CEM alum steps in as CEO of startup outside the construction industry
Purdue’s Construction Engineering and Management program combines technical engineering proficiency with management expertise, and it is up to each CEM graduate to determine which path they would like to take. While the majority of alumni find themselves pursuing a professional engineering license in construction, others like Luke Marklin (BSCEM ’07) discover their passion for the management and operations side of business right away.
In a move skirting the norm for many CEM alumni, Marklin has taken on an executive position outside the construction industry. Earlier this year, he stepped in as CEO of Bellhops, a tech-based moving company in Tennessee that is transitioning out of its startup phase and becoming a more permanent presence in its sector.
After Marklin earned his bachelor’s degree, he worked as a Project Manager for a commercial construction company, Barton Malow. “It was the perfect first job out of school,” he says. “One day you were solving tough operational challenges, another day developing a presentation for future work, and the next you were developing a cash flow pro forma for a project.”
This experience proved the perfect foundation for a career, but Marklin decided to attend Harvard Business School to pivot into more of a corporate route. He left Barton Malow to study for an MBA with the purpose of rounding out his engineering background with a set of strategic and financial tools.
While his intention was to continue moving up the corporate ladder within construction, he recognized that his experience and expertise in management would allow him to work in any industry. “One of the real values of a CEM degree is the exposure to a variety of different business experiences,” says Marklin. “I started to realize that my career goals aligned more with management and running an operations business than they did with investing and development.”
For him, CEM was a great foundation for business school. “Structured, data-driven thinking is as applicable on the construction site as it is in any business,” he says. “CEM was an ideal mix between academic and concept-based learning in core engineering classes and very practical learnings in management classes.”
After earning his MBA, Marklin worked as a corporate strategic planner for Emerson and then moved to the transportation technology company Uber as the General Manager of the Southeast markets. He says that engineering and problem solving will always be an integral part of his work, which is why he has chosen management positions in technology-based companies.
Although Marklin no longer works as a construction engineer, he would not have chosen another academic discipline from which to earn his bachelor’s degree. “CEM is an exceptional program because when you graduate, you’re ready,” he says. “Ready for your first job, your career, and for life. Through the classroom experience that deeply educates you in engineering and business, along with the internship experience that provides a concrete opportunity to put theory into practice, you have a diverse set of skills that you can take wherever you go.”
Marklin’s CEM degree made an early and lasting impact on his career trajectory, and he is not done making his own impact on the corporate world. “No career happens exactly as planned, and nothing that’s worthwhile happens easily,” he says. “CEM does a good job building a foundation of data-driven thinking and scrappy resourcefulness to help enable graduates wherever life takes them.”