Joe Heim’s ISE 101 Class.
I was a direct admit to the Computer Science and Engineering Department when I came to UW as a freshman. After I spent a summer interning at Cisco in San Jose, I didn't discover the passion my classmates shared, so I started exploring other engineering disciplines. I took all the 101 classes and completed my engineering college prerequisites.
When I took Joe Heim’s ISE 101 class, everything clicked. I was so shocked that my personality and daily habits existed in an academic (and professional) discipline. From that first class, I was hooked and I worked my junior year to put together a compelling application. I was a bit nervous of what I’d do if I wasn’t accepted, but to my joy, I started off my senior year in the Department of ISE.
- What do you do at work, and how does your background in ISE apply?
As a consultant, my roles and experience have been quite varied and are all project-specific. The one common thing throughout my professional career has been the need to approach a situation or problem from a broader systems perspective.
Industrial & systems engineering (and Lean Six Sigma) equips students with a playbook of tools and methodologies for use throughout the project life cycle that I leverage in my day-to-day work. Teams are often siloed in organization and thinking, leading to wide-spread issues and re-work. Being able to understand the current situation while taking a step back and looking at upstream/downstream factors, I can help teams exhaustively and effectively address the issue.
In addition to systems-thinking, the analytic, summarization, and presentation skills I learned from ISE set me ahead of my coworkers on day one and continue to benefit my work to this day.
- What were the most important things you learned from ISE?
Problem solving. A lot of ISE and what we learned as part of the Lean Toolkit are methodologies to break down and solve problems. We learned different methods for asking questions, investigating root cause, synthesizing information, analyzing data, and implementing solutions, and with these tools, I feel confident that I can tackle any problem I face.
Additionally, I cannot stress enough the importance of a broader, systems view of any situation. Employees with the ability to focus on their area of expertise while considering how the area plays a role in the bigger picture are incredibly valuable in teams and organizations. This is a key differentiating factor that industrial engineers boast and is coveted by businesses.
- What was your proudest moment as a UW ISE student?
I have a lot of proud moments in my two years as an ISE student! Once I switched from computer engineering to ISE, a lightbulb turned on, and my college career completely changed for the better.
As vice president of the student chapter of the Institute of Industrial & Systems Engineers and treasurer of Alpha Pi Mu honor society, I developed leadership skills and executed successful professional, charitable, and social events. These give me pride because they brought together the ISE community and helped further our department and students.
I was fortunate enough to work on research with Professor Art Chaovalitwongse, Joe Heim, and Professor Zelda Zabinsky. My research under Zelda was accepted and published in the IISE Annual Research Conference in 2013. Presenting my research in Puerto Rico and being approached by recruiters with job offers on the spot was flattering and confirmation that I made the right decision by switching from CSE to ISE.
This department gave me so much in terms of education, growth opportunities, and a sense of community. With the help the department administrator and the IISE President, Ben Kusak, we founded a Student Group Endowment Fund. The endowment will fund educational programs, personal development, high school outreach, and research conference attendance. Reaching our goal of $100,000 will be a very proud accomplishment!
- What is your proudest achievement in your work so far?
The proudest achievements in my professional life are the small compliments I've received here and there speaking to my work ethic, client interaction, and reliability. In three years, I have been promoted twice, on the early end of the progression stages, and I am honored to have leadership’s support to aggressively pursue the next level. I love what I do, and it is rewarding to be recognized for my hard work.
- What is one thing you wish you would have done as an ISE student that you didn’t?
I wish I had more than two years in the program. Because I joined the department in my senior year, I felt a bit under pressure to take as many classes as possible to stay on track (and graduate in the additional 5th year). I wish I had been able to stretch these classes out over a longer time frame to really engage and explore the topics further. The faculty and staff in the ISE department are exceptional, welcoming, and caring. I reminisce about the deeper relationships I could have developed and the one-on-one learning experiences I could have taken advantage of.
- What advice do you have for current ISE students?
Engage! This is a small, intimate department.
It is so true that what you put in, you get out. Take control of your future and take advantage of every opportunity presented to you. Attend the BBQ’s, mock interviews, and office hours.
- What advice do you have for graduates as they start their employment search?
Keep your head up and take deep breaths.
My close friends in ISE began receiving and accepting job offers as early as November of our senior year. We started applying at the same time, but I didn’t receive any offers until much later in the year. I wish I could have relaxed during those fretful months when I was constantly second guessing and beating myself up for not having offers. Things do work out. Maybe not how you initially envisioned, but regardless of the outcome and the offer you ultimately accept, you will learn something from the experience and that alone is valuable.
My advice to you is: as much as you can, try not invite self-doubt into your job search. Coming from the ISE Department at UW, you are already a desirable candidate. Good luck!