Student Spotlight: Maribel Lopez

Maribel LopezMaribel Lopez, originally from Isabela, Puerto Rico, is a current part-time MEM student. She studied Computer Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez Campus and graduated in 1996. She currently works as Sr. Embedded Software Engineer at Northrop Grumman. Maribel’s hobbies include dog agility training, fish keeping, and undertaking agility dog trials! Her secret talent is arts and she is a natural at drawing and multimedia. Now you know who to get in touch with to talk art or get your dog trained.

We asked Maribel some questions about her experience in MEM and this is what she said:

What made you decide to pursue a MEM degree?

Back in 2015, after 19 years of working as a Software Engineer, I did a rotation in the field of Software Quality Engineering. During my stay in the Quality Organization, I was exposed to the complete product realization and maintenance cycle; from answering requests for competitive proposals, development, transition to production and depot operations. I became aware about the importance of process compliance and how sometimes it’s not all about making tactical decisions when pursuing a project, but also strategic decisions for the long-term success of a program/product line. I realized that If I wanted to pursue a leadership position, it is imperative for me to work on my strategic thinking and leadership skills; since as an Engineer, I’m used to thinking and acting tactically. This made me opt for the MEM degree.

Favorite Class/Professor?

Leadership and Organization Behavior by Professor Gail Berger. I learned so much about myself and what makes me “tick” but more importantly, how critical it is to understand that people have different ways to communicate and how discovering your leadership strengths can help you make the most of the situations you may find yourself in. Another class I enjoyed was Project Management with Prof. Mark Werwath; I enjoyed his practical approach to teaching and making the topics relevant to both past and current industry events that everyone in the class could relate to.

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

How much I can relate with some of the material we discuss in class. I can learn something in the classroom today and put it to use at work next week.

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

The program is helping me explore and develop my strategic thinking, communication, and leadership skills.

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

MEM is not a cohort program. As a student with a full-time job and long commute, the flexibility in the curriculum was key to my decision to join the program.

What do you feel you’re learning from Northwestern’s program that you might not be experiencing elsewhere?

Because the program requires prior work experience, there is always an opportunity to learn from other students’ experiences in the workforce. The fact that this program attracts a good number of international students adds yet another dimension to knowledge sharing.

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?

To trust my instincts and experience. You don’t really need a title to lead.

What advice would you give future/prospective students?

Make sure you do your research before signing up for a class. Some classes require significant amount of time, especially when working with groups. Make sure you can accommodate the commitment.

Is there anything else you think would add to your spotlight article?

Even if you don’t have a goal to become a manager, the curriculum gives you complementary skills that will make you a well-rounded Engineer.