Finding Yourself (Professionally): New Product Development

Author: Andrea Martin Tovar
Event Date: November 18, 2021
Andrea Martin Tovar
I started my MEM journey, after graduating from Purdue’s Materials Science Engineering undergrad program, knowing just two things: 1) I want to have a career where I can make an impact, and 2) I want to work on new things.


I had some of idea of where I stood and where I wanted to take my career, but ultimately felt as though there was something I was missing.

Within my first few days of orientation, Eric and Karen (Program Director and Program Manager, respectively) introduced me to the idea of “Finding Your Why.” The concept has been my guiding light throughout the program. Finding your why means knowing what you’re passionate about, what motivates you. Essentially, it’s asking yourself “why?” until you can’t figure out how to answer the next “why?”. Some people call it finding your purpose, but I personally don’t believe that people have one singular purpose. Regardless of what you call it, finding my why allowed me to more personally connect to my goals; something I had lost along the way some time ago.

Since that first week of orientation, I have been able to select my classes to set myself up for a role in New Product Development. Thanks to Purdue MEM’s access to the entire engineering curriculum, I have the ability to explore New Product Development through the lens of varied engineering disciplines, while also being exposed to the business and management skills that are required to take a product through the development cycle. This freedom of choice has allowed me to use my “Why” to guide my class selection: not only taking classes that will help me meet my goals, but also exploring some of my special interests and other potential career paths. All the while, my course work has been supplemented by the program’s seminar. During the seminar, the MEM staff host a carefully crafted program that aims to help us develop our brand and position ourselves in an effective way when it comes to job hunting. I have learned a lot more from these than I ever could doing my own research online.

As a culmination of everything I learned and worked for within my first semester in MEM, I was able to secure an industry co-op at Hasbro working in a Product Development role where I both work on new things and make an impact. Honestly, if you would have told me as a kid that I’d be working on toys, I would not have believed you. This is all thanks to the Purdue MEM program, the amazing staff, their investment in my success and their guidance. Without reconnecting with my “Why” throughout my first semester in MEM, I don’t believe this would have been possible.

To any future Purdue MEM students, I want to leave you with a few words: Every MEM student’s journey is different. Things happen at different times for everyone. Some people join already knowing who they are professionally and where they want to go. Others take a bit longer to define their path. Regardless of which category you fall into, as you begin the program, take the time to find your “Why.” Purdue MEM provides an excellent space to experiment with your path and make sure you find the one that is uniquely yours. It is all about persistence and trusting that however much work you put into the program, you will get back tenfold. It will all be so much more rewarding in the end.