Student Spotlight: Margaret Debrauske

Margaret DebrauskeMargaret Debrauske is currently working as a procurement manager at Kraft Heinz Company. Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, she got her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin before becoming a part-time MEM student. When not in class or at work, Margaret enjoys biking along Chicago's beautiful Lakeshore path. She also has an acute sense of smell, which really helps her working in food product development! We spoke with Margaret to find out how her MEM program experience has been going so far.

What made you decide to pursue an MEM degree?

My career goal is to someday lead as Project Manager for new product launches.  I want to lead and help drive all parts of the commercialization process, from ideation-to-market.  The MEM program is designed to help my current career growth while strengthening my educational background so that I will develop the skills to become an accomplished Project Manager.

The MEM alumni that I knew before I joined the program were all innovative thinkers, who came from technical backgrounds.  What we also had in common is that we wanted to develop core business management skills while continuing to grow our analytical and operational strengths, so to stay ahead in today’s data-driven, decision-making world.

Favorite Class/Professor?

This fall, I am in “Decision Tools for Managers” with Prof. Amjed Shafique, which is a course that presents concepts that I have applied immediately at work to help my team best determine cost-effective strategies and optimized processes.

I always enjoyed going to “Marketing Issues for Engineers” lectures with Prof. Mike Marasco.  This class highlighted how important it is to understand consumer needs so as to quickly develop solutions and be first to market.  We have analyzed case studies of what factors drive many successful companies, and reasons for the failure of others.

I am looking forward to taking “Leadership and Organizational Behavior,” “Business Process Change Management,” and “Project Management.”

What is the most surprising aspect of your experience in the program?

In every class we are put in teams to solve a challenging problem.  We learn to build off of each other’s strengths in order to work towards a solution.  By constantly being placed in different team dynamics, it builds our confidence to act as a leader in new environments.  The benefit of MEM is that you are working with the best in class from around the world, and will leave each course knowing you have expanded not only your hard skills, but soft skills for business success.  

How does the program experience prepare you to reach your professional and career goals?

The MEM program and my career path are tightly intertwined, which is a benefit of doing this program part-time.  Over the course of my career, I have been in R&D engineering, operations and supply management roles.  Throughout my career experiences and MEM courses, I recognize the competitive advantage between a well-executed project with effective business processes, versus those that lack these methodologies.  My goal now is to put myself in the best position for the future- by gaining knowledge, and mentorship experience from MEM, and applying my enhanced skills to opportunities for improving future projects.

What is distinct about your program experience?  What draws you in?

The MEM faculty want their students to succeed- academically, professionally and personally.  There is an obvious support network in MEM that made me want to be a part of the MEM team.  Director, Mark Werwrath and Associate Director, Stephen Tilley initially ask you what your goals are, and will help you build a path to achieving those goals.

The professors in this program serve not only as educators, but are also mentors and leaders from a wide variety of industries.  Northwestern University is a tight culture, which provides resources if you are interested in layering your education.

Once you’ve graduated and are looking back, what do you think will have been the most valuable thing you will have received or learned from this program?

The most valuable things I will have received are the world-class education and fantastic lifetime friendships and networks I have already made because of MEM.

What advice would you give future/prospective students?

Businesses today are in constant change and to stay ahead you need to challenge yourself, adapt, and find ways to grow.  MEM will challenge you!  But, you will be supported by classmates and faculty that ensure your growth.  Be a part of the future!