MEM Electives Night 2012

Want to learn more about the electives offered in the MEM program? Would you like to have the opportunity to talk to professors in a small group setting? Then MEM Elective Night 2012 is the place for you.

MEM Electives Night takes place Thursday, November 1, and provides students with the opportunity to meet six MEM professors in small group settings and ask questions and determine the best course plan for their time at Northwestern. Three of this year’s six participating professors sat down with us to discuss the event and address a few questions that students might have. Short biographies of Gail Berger (Leadership, Negotiations, Gateway Course), Mike Marasco (Operations Excellence, Managerial Analytics), and Mark Werwath (Project Management, Management of Technology) can be found at the end of the post.

Why should students attend this event?

Mike Watson: Every student has a unique background and a unique set of questions about the courses. This events gives the students a chance to have a conversation with the professors about how the classes fit with their own needs.  This will help you decide which classes are best for you.

Gail Berger: The event will provide students with an outstanding opportunity to learn more about the specific content and objectives of the courses.

Mark Werwath: I think students should attend to get a better sense of the various instructors and their distinctive styles, approach, and expertise to make a better choice of courses to fulfill their degree.

What’s the strangest or most surprising question a student has asked in the past? What’s the most common question?

Mike Watson: The most common question I get asked before students take my class is: Does this apply to me? If a student is not involved in manufacturing, they often wonder if an operations class applies to them. What I find interesting are the students who are able to do their job better because they now understand how their firm’s manufacturing system works. Or, it is great when we can talk about how operational ideas can impact how you run your design center or write software.

Gail Berger: Can someone learn how to negotiate? (I certainly hope so!  If not my course would be a waste of students’ time.)

Mark Werwath: How are projects chosen for students that are full time was an interesting question and how are teams formed was a common question. The answers are: I do have access to projects in industry on a limited basis for students who’re full time and don’t have access to industry projects. These are brought in as needed to both the project and process courses. I generally tend to form teams in a random fashion as this is how industry works: You can’t always choose your team-mates.

What advice can you offer to students in the program?

Mike Watson: You can learn a lot from you fellow students. This program gives you a great opportunity to learn about other firms and different industries.

Gail Berger: Take advantage of building relationships with your colleagues. MEM is comprised of the most wonderful group of thoughtful students.

Mark Werwath: Take advantage of every course and every instructor that you can. Don’t just do the bare minimum but look to extract all the value that you can. For most people, this is the only masters program and the last chance you have to learn what you can from the people around you including students and professors.

How important is it for engineering managers to develop effective networking skills?

Mike Watson: With any management job, a good network not only helps you but can help the people you manage.

Gail Berger: Especially today, when we are bombarded with information, it is imperative for students to build relationships with people so that they have access to critical and pertinent information in a timely manner. Relationship building will also help students access resources and knowledge that will enable them to be more successful in their positions.

Mark Werwath: In today’s world it is essential for career management and achieving success in their careers. It is not what you know, or who you know, but BOTH and how can integrate what and who you know to make opportunities become real.

Mike Watson is an adjunct professor who works full-time in addition to teaching operations excellence and managerial analytics. For the last fifteen years he has worked with a start-up software company that developed and sold software to help firms optimize their supply chain. The company was sold to ILOG and then to IBM. He recently published a book that he will continue to work on over the course of the next year while teaching at Northwestern and starting a new company.

Gail Berger thas been teaching in Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, McCormick School of Engineering, and the School of Education and Social Policy for over ten years. In addition to teaching, she works as a consultant in the areas of conflict resolution, leadership and talent development, and team building for small firms, Fortune 500 companies, and non-profits including Lockheed Martin, McDonalds, and Driehaus Capital Management. She currently works on research projects related to communication in organizations and building virtual team trust.

Mark Werwath has thirty years of industry experience, mostly in the areas of project and process management, and is the current director of the MEM department. His most recent experiences in consulting have been focused on portfolio management and revenue management analytics.

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