December 20, 2023
While UL Solutions is a long way from its beginnings in fire safety testing, engineers remain essential to our work today. We recently spoke to Ken Boyce, senior director of principal engineering within Industrial Testing, Inspection and Certification (TIC) at UL Solutions.
Boyce has spent his 38-year career with UL Solutions, joining the company after earning his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. Learn more about what appeals to him about our work at UL Solutions, encouraging future engineers and some of his favorite memories — from tests that had unintentionally comical results to presentations for the United States (U.S.) House of Representatives.
Please tell us about your current role.
I currently serve as the global technical leader for our Industrial TIC business. We have four customer operating units (COUs) — built environment, engineered materials, energy and industrial automation, and cybersecurity and identity management and security. We refer to these COUs as the “core of the core” as they are central to UL Solutions' work. They essentially continue what William Henry Merrill, Jr. started doing in the 1890s. He was looking at fire prevention, building materials, industrial systems, and wire and cable back then.
These areas are still relevant today, even as technology and processes continue to change rapidly. We’re shifting to sustainability and a circular economy while still maintaining safety. It’s an exciting time because none of these technological innovations will work if they are not safe.
How did you get into engineering?
As a kid, I loved playing with my chemistry set. I took a lot of things apart because I loved figuring out how things worked. I have always liked computers and math. I actually started college as a math major but fell in love with engineering. It makes sense because it’s how we solve the problems I was always interested in.
I did a college recruitment interview with UL (now UL Solutions) on campus. I loved that UL had a sense of purpose, and I felt connected to the mission of working for a safer world.
What’s the best part of working for UL Solutions?
Working here gives me a chance to use my skills to help make the world better. There are many ways to help make the world better, but it is in our DNA at UL Solutions. The chance to use my professional skills in a way that truly matters is important to me.
I came to UL Solutions at a time when communications technology was big, but there was industrial and power technology. I’ve moved from different businesses throughout my career here. Sometimes I feel like I am in an entirely different career than I started in.
I’ve done a lot of chemical, mechanical and fire engineering, which I never expected to do. It’s a gift not to have to go somewhere else to do different things. UL Solutions has given me a place to grow and have new opportunities.
UL Solutions is just different. Our sole purpose when we started was to keep people safe. Now we also promote security and sustainability — we need all these things. People deserve to be safe and secure and to live in a more sustainable world.
How does your job build trust in products?
One of our main focuses is understanding other people’s technological innovations. We have to really be on our game to do that and to also identify the potential risks. We have to understand cutting-edge evolutions and capabilities so that we can mitigate possible vulnerabilities.
It’s a gift to develop a broad range of different topics with technical insight. I have a great set of colleagues to work with who have that analytical mindset — we are able to help companies mitigate potential risks and make their products safer.
What advice would you give to someone just starting their engineering career?
Be true to yourself. Being fiercely intellectually curious is important. Keep learning. Push yourself to learn new things and ways of doing things. Listen to people and appreciate their viewpoints. You can constantly learn from people, by reading and by doing things.
Build your suite of technical skills to help keep the world moving forward.
When we think of engineering, we think of technical skills. But we need to be able to talk to people and explain things in a way they understand. We need to be able to explain why something matters in an effective, practical and compelling way.
How can we encourage more students to pursue STEM careers?
I have contributed to the development of some great enterprise STEM/STEAM programs used in schools, such as Safety Smart and First Robotics.
There are plenty of great volunteer opportunities to engage with younger people. We can help them understand what a STEM or engineering career could look like and how they can be fulfilling. The more we have people involved in those community connections, the better our future will be.
Teachers are building the future. Great teachers are so important. But it’s nice to think about supporting teachers and getting this information out there. We, as professionals, can help balance the classroom experience with some of our insights. We have a willing group of UL Solutions employees ready to help. We can make STEM vibrant and engaging for students. That connection can be significant.
What are some favorite memories throughout your career at UL Solutions?
I’ve had some amazing experiences here. I once reported to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science and the National Laboratories about the many important energy research programs UL Solutions had conducted. It was a surreal moment that reminded me how important our work is.
I also acted as the technical leader for the UL Solutions team that worked on hoverboard safety. Then chairman of the U.S. Consumer Safety Product Commission, Elliott Kay, commended our team for our work, and we’ve carried that engagement forward for other global e-mobility technologies.
I’ve had the chance to lead large research projects to develop scientific knowledge about really critical issues, working with world-class scientists. I’m a fellow in the William Henry Merrill Society, which is an incredible honor. I have been asked to serve as chairman of important committees in the safety domain and on advisory boards advancing safety, security and sustainability.
Throughout my career, I’ve been asked to visit many countries around the world, including China, Egypt, South Africa and South Korea, as part of our efforts to help unlock the benefits of energy technologies. I’ll be presenting about our important work for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 28.
I’ve been truly fortunate to have so many memorable moments helping UL Solutions work toward its mission.