An Unexpected Journey: Criminology, Engineering and Fatherhood
How Jason Schnaus’ diverse background helps teams and clients at ASG
Jason Schnaus brings an array of useful skills to the ASG team. The criminology major and father of two also earned a degree in construction management. Now he uses his skills to help ASG engineers manage design and regulation processes.
Jason has great insights on finding your niche as someone who took an unusual path to get to where he is today. Read this Q&A to see how he uses his background in his current role and manages projects at both work and home. Jason also offers advice for anyone interested in a role based on inquisition and communication.
You have an interesting career background. Tell us more.
I’ve got two very strange degrees. Criminology and construction management. Long story short, I went to college thinking I was probably going to do construction management. At the time I wasn’t focused enough to really understand what that would all entail. My roommate was in criminology, and then I started working at a boys school in Terre Haute, and it pushed me down the path of criminology. So I chose that path and there I went. I got a degree and had envisioned getting into corrections, but I never used the criminology degree for what I intended.
After college I quickly realized criminology wasn’t going to be the right fit for me. I ended up taking a job with the state of Indiana in the area of disability adjudication. I worked there for a few years, and that’s where I met my wife, Lyndsie. Yet after working there, I was thinking, man, I’m on the wrong path again. That’s when I went back to school and finished my construction management degree. I’m not a licensed engineer, but I studied construction engineering, and that’s where I learned project management.
Then I got into a couple construction project management roles. I took a job in the Chicagoland area. Lyndsie and I moved up there for five years. Then we got married and pregnant with our son. That’s when we decided to move back to Indianapolis to be closer to family. I got a different construction job here in Indy as a project manager.
At the time I was thinking: I’m getting tired of the construction world. Another part of me was thinking: I don’t want to screw up another degree. That’s when a recruiter called me out of the blue and said, “There’s this company that works in medical devices, and they’re looking for people with construction backgrounds,” and I was like, “Yup, absolutely. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I’m sold.” ASG hired me as a project scheduler. Since then my job has morphed into different roles. My job at ASG came out of the sky when I was really needing it.
Can you describe your role at ASG?
My new title is Technical Project Manager. I work in the area of design development. I grew into a deliverable-based position because that’s just the way ASG operates; there are different opportunities in different areas. Now I mostly handle communication among engineers and clients, but sometimes I help a team out. I assist our clients’ project managers; their goal is to get devices or other instruments through the regulation process.
I manage timelines for steps we need done for the regulatory process or to prepare products for clinical trials. Many deliverables have to be met for each project, and several different people are involved in the project — either they’re doing the work themselves or they’ve got somebody that’s doing the work for them. I’m responsible for communicating with all these people. I might ask them: Where do we stand on this, and does anything need to be updated? Sometimes I’ll jump in and help with documentation. I’ll help some of these engineers that don’t have somebody contracted to them. If I recognize they have their hands full, I’ll knock out that task and get things moving. I do pretty much whatever they want me to do.
Share one of your biggest accomplishments at ASG.
At the beginning of this year two products that went through the regulation process actually got launched. They made it all the way through phase four (that’s the term they use prior to a product launch). It was a big celebration. A lot of projects get paused or terminated, and some can take five or so years. Very few project managers see a project launch, and I was on two of these projects. It was hellish at the time, but those projects are among our client’s crowning achievements. It’s cool to be a part of that.
What do you love most about your job?
My paycheck. [Laughter.] Honestly, though, just working with people. I work from home some days, but I like going into the office and seeing people. I like to go on site and bounce around at people’s desks. It’s fun to work with a team.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I’ve got two kids, Ben and Nora, who are 6 and 8 years old. That’s pretty much what I do. My kids love sports and extracurriculars, so that keeps us busy all year round.
I’m a project kind of guy, and even when I’m at home, I have projects. I’ve been renovating this house for seven years now. It’s always something. Right now I’m trying to finish my fence.
Balancing family life and work life can be difficult. I like to go to work on site because it separates my work life from my home life. It doesn’t always work that way, but ASG is like family. The company is very family friendly, and that’s really nice.
What are some problems you’re asked to solve?
Problems are usually time based. It could be that a timeline crunches our resources. If it’s a resource issue that I can help solve, I’ll jump in and do what I can. If I’m not the qualified person to do it, I’ll get a document drafted and say: I took the issue this far. Can you help get this solved?
Do you have any advice for people who may want to do what you do?
As a communicator, you need to be able to speak up and not be afraid. The way I go about it is: Hey guys, this is what I see. Maybe I’m right, maybe I’m wrong. What do you think?
Don’t be afraid to speak up if you want to try something different because there’s lots of options. If you’re tired of something that you’re doing or just want to try something different, then find the thing that you like and run with it. That’s what’s nice about our jobs at ASG; we don’t have to be pigeonholed. We can find our niche and run with it.
Does Jason’s job at ASG interest you? Check out our Careers page to learn more.