Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

Q&A: MEM Alum on Bringing Engineering to a Startup Brewery

By Anna Fiorentino
December 2014 • Thayer By Degrees: MEM

What do you get when you combine a Master of Engineering Management (MEM) degree with a love for beer? Michael Gadigian’s Th'14 career, that’s what. Gadigian, a long-time home brewer, first came on board with Bronx-based start-up Gun Hill Brewing Company last summer during his MEM final project. Now he’s preparing to join the staff full time to make bottling, canning, and kegging more efficient, for one. Like any start-up, Gun Hill Brewing — already an award winner for its foreign style stout Void of Light — will have Gadigian wearing multiple hats.

How did you initially connect with Gun Hill Brewing?

Gun Hill Brewery at NYC Craft Beer Festival
Michael Gadigian Th'14, left, at the NYC Craft Beer Festival

I became very interested in breweries and the craft beer scene once I turned 21, and later started homebrewing. After visiting any brewery I could, and gaining a better sense of the industry, I began thinking about various projects I could work on for a brewery, for example, applying my engineering knowledge to improve energy efficiency and sustainability. Then, last spring I attended the New York City Craft Beer Festival and stumbled upon a brewery I didn't recognize: Gun Hill Brewing Company. I really enjoyed their beer — they were only one month old at that time. I spoke with the managing partners shortly thereafter and expressed my interest in the industry, shared my ideas, and eventually secured an internship. The great thing about the company being so young is the freedom I was given to pursue different projects. No two days were the same there. On top of pursuing my project requirement for ENGG 390, I was able to work in sales, distribution, event management, and operations, and even had the brewer help me improve on my own homebrewing. 

What is your position at the brewery?

Gun Hill brewery
Gun Hill Brewing Co., 3227 Laconia Ave., Bronx, N.Y.

When I start full-time in February, my main focus will be event management and coordination as well as operations management. I will be in charge of the legal and logistical sides of events hosted both at the brewery and elsewhere. I will also produce a brewing schedule to minimize downtime of the brewing process and keep up with current and future demands of each beer being produced. Finally, within the next year, if all goes according to plan, I will be streamlining the implementation of a canning line into the brewery, the main project I worked on over the summer. This will allow the brewery to sell in more restaurants and bars throughout New York, before eventually going through a distributor to sell outside of the state. 

How did your MEM degree benefit you during your internship and how will it continue to benefit you in your new role?

Analyzing competing packaging methods of bottling, canning, and kegging beers required a technical understanding of the limitations of each packaging method as well as the brewery's brewing system. I was able to obtain quotes from various suppliers of packaging lines as well as suppliers of the actual packaging products, such as the cans, tops, and holders, and perform economic analysis to compare profits for each option. 

What attracted you to Dartmouth's MEM program and what was your biggest takeaway?

I realized that in order to move up in a company from a desk engineer to a project manager, managerial skills were essential in streamlining this progression. I knew that more managerial classes, specifically dealing with new technologies and technologies in general, was essential. The biggest draw to the MEM program was the 390 project itself. Being able to manage my own project for a company was an amazing opportunity to put some of the skills I obtained throughout my undergraduate and graduate experience to use. I was able to not only understand the engineering and technical sides of a process, but also perform economic analysis to compare competing technologies. I like to compare an MEM graduate to a Swiss Army Knife — we have the tools to perform most any job well.

Tags: alumni, curriculum, entrepreneurship, M.E.M., projects

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