Fall 2013 Newsletter

We hope you enjoy this issue of the Engineering Alumni Association’s e-Newsletter. We are taking a look at continuing education, the options available and how three alumni (Vivek Thakkar, BS EE ’01;Gbile Adewunmi, BS EE ’02 MS EE ’03; and Nate Yoder, BS MSE ‘02) have approached earning their MBA’s and PhD.

Letter from the President

Mark Ringenberg
Mark Ringenberg

Fellow Purdue Engineers,

On August 19th, the College of Engineering Class of 2017 began their life long journey as a Purdue Engineer. They have completed Boiler Gold Rush and are now navigating their First Year Engineering course work with classes like Calculus 161, Chemistry 115 and the ever popular Physics 172.

These are exciting times for the College of Engineering and your Engineering Alumni Association (EAA). In the 2014 U.S. News and World Report ranking for Schools of Engineering, the undergraduate program is ranked 10th and the graduate program is ranked 8th in the Nation. This past year Dean Jamieson announced her strataegic growth initiative to increase the size of the College faculty by 30% in the next five years. The faculty growth will help support the Engineering undergraduate enrollment from 7,087 in FY 11 to 7,778 by FY16.

This fall your EAA will be hosting our 3rd Annual Tailgate. It will be September 14th, when your Purdue Boilermakers take on the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in a rare night game. Stop by the EAA tent infront of Armstrong Hall of Engineering on Stadium Avenue from 4-7 p.m. to meet old friends and make new ones. You can even enter for a chance to win tickets to the Purdue vs. Nebraska game on October 12th.

EAA will be presenting our 2nd Annual Young Alum and Loyalty Awards at the Dean's Dinner following the Homecoming game on September 28th. If you are interested in attending the dinner contact events@purdue.edu or visit the Events Registration website.

EAA will also sponsor the inaugural Purdue vs. Nebraska football game on October 12, 2013. Get your tickets early and show your support for the football team and your respective School of Engineering.

Finally, be sure to follow EAA (Purdue Engineering Alumni) on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Boiler Up!

Mark Ringenberg, BSCE 1980
President, Purdue Engineering Alumni Association Board

Continuing Education and Professional Development—are they for you?

We asked three Engineering Alumni about their decision to continue their education after earning their undergraduate degrees. Each engineer chose a different path that fit with their career goals and personal lives. We asked them to share with us their experiences and advice for anyone considering pursuing an advanced degree.

Adegbile “Gbile” Adewunmi

Q. When did you earn your undergraduate degree, and what engineering discipline did you study?
A.A.     I earned my bachelor’s degree in May 2002 in Electrical Engineering.

Q. Where have you been working since earning your Purdue engineering degree?
A.A.     I chose not to take a break after my bachelor's and started the master’s program in June of 2002. I earned my degree in December 2003 and went to work for Delphi Electronics and Safety in Kokomo, IN. I worked in the advanced engineering department where we explored the adaptation of various wireless technologies to the automotive environment.

Q. What made you decide to pursue an MBA?
A.A.     I loved being an engineer, but I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur. While at Delphi, I started an e-commerce consulting business with fellow Purdue ECE alum, Ade Sun-Basorun. The business ultimately failed, and I realized I had a lot to learn about the non-technical aspects of running a company. Going back to business school became an obvious solution and the more I explored the possibility, the more excited I got about it.

Q. Did you choose a full- or part- time program? What school did you attend, and why did you make these choices?
A.A.     It took me a couple of years to pull the trigger on going back to school, and by that time I had decided that I wanted to switch careers. As a result, the full-time program made a lot more sense for me. I chose to attend Columbia Business School because I could learn from world-class professors, work closely with classmates from every part of the world and attend a school that was focused on strong student involvement.  I was hoping to switch to a career in investment banking and given that I was a finance novice, it made sense to go to school in New York City where I would have easy access to bankers and other finance professionals. My experience at Columbia was amazing. I was able to take on significant leadership roles, plan major events, make a ton of lifetime friends and achieve my goal of switching careers. 

Q. What are your career plans now that you have your MBA?
A.A.     I am now working for Credit Suisse in New York as an Investment Banking Associate in the Technology, Media and Telecom group. While my day-to-day activities are miles away from my work at Delphi, a lot of the same skills apply. My Purdue engineering education is serving me very well.

Q. What suggestions do you have for other engineers considering an MBA?
A.A.     I think the combination of an engineering degree and an MBA makes you extremely valuable. The resulting skill set gives you a significant advantage in today’s tough job environment. Think carefully about what you want to get out of the MBA. The classroom knowledge is great, but it is only a small part of the whole experience. The MBA is a professional degree; your effort, approach and attitude will determine how well it serves you.


