Alum Spotlight: Bob Burke


Bob Burke is a Senior Project Manager at EN Engineering, a 1000 person engineering firm in Warrenville, IL.

The thing he most enjoys in his role is managing people.  “I truly enjoy working with engineers, from the simple administrative tasks through mentoring and guiding their careers. This is not something that I had ever considered when I was just starting out in a technical field.   As I grew in responsibility, and was put into situations of managing people, I found I had an affinity for it. I still go back to some of my MEM leadership coursework, and the lessons hold true today.”


Bob credits the MEM program in helping his career growth in three ways:

  • It provided the tools to advance from a purely technical position into a managerial one with courses in  leadership, finance, and accounting.
  • It provided self-confidence to pursue more advanced positions.  Bob says, “The hardest step of all is that first leap from being a full time engineer into being a manager, especially when you are now responsible for the well-being of subordinates. You will wonder if you are up to the challenge. Having gone through the MEM program, I was confident that I could handle whatever came my way”.
  • In regards to credibility, Bob compares the MEM degree with any other advanced degree, including an MBA. “For better or worse, the pedigree is important. When dealing with upper management, the reputation behind your degree does matter. It must be backed up with ability, of course, but we have to be aware that management will want to know that you have the chops to do the job.  Having a Northwestern MEM is above question.”

The best advice Bob has to offer to currently enrolled students is recognizing that every person is different, as is each individual’s career path. “When managing others, be aware of those differences – both in yourself and in those you’re managing. Even when you find your own style of management, you’ll have to be adaptive to situations. Sometimes you have to be tough, sometimes supportive, and sometimes it’s best to be quiet and let others lead and develop. There is no one path to success, and you have to judge what methods will work in a given situation.”

In his free time, Bob volunteers with the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). It is the largest professional group in the world,  with over 450,000 members worldwide. He served as Chicago Section Chair, and is now working with student groups across the Midwest. He loves working with engineering students, and helping them to develop tools to manage their careers. “I feel this is a great way to promote the engineering profession, and help the next generation of engineering professional succeed.”

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