First-time mentor Joseph Mueller earned his bachelor's degree in engineering management from the University of Arizona in 2018. He started at PepsiCo as a manufacturing engineer, where he worked for a year before moving back home to Tucson to work for Amazon, launching Arizona’s first robotic sortable fulfillment center. He then went on to launch and support facilities in Michigan and New Mexico. He currently serves as a senior program manager at Amazon.com, which is sponsoring its first Interdisciplinary Capstone project this year.
Tell us a little bit about the capstone project you did when you were a student.
I worked on building a six-axis robotic arm for Roche. We had to move slides from a table in any orientation to a standard machine without damaging the slide or touching the tissue on the slide. We also had to integrate a vision system to give commands and directions to the robotic unit. It was very challenging, but a rewarding experience. It helped me learn how to be a better leader and work with a high-performing team.
Did your experience in the capstone program prepare you for your career and/or continued studies?
Yes! Capstone was crucial in understanding how to best work in a team environment. In industry, no one works alone, and even successful individual contributors always bounce ideas and collaborate with peers. I always am working in teams and with suppliers, which is the purpose of Interdisciplinary Capstone. These skills are necessary in almost all parts of professional life, and the UA’s focus on this prepares students for what they see in the workplace.
What is your work team like?
I work in the reliability and maintenance engineering field. I focus on brownfield (legacy) buildings in attacking top issues in my network. My business unit is Amazon Robotic Sortable, which are the large sort centers that produce very high volumes – 80 percent of all Amazon’s orders. I am responsible for several projects and programs that span across North America. We attack these problems with several different tools such as LSS, Kaizen, Data Science and product creation.
What are some of the most rewarding moments at work?
When a project is complete and it is generating results for our customers. Amazonians always work backward from the customer to best ensure we provide a positive experience. This is the lifeblood of our organization, and it drives all our decisions. Seeing a grateful and happy customer is what it is all about for me, and providing a solution that solves my customers’ problems is how my teams and I live life.
Would you recommend the sponsor experience to other companies and alumni?
Absolutely! I also run projects at other universities and the UA, by far, outperforms in this course. It is well-defined throughout and the students are always engaged. I enjoy working with the students. They often have ingenious solutions and customer-focused designs that drive success for the customer.