September 30, 2020

We are highlighting the unique relationships we share in our global community of seasoned professionals. The strength of Epstein lies in the wealth of experience shared with each other to better equip our workforce with knowledge and confidence.

From building great professional relationships to long lasting friendships, these stories speak for themselves. This month, the spotlight features Darrin McCormies and Jonathan Zambrano from our Chicago office.

Darrin is Epstein’s Senior Vice President and Director of Industrial Services in the Business Development group. He has held a variety of roles, including packaging engineering manager, process department manager, project manager and director of strategic services over a span of 26 years at Epstein. Darrin was with Kraft for 13 years prior to joining Epstein, and had always worked in manufacturing plants. Therefore, the background he brought to Epstein was a little unique in that he understood the manufacturing operations and how things are made. He still brings that expertise to the company in any manufacturing operation, especially in the food processing segment.

In his long-spanning career, Darrin has had the opportunity to work all over the world, give council to CEOs and chairmen, speak at major trade events and contribute to many technical journals. With all of that, and according to him, his professional highlight is helping Epstein build a national reputation in the design and construction of meat plants.

Jonathan, AKA JZ, as everybody fondly calls him, is a Design Engineer within our DesignBuild group. His area of expertise is industrial and manufacturing projects. The majority of the projects he has worked on are focused in the food and beverage industry along with experience on Epstein’s manufacturing projects. Most recently, he has been involved with projects for WholeStone Foods, a pork processing facility. JZ has been a member, as well as a past board member, of the SHPE (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers) since school. He is also a member of Epstein’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee.

JZ started his journey with Epstein as an industrial process engineering intern in the summer of 2017. Darrin, as the then director of strategic services, worked closely with JZ during his two consecutive summer internships and helped him transition from an internship to a full-time role within the Industrial Process Engineering department.

What did you gain from being a mentor to JZ?

Darrin: “After his first summer, I knew that JZ would be a great asset to have at Epstein, and it was important to me that he knew he was valued and that he would have a great start to his career by coming to Epstein. Every day I am very proud of his personal and professional growth. You could see that he had great potential in his very first summer, and he continues to work hard, contribute in meaningful ways and grow.”

What is the biggest takeaway for you from this relationship?

JZ: “I started as an intern with little professional experience. With back-to-back summer internships, and Darrin’s mentoring, I learned so many things that tremendously helped my professional growth. When you have the right folks, and you work together as a team, you can come up with a good solution for any challenge. My biggest takeaway from this relationship was learning how all the different parts of a project work and come together to create whatever the end deliverables are.”

Could you share a memorable project you worked on together?

Darrin: “During his first summer internship, we gave JZ a project within a project that would be his very own. We were in the middle of designing a new plant for Tajin – the spice company. We tasked JZ with analyzing the operation and quantifying the amount and type of all of the mobile equipment that the client would need to move product around his plant and to load and unload trucks. JZ did a phenomenal job; his analysis was comprehensive, his documentation was clear, concise and complete, and his presentation to the client was a huge success. What JZ really demonstrated with his this was not just his technical capability or his ability to communicate, but the personal pride he took in this assignment and the ownership he had for the results.”

What are your secrets for a successful mentor/mentee relationship?

JZ: “Darrin took a leap of faith on his part in giving me more responsibility through-out the year and letting me become more independent. Although I have taken control of my projects, I can always rely on his advice anytime I hit a roadblock and go to him for assistance.

"The key to a successful relationship is give and take. It has got to be a two-way street; that has worked pretty well for us. For example, when I came back to Epstein full time, we were working on a simulation project. Darrin was not very familiar with how to implement logic within the software but was a great resource for Jon Scales and I to collaboratively think about the structure of what we were modeling. He provided the ideas and advice and we provided the technical implementation of those ideas. With our constant coordination and ideas going back and forth, we were able to successfully resolve the challenges presented by the project.”

Darrin: “To have a successful mentor/mentee relationship you have to invest your time and make yourself open to having a relationship to begin with. The mentee has to be open to that relationship, as well. You have to be available and willing to spend time - and if you have something of value to offer the relationship and the other person has the willingness to accept whatever knowledge or advice that is given, then the mentor/mentee relationship will grow. As a mentor you feel proud of the accomplishments and growth you see.

"Time and trust on both party’s part is fundamental to building the relationship, but there has to be a level of 'like,' as well – you need to like each other.”

What is the best piece of advice Darrin has given you as a mentor?

JZ: “Darrin has given me a lot of advice over the years, but one that comes to mind is to professionally pursue the things that spark my interest.

"This could be anything from the type of project I want to work on to the things I want to continue learning about. An example of this would be, last year, Darrin knew that simulation was something I studied in school and something that has always peaked my interest. Knowing this, he encouraged me to look into courses and opportunities I could take advantage of to improve this skill set. Ultimately, I ended up taking a week-long course to improve these skills.”

Darrin, how would you best describe your mentoring style?

Darrin:Personal. I share my personal story and I am very interested in yours, as well. I think this personal approach builds the foundation for a good working relationship and fosters the potential for a mentor/mentee relationship to grow organically.”

What are some of the challenges Darrin has helped you overcome as your mentor?

JZ: “Darrin helped me break out of my shell and seek out more responsibility. Interacting with consultants and vendors was new to me and, under his guidance, I was able to overcome that."

Something I appreciate about my mentee…

Darrin: “JZ has never been afraid to seek me out and ask a question. It can be intimidating to admit you do not know something, but JZ has always been comfortable in what he knows as well as what he does not.”

Something I appreciate about my mentor…

JZ: “Patience. Through all the transitions in my professional career, student to intern to full-time employee, Darrin has always been willing to take the time to educate and work with me in a way that I believe has set me up to be a successful contributing member of our design teams. His patience and guidance has been vital in my development, and this is something I greatly appreciate Darrin taking the time to foster in me."

One word that describes JZ…

Darrin: “Dependable! JZ is a great person who is smart and hardworking. People like to be around him and they trust that when he commits to doing something it gets done – and done well!"

A little known fact about Darrin…

JZ: “Darrin has always been very interested in the field of medicine. He considers medicine almost as a hobby of his. Before he decided to go to engineering school, he contemplated becoming a doctor. He still talks about it sometimes.”