My Journey to the Northwestern MEM Degree: An Acceleration Process


by Ivonne Friday

At the beginning of this journey, around December of 2015.  I was clear on the objective that I wanted to accomplish with the Northwestern University Master of Engineering Management degree – to boost my career and to become a knowledgeable manager. During my previous years of experience, I have seen very smart engineers becoming managers, but, unfortunately, they were lacking some of the essential skills to become great leaders and successfully manage teams.

After having my two boys, I had a break in my professional career, (of course I took over the biggest project in my life being a full time mom) and it was extremely hard to convince companies for start-again opportunities. I knew that technology, methodologies and procedures at work change constantly. In order to move forward to a job combining my engineering skills and past experiences, I needed to boost my education.

I remember I was so happy when I got the acceptance letter from Northwestern University.  After the admission interview with Steve (MEM Associate Director), I was confident about the program and the advantage of being able to instantly apply class concepts to real-world work challenges. I immediately felt this as one of the biggest and most important steps in my career.

I was lucky enough to start the program with the Project Management class taught by Professor Werwath, where I was enlightened on all procedures to manage projects, utilize new tools, and understand basic concepts like the Strategy, Culture, Organizational matrix, PBS (Process breakdown structure), and WBS (work breakdown structure). His class was not only educational but was uplifting and encouraged me to do the best as a student and professional.

During my Technical Entrepreneurship class, Professor Marasco guided our team through an entrepreneurial experience that combined his personal knowledge with real world scenarios as a perfect amalgam. The instant application of course concepts to real work cases opened up a lot of doors for me, and also gave me great competitive advantages in comparison to my coworkers.

Having an overview of companies and management helps you to see more clearly where you fit better. The boost in your career is also applicable and the confidence that the program brings you is unmeasurable. Later in the program when I took Product Development with Professor Brown, I learned to launch my own product and gain a better understanding on innovation to equip myself with competitive advantages. I understood how to utilize my skills and be confident about them.

In addition to professors, my classmates were also an enriching part of the degree. The experiences that they brought to class (from companies like GE, Siemens, Google and Tesla), as well as the working style they presented, definitely helped to diversify my way of thinking and working as a team. The perfect mix between full-time and part time students brought even more diversity to enhance the program, the culture, and the knowledge of the students. There was also the sense of community, the Purple Mafia, the Northwestern reputation is backing me up with, impossible to fail.

Two months ago for the first time in my life, I had three job offers, three great companies to choose from.  When I spoke with Steve, he said, “You are in the driver seat!” (What another great example of how everyone is there to help!!!) It was time to use the negotiations skills learned with Professor Berger to seal the deal and sign the right offer letter.

I am not going to lie, it wasn’t easy to take two courses per term, work full time, and be a full time mom. This was one of the hardest balancing equations that I needed to complete in my life. But good things in life don’t come easily. At the end of this acceleration process I will have gained a Master’s degree, a great job, professional mentors, and life-long friends, which already are part of my life.

If you haven’t decided yet when or what program to boost your career, take my advice and sign in for the Northwestern MEM program now. Be ready to hold on tight for the most amazing acceleration process in your life.


1 Comment

  1. Nice overview Yvonne and I appreciate your sharing your experience and insights . As the owner of the company whose offer you accepted and also a Northwestern Alumni (’88), I can attest to your positive experience at this great institution – truly a wonderful environment for people who shoot for the stars and are willing to work hard.

    Thanks for your short time at our company and albeit not the outcome we expected, I appreciate your efforts to support our clients and flexibility to work part time during your final semesters.

    Best wishes in your personal and professional life!

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