This profile is part of IEEE Spectrum's Special Report on Dream Jobs 2009.
Shannon Bruzelius, an IEEE member, makes sure that toys made by San Francisco’s Wild Planet Toys are safe and reliable.
Dream Jobs 2009
Shannon Bruzelius was calling yet another toy company. He dialed 1-1-1-# and heard, ”You have reached a nonworking number.” Next he tried 1-1-2-#. ”You have reached a nonworking number,” the system repeated. Then he dialed 1-1-3-#, which got him closer to a human being: ”Hi, this is Sue in customer service….”
Bruzelius was working his way through the company’s phone system, trying to reach someone—anyone—in the engineering department. He’d been making such cold calls for months, convinced that if he made enough of them and talked to enough people, he’d eventually land his dream job: doing engineering in the toy industry.
He’d always been a toy guy. ”Even when I got to that age where it’s not cool to play with your toys anymore, I was still collecting them,” he recalls. He’d regularly check out the latest toys at the mall, and he had fond memories of the summer he spent working as a clerk in a toy store. But he never thought about a career in toy engineering until shortly before he graduated from college. Even then, what he had was not so much a plan as a fantasy hatched during a late-night bull session.
A ”real career” for an engineer near Bruzelius’s home in Longmont, Colo., in the late 1990s meant working in the local disk-drive industry, where Maxtor, Quantum, and Storage Technology were big tech employers. After graduating from the University of Colorado with a mechanical engineering degree in 1995, however, Bruzelius had no real interest in spinning media.
Instead he took an assembly-line job making wheels for in-line skates. He was overqualified and understimulated, and after three months, he found a slightly better job handling quality assurance at a medical-device company. Still bored, he thought back to that late-night conversation in college. Could he really become a toy-industry engineer?
He started researching the field by walking through the local Wal-Mart, turning over every toy and writing down the name of the manufacturer. He then looked up the companies on the Internet and discovered that a fair number of them were in the San Francisco area.
So in November 1997, he packed his clothes, his collection of Star Wars action figures, his Ed Grimley doll, his Sony PlayStation, and his new 25-inch television into his 1988 Toyota Camry and headed west to San Francisco. He moved into a friend’s parents’ garage and started calling local toy companies. Whenever he hit a voice-mail message that identified the person as working in the engineering department, he’d write down the name and the extension, and then he’d call the person until he got through.