2016 ENE Outstanding Alumni and Student Honorees

Event Date: April 20, 2016
Holly Simmons, 2016 Outstanding Alumni Honoree for the School of Engineering Education
Outstanding Alumni and Student Honorees at the annual celebration dinner | LEFT TO RIGHT Natascha Trellinger, Schyler Curtice, Alex Klapka, Holly Simmons, Sonja Adams, Catherine Berdanier (Not Pictured: Lauren Denney and Sean Obrecht)
It is of great honor that we introduce this year's Outstanding Alumni Honoree, Holly Simmons,1998 graduate from the Interdisciplinary Engineering Program (IDE). Holly used what she gained from Purdue’s Interdisciplinary Engineering program to make a positive difference in her chosen field and the millions of users whose lives have been enriched by the products that she has developed and marketed along her path. She is an excellent example of just what our students can accomplish when they combine an interdisciplinary outlook with a drive to contribute to the world around them.

Holly Simmons has a unique story and one that interdisciplinarians can relate—with the right people at the right time, she knew what she wanted to do with her education and self-designed her plan of study with the help of the IDE Program at Purdue. How it all started for this Cincinnatian, though, was just a love for math and science and the encouragement to attend an engineering school. 

Holly came to Purdue interested in designing and building skyscrapers. That all changed, however, when she started taking industrial engineering courses that focused on analyzing how people work, how to make work more efficient and deliver more value.  “One of the things that really resonated with me was an opportunity to tie together the relationship between people and the technology and the processes.”  She enrolled in the late Professor Ray Ebert’s usability and human factors class, which she recalled was groundbreaking for her. “He was teaching classes on usability that was really early in the process around product design and how to make things flexible and fun for the user. This had a big influence in helping me move ahead with the focus on product development.” 

Coupled with these concepts and the introduction to a computer lab stocked with new Apple Macintosh computers, she found her calling —designing products for people to use that are fun, engaging, and will get the work done. “I remember going and doing papers and projects there and really getting a feel for how technology could be simplified and much more usable for the folks using it.” She decided then that she wanted to work for Apple and focus on developing products for people. 

Blazing her trail, Holly left Purdue to pursue a job working at a small startup in Silicon Valley creating software for the Macintosh computer. Her experience led her to a job at Apple to work on their online products, which was very new at the time. “Working at Apple was a great experience, not only for learning to work with very diverse teams, but also the opportunity to get in at the beginning to build things from scratch and focus on products that help people work.” 

Holly’s experience at Apple also helped her launch into a number of new activities that have focused on new products and drawing out the opportunities in emerging technologies. She has worked for startup companies building new products, many of which she helped bring to the market. She said that Purdue prepared her well with the opportunity to work in a lot of different disciplines even though she has mainly worked in product development.  And although she has been in marketing for much of her career, when people note her degree in engineering at Purdue, she’s laughingly says, “It gives me certain credentials for participating in the conversation.” 

She has worked in all disciplines of product development, from engineering to sales and has settled in “the middle” translating between engineering and sales at companies like Knight Ridder (formerly the second largest media company in the US), SAP and more recently at ServiceNow, a fast growing cloud company focused on business software for information technology, customer service and human resource processes.  Her focus in each of her roles has been to bring new products to market. Her portfolio of product marketing proves successful with measurable growth for the companies she has represented with millions of subscribers and substantial revenue. For example, the product that Holly recently managed resulted in a $750 million portfolio. At ServiceNow, she just joined their customer service team to lead marketing for the launch of a new product line. This is an exciting time, as it is a first for the company and an opportunity for her to bring in a new customer base and create additional revenue lines.

2016 Engineering Education Student Awards

IDE Alumni Award for Outstanding Senior Academic Achievement

  • Sonja C. Adams  +  Acoustical Engineering
  • Lauren B. Denney  +  Engineering Management

IDE Alumni Award for Outstanding Junior Academic Achievement

  • Sean Obrecht  +  Acoustical Engineering

IDE Award for Service

  • Alexander T.  Klapka + Acoustical Engineering
  • Schyler J. Curtice  + Acoustical Engineering

ENE Outstanding Graduate Student Research Award

  • Catherine Berdanier + PhD in Engineering Education

ENE Outstanding Service Award

  • Natascha Trellinger  +  PhD in Engineering Education