Meet the People of Space Age: Sean Pendergast

Space Age Electronics has been proudly family-owned and operated in the USA for almost 60 years. Our team is the backbone of our business, so we want to take some time to introduce you to the amazingly talented folks behind our innovative life safety products. Today we’ll chat with our brand new Vice President of Engineering, Sean Pendergast.

In addition to spending 35 years as a firefighter and EMT and the last 20 as a Lieutenant, Sean has also directed engineering for manufacturers like Columbia Tech, NP Medical, and MooBella. At Space Age, he’s now looking forward to helping build the infrastructure of our organization to support the next level of our growth.

As Vice President of Engineering, what are you looking forward to most at Space Age?

Sean Pendergast: Space Age is a really cool opportunity because my background is all over the place, from medical devices to lab safety equipment. My fire department background is a really cool dovetail because a lot of the fire suppression stuff that I saw in the field when I was working receding panels and turning off alarms directly ties to what we make here and that’s kinda cool. But what I see at Space Age specifically is a smaller
company that has organically grown over time and it’s getting to that point where those people who have really tacit knowledge that have been here for 15 or 20 years need to share that knowledge. To get the business to grow, you need to have an infrastructure where you can have people doing more work following processes and procedures. It’s all got to be documented so you can have 3 people doing what 1 person could do last year.

Do you have any ideas of how you are going to help do that?

SP: Building documentation isn’t necessarily the hard part…it’s extracting the information from the people who have it. Putting ink on paper is relatively easy but understanding where you need to start is one of the biggest challenges. Fundamental processes like engineering change. When you talk about change management, that’s the core of everything you knew as an engineering-centric business. That’s where you have to control things. The bill of materials itself starts off as something, and then inevitably over time parts go obsolete and you have to replace them. The engineering piece is how do you manage changing that stuff? It also talks about how you get obsolete components that are no longer available.

Whereas we have a lot of technology that we’re keeping up with. All the robots and flatbed printers. It’s pretty exciting how fast we’re growing!

SP: If you think of the way the world is going in terms of changing the infrastructure in the marketplace, macroeconomics and everything is shifting. How we make sure that Space Age has products that meet those new
needs is one of the things I’m looking to help with.

What specifically will you draw from your previous career experience to help here at Space Age?

SP: Working with other people, specifically engineers, is a very unique skill set. Engineers can be sort of a different breed and understanding what makes them tick and what motivates them, and what they like to do is really helpful. The previous place I worked at I had 27 engineers reporting to me, so you get to see a lot of different personalities in those environments. The biggest trick is trying to figure out what people are good at and naturally put them in a
place where they’re going to succeed. Then you also notice folks that have a potential that’s not tapped yet and you feed them stuff that’s a little out of their comfort zone and just watch them grow! Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but when it does work it’s a really cool thing to watch. Plus, the person is receiving that new tool that they can add to their tool box. They literally get excited about, “Hey look, I didn’t know how to do
this analysis before, I didn’t know how to run this SolidWorks program before.” So, those are kinda fun things for me to help show folks that they can do more than they’re doing right now.

Engineers must be a different breed if you can bring them something that they have no experience with yet then they become the master of it.

Yeah that’s what the core of invention is; there’s a need, you figure out how to fit that need. Then the really cool thing is being able to produce…Space Age has a very unique capability to produce an awful lot of stuff they’re able to think up. Finding other uses for that same technology and that same concept is a way to sort of sprinkle the seed in the market place and then it grows.

Right now you’re focused on the hard part of getting things started. It’s awesome that you already have an idea of what you’d like to have in the future. That’s really exciting!

I’m looking forward to the opportunity. Part of the challenge for me is that it’s real close to home and it’s right in the sweet spot of stuff that I like to do. The last place where I was at, we were building panels for some of the biggest semiconductor manufacturers on the planet, so that’s not anything foreign to me. Fire controls are something I’ve messed with as a user all the time, so knowing how the guts work now is going to be just one more thing on the check box.

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