A Dream With a Deadline – Interview With Austin Otto

American author Napoleon Hill once said, “A goal is a dream with a deadline.” That quote serves as inspiration for Austin Otto, a third-year engineering student with aspirations of changing the world through 3D printing.

“I want to be part of the cutting-edge changes that I foresee coming from 3D printing technology,” said Austin, who studies at the University of St. Thomas. “I’d love to design and build rocket engines that lift millions of pounds of rocket into space. I intend to create something that will shape our technology, help people, and change the world. That’s my dream with a deadline.”

What’s your dream with a deadline? Whatever calling you pursue, you’ll be encouraged by Austin’s love for his work and determination—even when money is tight—to stay out of debt and stick with his goals.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Has that changed?

Engineering has been a part of my life since I picked up my first LEGO piece. I have always enjoyed taking things apart and figuring out how they work.

Elon Musk, founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors, and SpaceX. Image from TED.

I dreamed of being a LEGO designer in Denmark, but when I found out that master builders don’t make a lot of money, I decided I wanted to be an engineer. I became interested in 3D printing in high school and discovered that I have a strong interest in manufacturing engineering.

My dream job now? I want to work for SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk! I feel like Musk is the Tony Stark of my generation. His bright new ideas and willingness to stop at nothing to achieve a dream is my motivation.

Tell us how you’re pursuing a career in 3D printing.

I’ve built four 3D printers and taught myself how to use them, conducted research on materials with a team at the University of St. Thomas, and created a service program to share my passions in engineering and 3D printing with elementary children in my community. I spent the last two summers working at a paid internship at a manufacturing company.

This year, I became the only 3D printer technician at the university’s newly opened Maker Space, and I just started an internship at Stratasys, one of the foremost 3D printing companies in the industry. These opportunities have allowed me to hone my skills and enhance my knowledge.

What is the biggest obstacle to pursuing your calling? How do you plan to overcome this?

Want to stay out of debt in college? Take control of your career and education. Read how.

My biggest obstacle is surviving calculus. It is necessary for my degree program but my brain is having trouble figuring it out. I used Khan Academy last summer to brush up on my skills. I’m also paying for school myself, so avoiding debt is another challenge.

Tell us about your career matches on FYC. Did any of them surprise you?

My profile explained me perfectly. I ranked very high as a thinker and doer. The descriptions and the career options confirmed that I am following the right path, even though I am struggling so much with calculus.

What made you choose University of St. Thomas? How did you evaluate all the school options?

I chose St. Thomas because I wanted to be close to home and they have a great hands-on engineering program. They also gave me the best scholarship and financial aid package. I love the campus and the values of the college.

What are your three biggest fears about life during/after college?

Graduating with too much debt, getting through calculus, and staying motivated while taking classes that don’t interest me.

What do you think is the biggest mistake students make when choosing their college/career?

Are you a thinker and doer like Austin? Check out the top careers here and here.

I see many of my friends either getting a degree in something their parents want, or picking a job that makes the most money rather than something they actually want to do. They’re also getting into debt. Everyone I’ve met at my internship has advised me not to get into debt and I’m trying to follow that advice.

How would you encourage other students facing similar challenges?

Talk to everyone you can. Make every connection you can. Do tours. Save business cards. When you’re at gatherings with adults, tell them your interests. I got my internship because of those connections. It really is about who you know.

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