When Nico Winata moved to the United States in 2010 to earn his MEM degree, he had high expectations but certainly did not anticipate landing a job within one year and finishing up his courses as a part-time student while his new company payed a portion of his tuition. Read more about his story below.
After attending Georgia Tech and working for a few years in Dallas, Nico decided to get a job in Singapore and was working for IBM when he decided to look into graduate programs back in the United States. “I wanted to go back to grad school but an MBA required two years commitment and a significant cost. I talked to my friend in Singapore and he recommended the MEM program.”
Like many MEM students, the mix of engineering and management courses appealed to Nico. “He told me MEM is basically a bridge between engineering and management so I started looking at a couple of MEM programs in the United States—Duke, Dartmouth, Stanford, and Northwestern.” Eventually, it was the rankings, the job market, and the students that drew Nico to Northwestern. “Most of the schools targeted people with only a few years experiences. Northwestern requires three years, so I decided to apply. It’s a great school. It’s located in Chicago and there are a lot of job opportunities there.”
Although originally enrolled as a full-time student planning to finish by the end of summer semester in 2011, Nico’s plans took a change of course when he got a job offer after networking during Professor Mike Marasco’s Marketing course. “[Getting the job] is actually an interesting story,” Nico shared. “One time, Prof Marasco invited a guest speaker from a local company in Chicago. The guest speaker gave a presentation on the topic of innovation in the US vs. China. After the presentation he left his business cards for the class and told us that Medline had a few openings for Product Manager positions, so I reached out to him and asked further about the Product Manager’s role.”
After few business lunches and three rounds of interviews, Nico landed the job. Medline even agreed to pay for 80% of Nico’s tuition to finish up his last three courses in the MEM program. So far, Nico has loved his work; Product Manager is essentially what he really wanted. “I never had any experience as a Product Manager and previously worked as a consultant, so this job brings a new challenge and quite a career change for me. With product management, we develop products from market research to product launch, develop product strategy and product road maps. It’s been a great experience working with different teams such as engineering, finance, and R&D.”
Nico has some final advice to offer to his fellow international students: “In terms of career advice for international students, don’t wait until the last minute or after graduation to apply for jobs, as it’s harder for international students to get jobs as compared to others because we would need visa sponsorship. There are only a few companies who are willing to give Visa sponsorship, therefore it’s really important for students to network within the class and outside the university as well, in addition to attending career fairs.”