Vivek Thakkar

Q. When did you earn your undergraduate degree, and what engineering discipline did you study?
V.T.     I earned my bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering with a minor in Economics in 2001.

Q. Where have you been working since earning your Purdue engineering degree?
V.T.     After graduation I began working for Motorola Labs as a senior staff research engineer in research and development. In 2005 I was accepted into Motorola’s accelerated development program targeted at general management positions rotating into new positions. At the completion of the program in 2007, I accepted a position with Motorola Mobile Devices as Senior Pre-sales Technical Architect, Product Operations for AT&T. Most recently I was promoted within Motorola Mobility to Headquarters Sales Director for Verizon Wireless. 

Q. What made you decide to pursue an MBA?
V.T.     I have been very fortunate to have had an opportunity to take an accelerated path to my current role where I felt it would greatly benefit me to get additional perspectives on the problems I have been tackling. Not having had the opportunity to grow into this role organically, I intended to utilize the MBA as a means to complement my experiences with those of the other members of my class that will provide fresh perspective from their respective roles and industries. Specifically, I was interested in focusing on refining and acquiring additional tools in the area of negotiation, financial analysis, marketing, and operations. My recent roles at Motorola bring with them interactions across many faculties where I need to quickly understand the problem at hand and help carve out a path to a successful solution. To be successful in these diverse roles, I need to be able to draw upon a wealth of experiences and perspectives to pick the right path and make the best decisions. In addition to the academic rigor, I felt that an MBA would help me develop a network of seasoned professionals that I could leverage for advice and for progression in my career. It was my intent to leverage the pooled experiences of the professors and my peers to help me better analyze business issues and decisions from a cross-functional perspective.

Q. Did you choose a full- or part- time program? What school did you attend, and why did you make these choices?
V.T.     I attended the executive program at Northwestern University in their Kellogg school of management. Having had 10 years of work experience, I was looking for the opportunity to complement the academics with the experience of my peers. The most appealing factors of the program were the collaborative, team-oriented learning and the school’s interest in ensuring I was able to simultaneously continue in a very demanding role with Motorola.  During my experience in attending a sample class at Kellogg, I was impressed by the nature in which the professor created a very dynamic environment for the students to learn from each other’s experiences. The professor’s approach in analyzing the student’s responses helped me better understand the logic and rationale of the position. I felt very comfortable and positioned to greatly benefit from this type of interaction to help me understand other perspectives and dive deeper into the benefits and disadvantages of the approaches to better guide my thinking as I traverse through similar paths. As part of the executive MBA program at Northwestern, I hoped to further expand on the roles and functions that I had been exposed to as part of my career path. I was successfully able to complement the on-the-job training I have had at Motorola with experiences of other students in cross-functional and diversified teams. I felt that getting a better understanding of the differences and similarities in the approaches taken by folks skilled in different disciplines and functions would help me address problems with a richer context. I feel the most rewarding part of the experience was to address problems through a variety of perspectives and understand the broad implications of each decision as it applies within different areas and disciplines. 

Q. What are your career plans now that you have your MBA?
V.T.     Upon completing my degree, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to join the Verizon account at Motorola as the headquarters sales director looking after pricing, promotion, and product negotiations. The role has offered the latitude to leverage my prior experience and complement it with my recent MBA in managing the day-to-day operations of the overall business we do with Verizon.  As I look forward to the next steps of my development both on a personal and professional level, I feel better enabled to incorporate a broader set of perspectives and tools from my Executive MBA from Kellogg in my analysis and decision making. The focus of my goals and objectives as I take my next steps are to progress on a path toward a general management role at Motorola.

Q. What suggestions do you have for other engineers considering an MBA?
V.T.     I believe it is a great opportunity and when combined with a technical degree/experience, it can prove to be one of the greatest assets in your career. I would highly recommend being selective in the school and program you choose to pursue. It is important that the program aligns to your goals and has a culture that aligns with your learning style. The MBA extends much beyond the pure academics of the experience. It is critical to take advantage of the wealth of knowledge among your peers in the classroom and the opportunities to build a foundation for a network that will carry-on throughout your professional career.


