Q&A: Alum Adam Baumgartner on startup success and giving back
Adam Baumgartner, BS ’10
Embedded Software Engineer at XStream Trucking
Hometown: Reston, Virginia
Current City: San Francisco, California
Current Position: Embedded Software Engineer, XStream Trucking
Can you describe your current role? What is the most challenging aspect of your current position? Most exciting?
I work for a small startup (12 people) in the Bay Area called XStream Trucking. We improve the fuel economy of long-haul semi trucks. My role on the team is to develop electronic control devices which enable active aerodynamics on trucks to reduce drag and burn less fuel.
The most challenging part of working in the embedded software space is how fast technology is moving, but that’s also a huge opportunity. I’m a mechanical engineer working in a role that when I graduated in 2010 was mostly the domain of electrical engineering and computer science majors. I spend a lot of time learning new things every day, getting up to speed with new pieces of technology, and figuring out how to apply them to our product.
How did you get interested in your current field? What interests or circumstance drew you to it?
I had a great start to my career at Honda R&D Americas in Columbus, OH. But after five years in the auto industry, I was interested in a new challenge. At Honda, I was spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to automate data post processing – and I was missing the small team feel.
I knew I would have to give a startup in the Bay Area a try. I was lucky to have met XStream at the right time, and an amazing CEO who gave me a shot. I was only the third employee, and the company’s first developer. As I expected, getting the chance to move to the Bay Area allowed me to soak up the “move fast” culture that I was craving.
Tell us about your most notable/interesting professional or personal accomplishments.
I’m very proud of the time I’ve put into being an involved alumnus at Hopkins. This year, I hit a pretty cool milestone – this was my 7th year giving a guest lecture to the Freshman Mechanical Engineering Seminar! I’m also a judge for the Senior Design project, which means most of the seniors hear me lecture as freshmen. It’s neat because, although they don’t remember the specifics of what I talked about four years ago, they always seem to remember that it was really cool an alum came to visit and speak to them. I’m incredibly proud that I am a part of their Hopkins experience.
Was there a particular course or project at JHU that made a big impact on you or influenced your career path? Why?
Being involved with the Hopkins Baja Team was instrumental in helping me develop a passion for automotive engineering. Baja is a club where students build, design, and race a single-seat, off- road vehicle for an international competition against other universities. I was exposed to a ton of hands-on skills which perfectly complemented my engineering classes. My involvement with the Baja team helped me get my first job opportunity with Honda R&D.
What was the most valuable skill you learned at JHU that has helped you get to where you are now?
The ability to keep your cool under intense pressure. For me, there have been numerous times in my career when something just “had” to get done. I think the training of being exposed to those stressful situations as a student made it much easier when encountering them as a professional engineer.
Do you have any advice to offer aspiring engineers?
Learn to code. It’s unreal how many opportunities you will have with even the most modest of coding resumes!
Second is to practice being a well-rounded teammate and positive communicator. The future projects you’ll want to work on will probably have other people involved. You can improve the chances of working with them if they like working with you.
Tell us something interesting about yourself.
I’m lucky to be at an early stage startup that is just entering a strong growth phase. I’m proud to come back and be involved with the Department of Mechanical Engineering as a lecturer and Senior Design judge. And I’m incredibly proud that the club I helped grow in season 3, 4,5, and 6 continues to exist and thrive (the Baja team is in its 15th straight season this year!). I’m very pleased with that and excited for the future. I hope I can continue to find success in the startup community and stay actively involved with mentoring students at Hopkins.