I knew when I decided to attend Stevens (way back in spring of 2004, mind you) that I’d be getting a first-class engineering education, which would set me up for obtaining a great job post-college. What I didn’t know is that everything I did from that point on would affect my future job hunt. Bear with me as I explain my college experience; you’ll soon understand what I’m doing.
Coming into Stevens I knew I wanted to study Engineering Management (EM). I liked the combination of core, broad-based engineering peppered with business, economics, and project management. Beyond that, I was clueless. Ask me what I wanted to do with a degree in EM, and I’d give you an “Umm, I dunno... business maybe? Maybe construction management?” Clueless.
Freshman year at Stevens I did about a thousand different activities outside of class: Stevens Political Awareness Club, Dramatic Society, Ambassadors’ Club, Entertainment Committee, American Society for Engineering Management. In the spring, I utilized the NYU/Stevens relationship and took Elementary Japanese 2 at NYU’s College of Arts & Sciences (I was fortunate enough to place into EJ2 thanks to four years of high school Japanese). Over that summer, I did a construction management internship with the Port Authority, where I had the opportunity to go to the top of the George Washington Bridge and down into the pit of the World Trade Center Site. Without a doubt, it was the most exciting of any of my jobs to date, though it did make me realize one thing... I wasn’t much a fan of construction management.
And so sophomore year began with me being just as clueless as ever with what I wanted to do post-grad. I stayed involved with the Dramatic Society, including a position on the e-board, and the Entertainment Committee, and I decided to join a social fraternity. I knew a bunch of guys who, rather coincidentally, all happened to be in Sigma Phi Epsilon and after hanging out there a lot in the fall, I soon became a brother and quickly became the Balanced Man Scholarship Chairman. I also did my first co-op at Ethicon, Inc., a Johnson & Johnson company.
My third year was basically a repeat of my second year. My next co-op, however, was at GlaxoSmithKline where I developed various operational excellence experiments to see how we could save money on the packaging lines of Aquafresh and Sensodyne. Yep, lots and lots of toothpaste.
After my third year, I decided to forgo a co-op term to study abroad in Japan during the summer of 2007. I studied Intermediate Japanese at KCP Language Institute in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan. At this particular school, they refuse to speak in English in the classroom. Everything is conducted in Japanese; just ask my buddy Marc who studied there the next summer and knew no Japanese before going! I lived in a dorm about an hour train ride away with only four other Americans and a ton of Japanese college students. I took the Shinkansen (bullet train) down to Kyoto, the ancient capital, and I went on a school trip to Yamagata, which is essentially the boondocks of Japan. And I even got credits transferred for use as a humanities course at Stevens. The food is strange, the culture is different, but all of it was incredibly amazing and awesome!
My fourth year I was elected as president of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society. We hold various community service events, such as Tau Beta “Pie”, where we pie professors in the face and the annual Pi Mile Run. The spring was spent mostly on my final co-op at Medco Health Solutions. It was about as far away from engineering as a job could be, as I did business analysis the majority of my time there. And would you believe it… I LOVED IT.
And so came my final year, and the job hunt. By now, I knew what I actually enjoyed and wanted in a career: business analysis, travel, a leadership/management role, and problem solving. After working with Career Development, attending the career fairs, and sending my resume to everyone and their mother, I lined up a bunch of interviews with consulting companies and leadership development programs. It felt as if every other day I was in my suit. And I had to balance all this with school. Yes, it’s tough, but if there’s one thing that stands out about Stevens, EVERYONE is in the same boat. And even with all that, I still found time to hang out and make it to trivia night at my favorite bar (I am over 21 after all).
In my interviews, I noticed I’d get the same questions over and over again:
Q: Name a difficult team experience. What did you do about it? A: “At Ethicon, most team members were in different countries and had different priorities and cultures, and I had to impress upon them the importance of quickly doing what I had asked...” (Side note: remember this was my first co-op job... and can you believe they actually listened?!?!)
Q: Name a time when you had to innovate. A: “At Medco, I developed a user-friendly self-populating spreadsheet that automatically generated monthly metrics for 12 very different groups with 12 very different sets of metrics...”
Q: What’s your proudest achievement? A: “Managing a team that organized a 100-person regional conference for Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society...”
Q: Describe a situation when you challenged authority. A: “When I was the scholarship chairman of my fraternity...” and I’d speak of the time I had a dispute with some of my fraternity brothers on how to manage our scholarship.
Q: Speak about a time when you had to take the lead and learn something new to get a goal accomplished? A: “In my freshman design lab we had to program a robot, and no one on my team had any clue how to program a robot...”
Q: What’s your best leadership quality? A: “Well, if there’s anything that going to Japan taught me, it’d be adaptation...” and then we’d chat about sushi for 5 or 10 minutes.
Q: What’s your passion outside of class? A: “Well, that’d be acting and singing,” and I’d go on and on about all the fun times with the dramatic society.
I think you see where I’m going. If I didn’t do all that I did while at Stevens, I’d be answerless.
In the end, I had five sets of second round interviews (including one which was an all-expense trip to Fairfax, VA... while it’s not a very touristy city, it was still pretty cool to take the Acela train, stay at a hotel, and eat at no cost to me). I got the “I’ve got some very good news for you” call from Johnson & Johnson’s Information Technology Leadership Development Program around mid November, and with that call, the weight of the world was released from Atlas’s hands. I signed, sealed, and delivered my offer acceptance on December 1st, and I’m slated to start my position with Consumer Products (think Band-Aids, Johnson’s Baby Powder & Shampoo, Aveeno) on June 15th. In my time between school and work, I plan to take a quick jaunt to Scotland to visit some relatives I haven’t seen in more than a decade (with banked co-op cash!) and to road trip out to Wisconsin for my buddy Gus’s graduation party (he’s already got his job lined up with UPS).
And as for this semester, I’ve got Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays off, and with the exception of Senior Design, not a care in the world and no longer clueless.
- Michael Munley, ‘09