Alum Spotlight: Francisca Valenzuela

Francisca ValenzuelaFrancisca Valenzuela, MEM ’13, is originally from Santiago, Chile where she earned a degree in industrial engineering from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Francisca pursued her MEM degree at Northwestern in the hopes of attaining a senior position at her company. She knew she would need to develop strong managerial skills and strengthen her engineering knowledge. She tells us MEM was “the perfect program to accomplish both goals.” She now works as Head of Product Strategy and Development at Sky Airline in Santiago. She also has a creative side, enjoying scrapbooking, movies, and making killer cocktails in her spare time.  We asked her about her thoughts on the MEM program and its role in her career.

What was the best part about MEM?

In my opinion, diversity plays a fundamental role in any learning experience, and fortunately, MEM was a program in which you could find people from different ages, countries, backgrounds and industries. During the team projects, I had the chance to share knowledge and opinions with my classmates and you could see [how much] richer the outcome of these conversations and collective work became.

How has your MEM experience contributed to your career path?

The MEM experience allowed me to strengthen my engineering knowledge and gave me the confidence to speak the business language. I think those skills together are not easy to find and allowed me to differentiate myself from the rest of my colleagues.

Was there a part of your experience you found was unique to Northwestern? What was it?

Northwestern’s community is very resourceful, and you can take advantage of it. As a student, I had the chance to know faculty from the MSIA program and ended up being TA for some of their courses. I took piano lessons in the music school (Bienen); I participated in the process of upgrading the MEM website; and attended multiple conferences and speaker presentations at the business school (Kellogg). It only depends on your own interest in using the University resources and enhance your experience.

What advice would you offer students currently in the program?

Try to take courses that force you to step outside your comfort zone. As engineers, we don´t have any problems with math, physics or analytics. In my experience, the real challenge for us is to negotiate, to expose our ideas, to convince others, to lead teams and organize them, etc. There are courses in the MEM program that could help you develop those skills, and believe me, they are very important to taking the next step in your career.

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