Joel Hurd ‘20 has a strong appreciation for thinking outside the box in his engineering education and in his career. He’s finding ways to surround himself with entrepreneurs, world-changers, innovators, and business-minded individuals.
Hurd, a Mechanical Engineering major at Kettering University, was recently accepted into Forbes Under 30 Scholars Program allowing him to attend the Forbes Under 30 Summit from Sept. 30 to Oct. 3 in Boston.
“Forbes Under 30 Summit offers a lot of networking opportunities. It’s a gathering of entrepreneurs and young professionals from all over the country who fundamentally want to change their industry and change the world. Just being in the atmosphere will be a really valuable experience. It’s a great environment to do work,” Hurd said. “The speakers there are really intriguing to me. They are inspiring young professionals who took their engineering skills and made something out of them to change the way we do business.”
The summit includes 24 different content tracks. Hurd will focus on the manufacturing and robotics track, which has become his passion. Hurd became interested in the manufacturing and business end of engineering when he was accepted into the 2018 Harvard Summer Venture and Management Program. The program aims to increase diversity in business by reaching out to student leaders who have life experiences that need representation in the field of business, but would not otherwise consider it. That often includes students in STEM fields and other underrepresented fields in the business program.
“I was surrounded by like-minded individuals from very diverse backgrounds at the the Harvard program. Everyone was all about making a difference in the world,” Hurd said. “The whole program is designed to get people who think business isn’t a viable avenue for them on Harvard’s campus to see that they can be successful in that environment. I know now I can aspire to that. I can achieve that. That changes your worldview when you realize that, and the experience of collectively recognizing what we are capable of engaged us into a giant support network that has persisted long after we stepped off campus.”
It was that support system and group of like-minded individuals who told Hurd about the Forbes Under 30 Summit and encouraged him to apply. Hurd realized it would be a great way to continue learning about the operations and logistics side of engineering.
“As an engineer, I have to take the ethics, responsibility, and problem solving skills that Kettering gives me and apply them on a much bigger scale. The challenge fascinates me and motivates me to keep learning,” Hurd said.
Hurd’s journey to Kettering had some twists and turns, but he knew this is where he needed to be. High school was a tough time for him and he didn’t try as hard as he should have, so coming to Kettering directly after graduation wasn’t an option. He worked hard at a community college and then transferred into Kettering. When he graduates in 2020, Hurd will be the only person in his family to have earned a bachelor’s degree.
“It was a surprise to be accepted into the Forbes Under 30 Scholars Program. I don’t think it’s hit me yet,” Hurd said. “I’m trying to remind myself that I belong here, in opportunities like this.”
Hurd’s interest in engineering started when he was on a FIRST Robotics team in high school. It impacted him greatly, and he talked about what he’s done to give back in his application to the Forbes program.
Now that he’s in college, Hurd is a game announcer for FIRST Robotics and went to China to announce games during the International Invitational Competition in China. Hurd also works with RoboZone TV and was the founder of the FIRST Alumni Association at Kettering University.
“FIRST has had a really huge impact on me. I’m a firm believer it’s one of the reasons I’m alive and successful today. High school was not the best time for me. FIRST was a program where people still trusted me, believed in me, and gave me opportunities to rise to my potential,” Hurd said. “With the networking experience and responsibility it gave me, I knew I needed to give back and make sure those opportunities were available for others.”
Having spent his entire life living in the blue collar towns of Flint and Ypsilanti, Hurd has experienced the effects of corporate neglect first hand. It’s what motivates him to give back and help those in the same challenges he overcame.
“I definitely didn’t get this far all on my own, so I feel obligated to give back in the same way so many others did for me,” Hurd. “My work with FIRST aims to help and inspire kids to rise above their means with STEM like I did, while the goal for my career is to be an advocate for these communities when the hard decisions get made in the boardroom.
After graduation, Hurd plans to apply to Harvard Business School’s 2+2 Program, where he would gain two more years of work experience before entering the program at Harvard.
“I think the two years will be very beneficial. It’s hard to talk about leading or managing a company in the classroom when you have no experience leading or managing a company. Still, I have part designs on vehicles. My airbags are on Fiat Chrysler’s Ram 2500. Having had that experience in industry really helped me contribute at the Harvard program this summer,” he said. “I think fundamentally the extra exposure that we get at Kettering University in the co-op program is hard but it wittles us down into this person that is much better at handling those high pressure decisions that makes a real impact. We get that a lot earlier than a lot of other students. I’m much more prepared because of it.”