Career paths can be an interesting journey with some unexpected turns along the way. I certainly know that first-hand.
I went to Penn State thinking I’d come out and design aircraft. Instead, I decided to go into motorsports – at the time a hobby and interest of mine. I rose through racing the ranks, wearing many different hats for 25-plus years — that included everything from being a mechanic to a race engineer to aerodynamicist to technical director, team manager and company director.
If you had asked me back then, when I was working for Team Rahal, I would have told you I’d stay in motorsports my whole career. And then? Another turn.
After leaving Rahal’s in 2007 and doing a little consulting in racing for another year or so, some colleagues I’d met through racing and I launched a new business from my home in Central Ohio. Six years later, TotalSim USA has grown into a 14-employee company headquartered in Dublin, Ohio with another office in Southern California. Obviously, a number of things have played into our growth as a Aerodynamics and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) consulting firm, but two things in particular were our background in motorsports and the location we settled on.
The technological aspects of Central Ohio were crucial. Not only have we made great use of our fiber connections in Dublin to the Central Ohio Research Network (C.O.R.N., get it?) and OARnet’s statewide fiber backbone, but also having fast and direct access to the Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC), which sits right in our backyard, has been a critical tool.
OSC’s mandate to support commercial research as an economic driver is something we’ve taken advantage of — to the point that for the past two years we’ve been OSC’s biggest commercial user by far.
So even though we’re not a big company, OSC allows us an elastic ability to scale up and solve problems. We maintain our own 600 cores of high-performance computing (HPC) housed in our IT room in Dublin that fits our normal daily throughput, but with access to OSC we can offer our current, or prospective clients the ability to solve large problems quickly. Whether that’s a short-term project where we need a massive amount of simulation in a short period of time, or a longer-term project with intermittent “spikes,” we just go out to OSC and have that instant scale up for quick turnaround. When we go out as a company to sell a longer-term project, access to OSC allows us to plan the usage of any number of cores over a certain period of time; I know I can easily work with the OSC staff to plan out these larger projects. I can’t express how important this flexibility is for our company compared to having to own and manage all the HPC infrastructure we’d need.
What’s also been important to our success is we are bringing a “motorsports mentality” – that kind of pressure and performance you need for a quick, efficient turnaround – to other industries that maybe weren’t used to working that way. Being able to marry modeling and simulation (M&S) with physical testing has become a good business angle for us.
That’s part of the reason we got involved in the AweSim initiative as well – it’s where we see things going. Motorsports has been far ahead of many of the traditional industries in the use of M&S tightly coupled with physical testing to move product development forward. That’s now become standard in many other industries at the large OE level. It’s just a matter of lowering the barriers to using M&S for smaller companies that, up to now, have done everything with physical testing or traditional design methods. We are aiming to help them get access to simple, affordable, powerful M&S, and the expertise to use it.
Finding success, as most of us know, is sometimes a simple matter of using all tools in your toolbox to the best of your ability. It’s what helps us navigate all those unexpected twists and turns.