By Juliana Palomino
If you had asked Fadi Qutaish (BSMNG ’12) 10 years ago where he would be today, he never would have guessed working as a mine engineer in the United States.
Born and raised in Jordan, Fadi received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Jami'at Al-Balqa Al-Tatbiqiyya in Salt, one of Jordan’s larger cities. He began working as a mechanical engineer in the Royal Jordanian Air Force, and his career plan was to stay there and thrive.
“Due to my family situation, I moved to the United States in 2009,” says Fadi. “It was a major change for me both professionally and personally, and I was very challenged.”
Living in West Virginia, Fadi applied for jobs in the coal industry, but swiftly realized the need for a mining engineering degree. He asked colleagues for recommendations on the best mining program around and continually got the same answer—the University of Kentucky.
“Going to UK was one of the best decisions that I have ever made. When I came to the United States, I started from scratch. UK did an excellent job of providing me with everything that I needed as an engineer,” he says.
After interning with Patriot Coal as a UK student, Fadi accepted a job offer from the company. He eventually became a production engineer at the company, giving him engineering experience in both mining and production. Over the past years he’s added skills to his toolbox through various positions and now works as a lead mine engineer at Compass Minerals.
“In my current position the harvest season has really come for me,” says Fadi. “Our work is like surface mining but underground. So I get to use all of my different experiences, in both production and underground work.”
Fadi credits the University of Kentucky with preparing him for the real-life tasks he’s encountered in the workplace. After his undergraduate education, he felt equipped with engineering knowledge but was unsure how to connect that to real engineering tasks.
“At UK, they taught us to scratch our heads and use resources to figure it out. That helped us connect knowledge to real life,” he says. “I have realized that much more than many of my colleagues from other schools, I was prepared.”
He encourages all students to take advantage of any chance they get to work with their hands. Internships and practical skills have made all the difference for him by helping him assimilate and thrive in the US workforce.
“We can draw the perfect design on paper, but it may not work in real life. Hands-on experience strengthens that gap between knowledge and operations,” says Fadi. “That practical experience is how UK helped me succeed as an engineer.”