Welcome to a new monthly feature in which we go behind “Behind the Scenes” to learn more about a member of the Capstan team. If you’d like to see someone specific featured, let us know!
Carly Coker studied Chemical Engineering, but wanted more variety and social interaction than she would get working full time in a lab. As an R&D Project Manager, Carly gets that variety and then some – she’s become a Subject Matter Expert in multiple applied sciences, and she meets new people every day. In this month’s Behind the Scenes, we chat with Carly about intellectual curiosity, her decades on the golf course, and the reason she’ll never audition for Jeopardy.
Carly, your job astounds me. As an R&D Project Manager, you need to be an expert in so many things — one day it’s food chemistry, the next it’s robotics, the next it’s architecture. And you’re not just scratching the surface – you need a deep understanding of the technical details to get the best possible results for your clients. How do you learn everything about everything?
[Laughs] I definitely don’t know everything about everything. But over the years I’ve learned a lot about a lot of things, mostly just by doing homework. When I approach a new project, I gather as much background information as possible. I analyze it, break it down, and formulate the right questions. Then I’m prepared to talk with the right people, and I can just soak up the answers.
I bet you were a very good student.
[Chuckles] I was, but I think it’s because I’m just naturally curious. I have a strong background in math and the pure sciences. And I hate being bored – I love learning new things and challenging myself. Five years ago, I knew very little about software design. Today, I know it like the back of my hand.
Have you learned anything particularly interesting lately?
Yes! We recently had a project that involved racecar design – I had to learn how racecars are built and tested, how the cars and drivers prepare for races, etc. The researchers were attempting to optimize speed while maintaining excellent grip of the track. It was fascinating.
That does sound interesting! Did you get to meet any race car drivers?
Not the drivers, but I spoke at length with their managers and the engineers who make it all happen. That’s actually part of the reason I love my job so much. I get to meet so many cool people, brilliant minds who are doing incredible things. Even though I love the sciences, I’m also very sociable, and I wanted a career where I’d get to interact with lots of people. I am living my dream in R&D at Capstan.
Speaking of dreams, I heard you are an amazing golfer.
I don’t know about amazing, but I have been on the course since I was a toddler. My dad and my granddad both golfed, and it became a family tradition. I played all through school, and actually got to be in a Junior PGA Championship tournament. That was kind of achieving a dream.
Wow! That’s amazing, Carly! What kind of qualities are needed to become a successful golfer?
Patience is number one. You have to be patient, and you have to be willing to practice. You need to be analytical – to look at a situation on the green and mentally analyze it, break it into bite-size pieces.
It sounds like you approach challenges the same way, whether you’re at work or on the golf course. You do your homework, analyze information critically, and break big challenges into manageable portions.
I guess I do!
When you’re not working or golfing, what do you get up to?
I’m a big nerd actually. My boyfriend and I love board games, especially involved ones like Settlers of Catan.
Isn’t that one of those complicated strategy games? And doesn’t it take forever?
Yes to both, and that’s why we love it. We once stayed up playing with friends till 2am.
Um, fun. I have one more question. You’re a literal wealth of knowledge – have you ever considered going on Jeopardy?
Oh, I could never go on Jeopardy — I do not like taking risks. If I got to Final Jeopardy I’d bid like $10.
Carly Coker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s open to talking about R&D Tax Credits and nerdy board games.