Rob Swiss — The Accidental Engineer

Another young man discovers you need not be an expert machinist to succeed as a gear engineer. Spoiler alert: never tangle with a grinding wheel; they are undefeated in all time.

Rob Swiss

For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to understand how things work and found satisfaction in fixing anything that was broken at my parents’ home. My mind has always been mechanically inclined (to me electricity is magic). I have had a passion for cars all of my life and have been working on them since I was a teen. I currently have a 1979 Pontiac Trans Am I just finished restoring.

I stumbled into the gear community, but soon learned that the challenges of the industry suited me very well. But how did I get where I am today? In 1996 I finished high school in England and went on to study math and business for the next 2 years; but I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go from there.

In 1998, a friend encouraged me to apply for an apprenticeship program through Gleason in Plymouth, England. That’s where it all started. In the four years I worked as an apprentice I received on-the-job training in the tool room, as well as operating and maintaining many forms of manufacturing equipment. Towards the end of my apprenticeship I lost a fight with a grinding wheel. I had finger surgery to repair some tendon damage and returned to work a few days later.  When I returned to work, my first task was to clean the blood from the machine and then I was asked to move to the engineering department (they didn’t trust me in the shop anymore). After that day, I knew grinding wasn’t for me. So I began design engineering training and earned a higher national certificate in mechanical engineering.

After my apprenticeship, I was offered a position in the engineering department at Gleason. I gladly accepted it and I started designing and processing bevel and cylindrical cutting tools. In 2004 I made one of the biggest decisions of my life and transferred to Gleason Cutting Tools in Rockford, IL. I was nervous but excited at the same time. Moving half-way across the world and away from my family was not an easy decision, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions I have made. Plus, my then girlfriend (now wife) was from the states. For the next three years I designed milling cutters, hobs, shaping cutters and grinding wheels.

In 2007 I became Design Engineering Supervisor within Gleason Cutting Tools. I was responsible for design engineering and providing customers with cutting tool application support.  This is where I started becoming more interested in hobbing and shaping applications. Application support can be frustrating, but I never back down from a challenge. I enjoy interacting with customers and found finding solutions for them very rewarding. In 2012 I transferred to Gleason Works to become the Midwest regional sales manager. I was responsible for machine sales and customer support.

In 2017 I made another big career decision — to leave Gleason and accept the role of National Sales Manager for gear machines at Bourn and Koch, Inc. in Rockford, IL, where I am responsible for gear machine sales and support. If you need a Fellows shaper or a BK hobber, I’m your guy. Also, I officially became a U.S. citizen last year!

If you told me that I was going to almost chop my finger off, become an engineer, move across the pond and end up in Rockford, IL working in the gear industry, I would have probably asked you where the heck is Rockford? Jokes aside, I love my job. It’s hard to imagine what I would be doing if it wasn’t this. I get to help solve problems and come up with solutions for gears and gear machines. I learn something new every day and have had the opportunity to travel the world. I feel very blessed to be working in the gear industry.


About Charles D. Schultz 655 Articles
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.

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