In this Faces of Nexus feature, we highlight Connor Cudney who has been an integral part of the Nexus team, starting as a college intern and advancing to his current role as Lead Mechanical Engineer – a career progression that seamlessly aligns with Nexus Circular’s evolution from a pioneer to a commercial leader in advanced recycling.
Determination and Drive
Connor recalls the very early days when Nexus could fit within a garage. At that time, the team consisted of a tight-knit group of about ten individuals who were hands-on professionals who wore multiple hats. From designing and procuring equipment to unloading heavy machinery and anchoring it to the floor, they did it all.
During the startup phase, the team had limited resources but boundless determination, learning through trial and error and adjusting course. Connor responded to one of the initial challenges of having only one experienced computer programmer, took the initiative, and underwent training to become proficient in programming. Over six months, he and his colleague focused on programming, bug testing and troubleshooting, and then updating the system to ensure efficient control of the equipment.
Adapting and Growing
As Nexus grew and the facility expanded, Connor’s role also evolved. He played a pivotal role in creating the Human-Machine Interface (HMI) and the training programs that enabled the operators to monitor and control the manufacturing process and product quality. Connor and the team performed the full range of roles from engineering to operations, working 12-hour shifts alongside floor personnel to train and transition all of the necessary information so they could independently operate the equipment.
As an operator, Connor experienced hands-on work from the user perspective, which directly influenced his design choices to be more practical and user-friendly for his colleagues. This on-the-job learning, absorbing knowledge from colleagues, and continuous improvement were instrumental in Connor’s growth and development.
Culture of Innovation and Continuous Improvement
When the first commercial facility was running smoothly, Nexus embarked on expansion plans which required expanding the management team along with fundraising. The arrival of experienced leadership like Jodie Morgan marked a significant milestone, leading to a successful $150 million equity raise to fund the company’s next stage of growth. This enabled Connor and his team to focus on expanding the existing facility while planning for new sites.
Today, Nexus’ business and operations have grown and expanded substantially, with almost 100 employees. Reflecting on the journey over the past several years, Connor notes how his role has come full circle, back to designing the next generation of equipment, processes, and facilities but now on a much larger scale.
Connor emphasizes how Nexus’ culture of innovation provides the foundation for success. He shares how they designed a system to remove the non-plastic residuals from the pyrolysis reactor to enable continuous 24/7 operation. Through many cycles of iterative innovation, his team developed the system and process for continuous residual removal. By addressing and overcoming technical challenges, he learned that all problems can be solved with the right mindset and through the determination, ingenuity, and collaborative strengths of the team.
Aligning Passion with Purpose
Connor’s passion for the environment and his love for the outdoors drew him to Nexus and its mission to accelerate circularity so the environment can thrive. He believes that reducing, reusing, and recycling plastics are complementary solutions to the plastics challenge and that Nexus’ advanced recycling solution has tremendous potential to significantly reduce the environmental burden caused by the accumulation of post-use plastics on land and in our oceans.
Connor shares valuable advice for those embarking on a similar journey. He encourages individuals to seek more responsibility, get involved, and continue to learn and improve in their roles. Connor’s work within Nexus exemplifies the company’s growth, innovation, and dedication to sustainability. His story serves as an inspiration for those looking to make a positive impact on the world and create a more sustainable future.