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Joel Feldman

Joel Feldman, Vice President, Corporate Engineering

Joel Feldman

Vice President, Corporate Engineering

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As a leader, I’m always thinking about ways to get people different opportunities to stretch themselves. I’ve been fortunate, and I’ve seen how being open to opportunities can make a difference.

My family moved from Cleveland, Ohio, when I was young because my dad followed an opportunity. He was a social worker, who had a chance to lead a small agency in Las Vegas, Nevada. I don’t think my parents had been west of the Mississippi before we moved there, and it turned out to be a great place to grow up.

When I was young, I enjoyed taking apart my toys and putting them back together. I quickly learned that when you had pieces left over, the toy didn’t quite work the same way. So I think that’s what started me down this path of engineering.

I also enjoyed math and science. So I talked to my parents—a social worker and a librarian—and they helped me find an engineering camp to attend before my senior year in high school. It was a three-week program called The Making of an Engineer and was a great opportunity for me to try a lot of different activities. It’s where I learned that I was a lot more excited about mechanical engineering than I was about electrical engineering or computer science. Plus, it gave my parents confidence to invest in an engineering degree.

One of the things that attracted me to Case Western Reserve University was their strong engineering co-op program. During my sophomore year, I started interviewing with different companies, and one of them was Swagelok. I left the interview thinking that a valve and fitting company was much more interesting than I ever imagined.

Since joining Swagelok as a co-op in 1996, I’ve never looked back. Throughout my career, I’ve had opportunities to explore, learn, and grow—both as an engineer and as a leader.

After earning my degree, I joined the assembly engineering group. Thanks to my co-op experience, I knew I had a lot of passion for new product development and talked to my boss about moving in that direction. About a year later, I was asked to take part in a new rotational program for product engineers. It wasn’t exactly the new product development role I was hoping for, but I took the opportunity.

As a product engineer, I learned what it takes to support a successful product in the field. I learned what our customers struggle with, what manufacturing struggles with, what the tech service team struggles with—this role exposed me to so many groups across the organization and prepared me for a role in new product development.

One of my favorite projects in new product development was being the lead design engineer for a new stream selection valve. We were starting with a blank sheet of paper, with the goal to develop a new product that really met the needs of the marketplace. I think the whole team had fun on the project, and we earned a couple of patents along the way. To this day, I’m always excited when I go in the field and see that product in use.

Although I tried to display personal leadership as much as I could without being in a formal leadership role, I was excited when an opportunity opened to lead the design engineering group. Two years later, I was leading the whole new product development team. It was definitely a challenging assignment, but we had a lot of fun developing products like the medium-pressure ball valve and the DE series diaphragm valve.

To become a better leader, I wanted to improve my communication skills. So I was excited to be offered an opportunity in customer service where I interacted daily with customers and distributors. I grew a lot from this experience, and was promoted to director of outbound supply chain.

Next, I returned to engineering as director of engineering innovations, leading all of the customer-facing areas of corporate engineering. It was a great opportunity for the team to consider how we could be more agile, take on challenges, and get closer to our markets.

I continued to develop my business acumen and customer focus, serving as director of general industrial marketing and then director of operations for the fitting services group. I enjoyed bringing a little more commercial acumen to operations and collaborating across the company to focus on the highest priorities.

Now as vice president of engineering, I want to continue to hone Swagelok’s focus on innovation. There are so many opportunities for us. It’s important for us to work closely with distributors and customers to make sure we are focusing on the right opportunities.

Along with innovation, I’m committed to continued diligence in the quality and design of our products. We occupy a space in the market that enables us to create a premium product with premium workers and processes. It’s a great place to be, and when I talk to customers, they’re always appreciative that we provide products that meet their expectations. You realize that Swagelok provides so much more to our customers—peace of mind and performance that enables their products and applications to do far more than they ever expected.

Outside of work, I enjoy hiking and playing tennis with my two children and my wife Karie, who’s amazing; she has her PhD from Case and is a proud member of the sociology department.

I serve on the board of a small non-profit called Progress with Chess. It’s really neat to see the impact that playing chess can make on children’s lives by helping them understand more about strategic thinking. I also served on the grant committee for Komen Northeast Ohio and am now proud to be a member of their board.

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