Student Spotlight: Melissa Albrecht

Melissa AlbrechtMelissa Albrecht is a current part-time MEM student at Northwestern. She studied Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan and graduated in 2007. She currently works as Program Manager at UL ventures and is based in Chicago, Illinois. Her hobbies include cooking, skiing, and running. Her secret talent is the ability to remain hyper-organized and think through several different ideas and topics at the same time and keep them organized in her mind! A great skill to have in a fast-paced, ever-evolving, and constantly-changing business environment. Agree?

We asked Melissa some questions about her experience in the MEM program and this is what she had to say:

What made you decide to pursue a MEM degree?

I had been contemplating going back to school to get an MBA shortly after I graduated from Michigan in 2007. As I continued to grow in my career and professional experiences, an MBA didn't seem like the right fit. I was seeking a program that could take the basic business concepts that I didn't cover during my undergrad program but could also apply them to my day to day activities. I put the idea of a graduate degree on the back burner and opted instead to start a family. In late 2017, I had the opportunity to meet Stephen Tilley and some MEM students at an event in downtown Chicago. After some exciting discussions with current students, including NUMiX Founder and CEO Katie Kollhoff, and following an information session in January 2018, I brought the idea of a graduate degree forward again. I found the MEM program provides the business acumen tailored to the industries and technologies with which I am working and enables application-based career development.

Favorite Class/Professor?

I started the MEM program in Fall 2018 and have only had the opportunity to take two classes, both of which I've enjoyed; Engineering Management (MEM 402) with Prof. David Semb and Marketing Issues for Engineers (MEM 405) with Prof. Mike Marasco. I liked the different backgrounds each professor brought to the class. I enjoyed the Simulation project in MEM 402, giving a broad perspective of all the variables that go into running a business, and I enjoyed working with Revolution Lightboards, a Northwestern alum startup, to develop a robust marketing plan in MEM 405. I've had the opportunity to work with Prof. Gail Berger during MEM 402 and am looking forward to her Leadership and Negotiations courses.

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

I have been pleasantly surprised by the diverse backgrounds and cultures that make up the MEM program. The sheer number of countries represented in the Fall 2018 starting class is impressive. Being part of a program that prioritizes diverse backgrounds and professional experiences is a unique and important quality.

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

I am motivated by opportunities to collaborate, learn and solve technology and innovation challenges. The program is helping me fine-tune my business acumen, grow my professional network and immediately apply concepts to my day to day activities in advanced manufacturing and venture capital.

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

There are a few distinct aspects to the program that draws me in. [1] The ability to apply concepts immediately to my professional day to day. For example, I was launching a new professional service in additive manufacturing at UL. There were learnings from the MEM 402 simulation around financials and the 4 P's of marketing that I used to help organize our business strategy and monitor the return on investment. [2] The opportunity to take NUvention courses in Entrepreneurship and Innovation or courses from different schools like Kellogg [3] The case studies that the program uses to introduce key business concepts. Understanding business successes and failures help provide insights into my own business decisions.

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

The marriage of the business theory and the application through class projects or real-world collaborations. I appreciate that many of the students have 5+ years of professional experience. This helps the discussion to move well beyond the theory because students are able to speak to their own experiences.

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?

I think it will be a combination of the new relationships/network and the new objective perspectives that you often lose sight of when immersed in your own day to day projects.

what advice would you give future/prospective students?

It's never too late to further your education. I put the goal of a graduate degree on hold for many years and ended up starting the program shortly after finding out I was pregnant with my second child. There may never be a good time. It’s a matter of deciding what is important to you personally and professionally and taking the plunge.

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

I was told during orientation, that the program is what you make of it. If you approach it like a checklist of assignments, that is the type of experience you will have. If you immerse yourself, look for the hidden challenges and opportunities, and focus more on learning than on completing assignments, the return will be far greater!