Genuine Connections Lead To Great Ideas: MEMPC Meet-Up Reflection

Effective Networking Means Being Genuine

The pressure to form and maintain business relationships can seem overwhelming at times. Jeff Glass, the Faculty Director of Pratt School’s Master of Engineering Management Program at MEMPC member school Duke University reminds us in a recent post “that networking is about relationships. This means it is about giving and receiving value from another person. It is about sharing information and experiences.” The first ever MEMPC Alumni meet-up in Palo Alto, California on October 24 is a great example of how a genuine interest in learning from and interacting with others for the greater good is more beneficial than purely self-motivated interactions.

A small group of MEMPC alumni first connected in an online meeting but quickly organized a casual gathering which lead to a serious brain-storming session on how to help all MEM alumni. Cheri Markt, a graduate from the MIT System Design and Management master’s program in engineering and management and co-organizer of event, reflects on the event and the new goals and ideas that emerged from the event with pictures from her fellow organizer and NUMEM alum Charlie Slutzky. Be sure to join the MEMPC and NUMEM Linked In groups today to begin building your own professional network and to add your voice to the greater MEM dialogue.

MEMPC Alumni Meet-Up: From The Organizer’s Perspective

The idea for the MEMPC meet-up started with Adam Detwiler, a Duke MEM alumni. Detwiler saw how the strong faculty network between MEMPC members schools had fostered support for the administrative side of engineering and management degrees and wanted to apply the same ideas to an alumni network. University staff from each school invited a core team of alumni to an online meeting. Before long, a mantra emerged: “If you put great people in a room together, great things will happen.”

Co-Organizers Charlie Slutzky (NU) and Cheri Markt (MIT)

The MEMPC Alumni group, including Charlie Slutzky, Adam Detwiler, Stephanie Mayer, Celine Chan, Emily Schmidt and I, together with school representatives, planned an event in Nola’s a restaurant in the heart of Silicon Valley at the foot of Stanford University. Thirty engineering management program alumni from MIT, Stanford, Duke, Dartmouth and Northwestern attended the event, and although they were a bit uncertain arriving without any idea who else would show up, tensions quickly melted away as we began to mingle and realized how much we had in common. We shared BS degrees in Engineering, Masters degrees in Systems Engineering and Management, and we all shared the experience of explaining to the world the value of an engineering management degree. Midway through the evening, we transitioned from mingling to a full group discussion on what value could be obtained by forming a combined alumni network. One clear answer was to share career opportunities so that career postings would be spread out more geographically. Another was to increase awareness about the value of engineering and management degrees by taking turns holding monthly events at each alumni’s work place.

MEM Alumni Mingle in Palo Alto

In addition to our similarities, our different experiences in school and the professional world allowed us to learn from one another. For example, Duke requires course work in Patent Law, MIT requires a thesis, and Northwestern offers night classes for working professionals. After graduation, we seemed to have dispersed to every corner of American industries: Aerospace, Construction, IT start-ups, Automotive, and more.  Given this great variation in career paths, we began to ponder what makes us unique and how we can articulate the value we offer in each of these areas. Instead of simply building a network for alumni, we hope to achieve degree name consistency across all universities. For example, an MBA is an MBA at all schools who offer a similar curriculum. By strengthening the MEM brand across schools we can improve the awareness of the value of Systems Engineering and Management education in the corporate world.

This small group of alumni who began in a small Cajun restaurant is off to an excellent start in strengthening and increasing awareness about the skill set we obtained in our university educations. We are excited to develop both a San Francisco local presence and change the world by building an alumni community and increasing industry engagement, thereby increasing opportunities available to leverage our talent. For us, community building is about professional development but also events that allow us to build relationships and understanding with other intelligent and passionate engineering managers.

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