An encounter with a professor leads to a career in the positioning, navigation and timing industry.
In the mid-2010s, Kevin Stottler ’20 was working for a company that made encoded plastic cards. Think hotel key cards, gift cards, ID cards.
He wanted something more engaging, but this was before the Great Resignation when job interviews were harder to come by. “I think without a degree I was having trouble getting traction with other employers,” he said.
Kevin decided to contact Sam Samanta, coordinator of the smart systems technologies program, whom he had met at a job fair at the Victor Campus Center about six months earlier.
“I was like OK, I need to get some more stuff on my resume here to have a leg up looking up for more challenging jobs.”
In less than two years Kevin had an internship, then a job with Orolia, a manufacturer of positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) systems in Rochester that serves a wide range of industries. “Anything that needs precise time to work,” he explained, “data centers, telecommunications systems, banks, broadcast networks, and there’s a bunch of defense applications.”
Founded in 2006, Orolia has a presence in more than 100 countries and about 300 employees. In the last year, the company announced a contract with Airbus for an emergency locator transmitter system and a collaboration with Meta, parent of Facebook, for server timing protocols using Orolia’s atomic clock technology.
Kevin has grown right along with the company, starting out in 2019 assembling and shipping orders in a unit of 12 people, to working on customer demonstrations and field testing of equipment as part of a team of 60.
“I’ve gotten to work on and ride around in a couple types of military vehicles, and visit some facilities,” he said. It’s a world away from hotel key cards.
Looking back, his FLCC experience was about leaving his comfort zone.
“The great thing about community college is generally the costs are much lower and you’re able to get much more one-on-one time with the professors,” Kevin added. “If you’re going into a subject that you are not familiar with or maybe outside your comfort zone, you’re going to have to deal with that discomfort, but community college is a great way to do that. It really lowers the risk a lot.”
His chief concern? Calculus.
“Sam sort of pushed me to go back to calculus after having taken a break from that for a few years. I was a little nervous going in. Am I going to be able to pick this up? That actually worked out great. I had Tim Biehler for that class. He is definitely one the best math teachers I’ve ever had.”
What helped him the most was Tim’s approach to homework. It was optional, which led Kevin to skip work he picked up easily in class and focus on assignments where he needed practice.
“I think that enabled me to manage my time outside of class, and it just sort of changed the dynamic of how I thought about math homework,” he explained. “It was more like you were doing it for your own benefit rather than feeling like you had to do it because he was going to grade it.”
Kevin decided to continue his education, completing his bachelor’s in project management at SUNY Alfred in May. The program challenged him with a focus on business classes, writing and abstract thinking to complement the technical skills he developed at FLCC. Smart systems proved a good entry into the engineering field that wasn’t “sink or swim,” he said. “Sam really wants to try his hardest to help everyone succeed.”