Members of the Nation

Looking to the famous Proust Questionnaire for inspiration, we present to you the first in a series of posts featuring current MEM students. During their time in the MEM program, students have many opportunities to meet each other but we want to give you a chance to hear the unique story each student has to offer.

Felipe Saavedra traveled all the way from Chile to Evanston to participate in the MEM program on a full scholarship through from the Becas Chile, which attempts to create advanced human capital abroad. He has big goals to help make the world function more effectively, sees managing engineers as integral in companies with an eye to future success, and just became a father just a few weeks ago. You can find his linkedin page here.

1. Where are you from and where did you acquire your undergraduate degree?

I come from Chile, one of the southernmost countries of the world. I am an industrial engineer and studied at the University of Chile

2. When did you realize you were meant to be an engineer?

I think that I’ve always been an engineer even from my childhood. I used to disassemble everything—old radios, watches, and many other things in order to understand how they work (the only problem is that I was not always able to assemble them again)…My passion is to understand the world around me!

3. What is the most amazing engineering project you’ve ever studied?

One of the most amazing things I’ve ever studied is the way Google has changed the world using engineering as a core value. I think that many people think that quantitative analysis is something totally disconnected from the real world, however Google shows us that these worlds are actually close and getting closer each day.

4. What’s the most creative engineering project you’ve worked on?

 One of the most creative projects that I’ve worked on was a few years ago when my area had the mission to improve the profitability of a service that didn’t have positive results. We started from zero. We identified the product drivers. We deconstructed  many old myths related to the product. We were able to identify a specific target and the correct price and commercials conditions necessary to make the product profitable, all by using historical data of the company—information that had been there for many years but nobody cared about this before. We added value to the company by understanding new patterns and implementing a new way to think about service.

5. Do you attend Bensenville or Evanston classes? How would you summarize this community in three words?

I attend to Evanston classes. My three words that summarize this community are Powerful, Challenging, and Empowered.

6. Describe your past and current professional experience.

I’ve worked for more than 5 years in different industries: insurance, financial services and telecommunication, but always in planning areas, trying to understand the main business drivers, evaluating new business opportunities, and projecting results. My goal always has been to facilitate the decision making process through related information.

7. Why choose an MEM over an MBA or Master in Engineering?

Basically I chose MEM because: I decided that I want to continue my engineer career path but in a manager level. So I think MEM could help me in a better way than a MBA which is more generic. You can find lawyers, MDs, business men, etc. MEM allows me to explore business cases but from an engineering perspective (more technical). Finally, MEM gives me the flexibility to take advantage of the business side of an MBA and more technical side of a Master of Engineering.

8. What is your favorite MEM class and why? If you could add a course, what would it be?

I think that Marketing has been one of my favorite classes because I’ve been able to understand and connect many business issues from the technology perspective and explore how engineering has a deep relationship business world. I think that one of the advantages of MEM is flexibility; we can take courses from different masters programs such as MBA, EDI, MSLOC—in other words we have the chance to build our own master degree.

9. If you could use your MEM degree to make the world better in any way you chose, what problem/issue would you want to solve?

If you see the world right now there are a lot of inefficiencies, there are many things that don’t add real value. We can see these issues in many aspect of our own life. For example, as a customer we sometimes have to fill out forms multiple times with the same information to subscribe a service. We can find this kind of problems even in big companies: a lot of repetitive work, lack of coordination, and a low value added. As Peter Drucker argued many years ago, right now we are living in a knowledge society driven by an almost infinite amount of information and new technology; we have enough information to change the world!

According this, more than solve a specific problem I’d like to improve the decision making process in companies/society in general from an economic perspective, in other words, use the information in an optimal and profitable way in order to create real value. I am sure that in the near future we will able to see Googles and Amazons everywhere, providing better and cheaper services based on the best understanding of customers information.

10. What is your opinion regarding the relationship between engineering and the business world today? How do you think these two fields will be linked in the future and why?

I think that both worlds are pretty close. In fact, today engineering effects almost all aspects of our society such as how human interacts, communicate, and even think; however, I think we are living in a radical paradigm which changes mainly by applied technology. In this environment, engineers have the responsibility to drive these changes. Businesses in the near future will need leadership with a deep understanding of business and also an understanding the company’s core values, such as design and technology: the real big picture. This is the key role of engineers.

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