While Averna is dedicated to helping global customers produce market-leading high-tech products, this could not be achieved without their talented team of employees. Averna understands that each group and department are linked, and every individual is required to make the company a success. In this new series, Averna will chat with one of these individuals and understand their point of view on their contribution.
Having joined Averna in 2019, Marc Dekens was born to make things move. With a dedication to problem solving, Marc has thrived as a project engineer and mechanical designer across several fields within automation. Outside of work, he keeps his curiosity satiated through a myriad of passions including (but not limited to!) nature, cycling, music and woodworking.
Q: Where were you before Averna and how did you get here?
A: From 1993 to 2008 I worked for a world player in mailroom systems, specifically for the newspaper industry. This was before the Internet was commonplace. My role consisted of installing mailroom equipment, commissioning, production runs, training, service, development, etc. Here, I learned a lot about automation and prepared me for what was to come. Following that, I spent 11 years as a mechanical developer for a supplier of automation and test systems specific to the automotive industry. It was then I became a designer full time, which in time led me to Averna.
Q: What attracted you to mechanical engineering?
A: I grew up in a village and was fascinated by the machinery involved in agriculture. I made it my mission to duplicate all of it in Lego. I easily spent the magical number of 10,000 hours to become a pro. My father was a handy craftsman who rarely said, “I can’t do that”. He took it upon himself to learn new skills if needed and I learned from him.
At the age of 13 I resolutely made my choice to study mechanics. But this was the early ‘80s and everyone knew that computers were the next big thing. The number of students interested in mechanics was dropping and people laughed at me for choosing “old school” mechanics. Teachers told my mother I had greater potential then to study mechanics, but she let me make this choice, knowing it was important to me.
I believed in machines. They never lie, and something isn’t working there is always an explanation based on physical laws. I persisted and earned a master’s degree in mechanics. It was only while I was at university I discovered that mechanics is in fact a specialty within physics. So technically I learned physics in an inverse direction, and today physics helps me be a better mechanical engineer.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of your current role?
A: When looking at a customer’s pain point, I empathize in a way to fully understand the problem. That is how you can truly find the right solution to satisfy the need. From there the idea gets moved to the drawing table and this is my way to design my own Lego components. Every case is an opportunity to learn something new. It can involve the customer’s product, or new technologies involved from our side, but either way, it is always interesting.
Q: Is test engineering a more challenging field for an engineer with the range of technologies that must be mastered?
A: I’m lucky to be surrounded by other specialized teams like vision, electronics, and software to cover all kinds of disciplines. So yes, it can be very challenging to deal with many variant requirements, but with the right explanation as to why each component is vital, it’s easier to accept them. Then it becomes simple to work on a solution in a positive way.
Additionally, due to the nature of the industries we support, we must often deal with a lot of restrictions like clean rooms, electrostatic discharge (ESD), and safety. This can be daunting as well, but, on the other hand, they also help reduce the number of possible solutions by process of elimination! If I would ask you to name 5 foods that are all white, you might find it hard to do. By adding a restriction like “and it has to be in the fridge” it will most certainly lead you quicker to a solution.
Q: Have you had any key mentors or people who deeply influenced who you are, what you believe in and what you’re committed to in your work and life?
A: I have always been fascinated by people who really own a talent or really master a skill. These are individuals who know every in and out about their profession or discipline. My father owned his skills. He was a bricklayer and construction worker, and we built our family home together. I have so many memories of watching my father working. I kept a laser focus on him so I could learn it all. I did inherit his trowel and I built my garage myself. I taught myself welding, long before YouTube.
On my first job, I was so lucky to have a talented welder as a colleague, a Spanish guy named Julio. He certainly mastered his profession, and I learned a lot from him. We became friends more than colleagues; we had a very similar same sense of humor. I knew him so well that I could understand his state of mind in his welding details. He was always singing, regardless of what the day brought. Awesome guy.
What I have noticed about people who are experts, is that they can explain even the most complex things in clear language. There was once a software engineer, Dirk, who came across my professional path. The way he analyzed a situation and foresaw what an operator would do…he translated our needs into PLC software. The reliability of his coding was second to none. That man owned a skill, and I have never met anyone even playing in his league.
Q: Do you feel you achieve a good work/life balance?
A: This is a difficult one. Sometimes my brain doesn’t stop at 5 o’clock, if I am searching for a solution. Sometimes there is a deadline I need to meet. Sometimes I just want to help a colleague. There are many ways to lose track of time.
Q: What have you learned from Averna that will be a takeaway for the rest of your life?
A: Averna has taught me that you need a team to get projects done, and it is an opportunity to learn from the specialists who have mastered their skills. This is a gift and should be embraced. I have also learned that it is human to make mistakes, and that is not a bad thing, if you’re willing to solve problems.