have a lucrative and successful career is a goal most of us hope to achieve in our lives. To reach this goal before the age of 30 is something that Industrial Instrumentation & Control Alum, Brandon Espey, never imagined would happen to him. Brandon, who is now an Automation Electrical and Instrumentation Regional Engineer for Cargill, had no idea what instrumentation was in high school. He was even more unaware of the national and global journeys he would soon be immersed in following his graduation from Northwest Iowa Community College.

Brandon, a 2006 graduate of Hartley Melvin Sanborn High School, always had aspirations to pursue a degree in Power Sports or Diesel Mechanics. He loved hands-on work and never had an interest in going to a four-year college. The Industrial Instrumentation & Control program came up during a conversation with his high school guidance counselor. Brandon’s senior year schedule was going to be fairly open as he had completed most of his requirements for graduation, so his guidance counselor suggested he take instrumentation courses at NCC. Brandon had never heard of the field of instrumentation before, so he and his parents decided to go on a college visit to see what it was all about.

Many individuals in Northwest Iowa are unfamiliar with the work Instrumentation and Control technicians do. In short, they solve electrical, electronic, and computer problems using their minds and hands. These technicians install, upgrade, maintain, and repair automated equipment in industries that produce everything from appliances and medical equipment to ethanol and electric power. Brandon was very intrigued after learning about the program during his college visit and enrolled in the afternoon courses. Brandon had half of the first-year courses completed by the time he graduated from high school.

Brandon appreciated the hands-on learning environment his classes provided and found this to be very beneficial once he was working in the field. “When you are at that first job in the industry, and you realize that you are familiar with the equipment, it relaxes you so you can do your job. You can base everything you do back to something you did during class.”

Brandon also appreciated the strict attendance policy, especially during those first few years on the job. “The company truck left at 6:50 a.m., and if you arrived one minute late, you were out of luck.” He appreciates not only the knowledge, but also the life skills he learned during his time at NCC.

As graduation day approached, Brandon had four companies offer him a job! He contemplated how far away from home he wanted to move. In the end, Brandon decided to start his instrumentation career at Unicco (now CW Services) in Blair, NE. Unicco was a great starting point for his career. The job paid well, required no travel, exposed him to a variety of instrumentation work, and was still close enough that he could travel home if he desired.

Brandon was then presented with an opportunity to travel as an Instrumentation Technician for Interstates. He was at a point in his life where he wanted to travel, so he took it. He bought an RV and lived in various states throughout this time, such as North Dakota, Kansas, Iowa, and Louisiana. Although Brandon enjoyed traveling, his RV days came to an end when given an opportunity to work in embedded maintenance at a Cargill plant in Kansas City, MO. Little did he know, the connections made and his experiences at this job would have a huge impact on his future. While in Kansas City, he was contacted by an employment recruiter about an opportunity with a combustion controls company, Burner Design & Control. He accepted an offer from them and worked in most of the Midwest states balancing and tuning ethanol plant combustion systems.

In 2013, Brandon was approached about working for RS Stover. Kansas City wasn’t home for him, so he decided to make another move. He worked for RS Stover for 12 months before being presented with the next big opportunity. Cargill was looking to fill electrical positions because of new plant builds. In March 2014, Brandon was officially named an Automation Electrical and Instrumentation Regional Engineer for Cargill North America. Brandon moved to Minneapolis, MN, to begin this next adventure.

Brandon’s first two years at Cargill were spent mainly in new plant construction and consisted of 75%–80% travel time. He worked in direct support at seven of Cargill’s North American facilities, from Ohio to California. He visited each of these locations 3–4 times per year. During those first few years on the job, Brandon also traveled to Mexico, Europe, China, and Africa to complete various start-up projects and attend worldwide team meetings.

As of 2018, Brandon’s current office is his kitchen island in Le Mars, Iowa. He still holds the position of Automation Electrical and Instrumentation Regional Engineer for Cargill North America and is regionally tied to eight plants, however, he completes most of his work via Skype and phone calls and travels less. A normal day for Brandon now consists of anywhere between 2–10 hours on Skype or conference calls. He loves that each day is different, and he is constantly being presented with new projects. Brandon also completes various trainings and even teaches process control classes to Cargill’s Process Engineers.

Looking back at his journey, Brandon appreciates the various opportunities he has been presented with and how successful he has become. “When I look back at that first move after graduation, I realize I have learned so much. Figuring life out with a steady job is a lot easier than figuring life out and not having a steady job.” This year marks five years in his current position, and although he still receives calls regarding other opportunities, Brandon doesn’t see himself making another move any time soon.

To find out more call 800-352-4907, email admissions@nwicc.edu, or visit our website at nwicc.edu. At NCC – Your Success is Our Story!

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