Do What You Love and Love What You Do - One Student's Journey

Keegan McDuffie started working in the graphic design industry right out of high school. But a few years into a steady paycheck, he realized he had settled for an unfulfilling job, rather than a lifelong career. Keegan loved working with his hands, and was obsessed with fabricating, deconstructing, and rebuilding things, so he enrolled in a local engineering technology program at State College of Florida, which seemed to align well with interests. Keegan came alive in the program, and quickly developed a passion for 3D modeling and industrial design. His ambition paid off, landing him a job as a project designer at a local manufacturing company.

It was a job Keegan enjoyed and excelled at, but it still didn’t check all the right boxes. He was using his skills, but not satisfying his interests. Keegan wanted a career where he could do what he loved, and love what he did. His search led him to the Precision Machining program at Suncoast Technical College – an HTEC program in Sarasota, Florida – which promised to pair Keegan’s 3D modeling and design skills with his love for creating things with his hands. After meeting with Ed Doherty, Suncoast’s Precision Machining instructor, Keegan decided the program was a perfect fit, and applied that same day.

Instructor Doherty has been involved in machining since 1983, and left a position as a CNC machinist at Lockheed-Martin to build the machining program at Suncoast Technical College. He felt it was time to give back, and ensure those same skills would be passed on to future students. His dedication and perseverance have made the program an overwhelming success.

Keegan took full advantage of Doherty’s knowledge, as well as the opportunities the classroom and lab time offered him. He asked every question he could, to ensure he was fully equipped to join the workforce, and earned several NIMS (National Institute for Metalworking Skills) credentials during the program.

When asked about his experience, Keegan replies, “The program at Suncoast Technical College is incredible. The students taking classes at the same time as I were all working extremely hard, learning valuable skills every day, and having a lot of fun doing so! The best part of my experience was that Ed let everyone work at their own pace, which meant I could move quickly and exceed the expectations, furthering myself – I was never limited.”

Applying the skills he learned at Suncoast, Keegan progressed through several machining internships; landed a position at a small job shop, where he became lead CNC machinist; and then launched his own small business with his wife Sofia – BRER Precision Machining.

The McDuffies have been working non-stop to keep up with the rapid success and growth of their company, and are excited about the future. They purchased their first CNC machine in 2018, and are already talking about further expansion.

“We decided to purchase a new machine from Haas,” Keegan says, “because, with only one machine, if we had a failure without support, we’d be up a creek. The warranty and support offered by Haas and the local Haas Factory Outlet mean we’re covered if we do run into any issues. I try to push the limits of my 3-axis VF-2SS every day, and often create parts people think are not even possible without adding 5-axis capabilities, or purchasing an additional machine.”

No one ever said starting over would be easy – but it was well worth it for Keegan. “I love coming to work every day, and I get an unimaginable amount of fulfillment every time I get an order, every time I make a part, and every time I drop off parts to a customer.” In closing, the Keegan added: “I am very humbled and grateful for the people who have helped me get where I am today. I owe a lot to Suncoast Technical College, to Haas for their incredible commitment to education, and to Ed for teaching me (almost) everything I know.”