Nathan Yoder

Q. When did you earn your undergraduate degree and what engineering discipline did you study?
N.Y.     I started at Purdue in the fall of 1998, and was initially undecided between mechanical engineering, aeronautical engineering, and materials engineering.  Ultimately, I decided to major in Materials Engineering, which I felt offered the best fit for me.  I enjoyed the mix of chemistry, physics, and engineering that made up the curriculum, and also appreciated the more personal environment that a smaller department provided.  During my first summer, I stayed on campus with several friends and worked for the Purdue University Computing Center (PUCC), while taking a few classes.  After my sophomore year, I participated in the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), investigating new ways of making metal-ceramic composite materials.  I also started taking German classes and researching study-abroad programs, since I wanted to study in a German-speaking country.  I eventually found a program at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich (Switzerland), and I made the arrangements through the study abroad office at Purdue.  I was able to spend approximately 6 months in Zurich taking classes in German and English, working on a research project, and traveling throughout Europe.  Overall, it was a great experience that I would recommend to anyone.  In the Fall of 2001, I came back to Purdue for my senior year and graduated in May of 2002.

Q. Where have you been working since earning your Purdue engineering degree? What made you decide to pursue an MBA/PhD?
N.Y.     During my senior year, I was initially undecided between applying for jobs and applying to M.S./Ph.D. programs in engineering. I ended up doing both in parallel.  The job market wasn’t fantastic in fall 2001 during the aftermath of the dot-com bubble, and some companies were cautious about hiring.  In fact, the first day of the Industrial Roundtable was on September 11, which added additional uncertainty to the job market.  Although many companies were hiring, at the end of the recruiting process, I still wasn’t excited about any of the jobs that were available.  At the same time, I was accepted into several graduate programs, and I also received two fellowships from the NSF and the NDSEG that would pay for my tuition and a living stipend at any university in the U.S.  The only caveat was that the fellowships were only applicable if you enrolled in a Ph.D. program, which typically entails a 5-year commitment.  I ultimately decided that it was too good of an opportunity to pass up, and I enrolled in a Ph.D. program at starting in the fall of 2002.

Q. Did you choose a full- or part- time program? What school did you attend, and why did you make these choices?
N.Y.     In order to narrow down the grad school search, I first decided to restrict my applications to PhD programs in Materials Science & Engineering Departments (although many students do take the opportunity to switch fields in grad school).  Generally, the departments will let you know in the winter/spring if you have been accepted into their PhD program, and all of these programs are typically full-time.  One of the perks of the graduate school search process is that the schools will pay for accepted students to fly out for a visit weekend, typically in the winter/spring of their senior year.  The main factors that went in to my decision were: (1) the quality/ranking of the department (2) my interest in the research groups and research projects and (3) the location.  After visiting six schools (MIT, Stanford, UIUC, Purdue, UC Santa Barbara, Northwestern), I felt that Northwestern University was the best choice for me.  The Materials Science department was highly ranked (#2), had a large number of interesting research groups and projects, and I was happy to spend a few years living in Chicago.  I thought about taking a year off to work or travel before grad school, but one of the fellowships that I received did not allow for a deferral, so I bit the bullet and started at Northwestern in Fall 2002.  Fortunately, I was able to take the summer off after college to travel around Europe and the US for a few months before starting the PhD.

Q. What are your career plans now that you have your MBA?
N.Y.     I finished my PhD in December 2007 and started working at an early-stage start-up company called NanoIntegris in January 2008.  I was the second full-time employee hired at the company, and the position offered a unique chance to help build a new company from the ground up.  I’ve been with the company ever since, and have enjoyed the experience of working at a startup.  Although these types of jobs come with a certain amount of risk, they also provide an opportunity to gain valuable experience you can’t get at many jobs.  My short-term career goal is to continue to help NanoIntegris grow and expand as a company.  Beyond that it is difficult to predict what will come next, but in general I intend to continue working with early-stage startup companies, and see where that takes me.

Q. What suggestions do you have for other engineers considering an MBA?
N.Y.     I would recommend putting a lot of thought into a decision to do a Ph.D., especially since the time and lifestyle commitments are substantial.  If you decide that you do want to apply to PhD programs, think carefully about whether you want to change direction and apply to a different graduate program than your undergraduate specialty.  Since the GRE often plays a significant role in how your application is evaluated, take it seriously and prepare as much as possible.  I would also recommend applying for external Graduate Research fellowships through the various federal agencies (NSF, DOE, DOD, Homeland Security, etc).


If you are interested in continuing your education, Purdue’s Engineering Professional Education Program may be just what you are looking for. They offer online graduate program and professional development short courses and seminars. Visit their Web site to learn more about the opportunities available.

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Send your alumni news and thoughts on what you’d like to see in this e-newsletter to the Engineering Alumni Association at EAA@ecn.purdue.edu.