Lessons in Life and Leadership from MSIT

Patrick Gendron (MSIT '21) shares how his time in the MSIT part-time program helped him understand his personal and professional goals, and ultimately land a job as a principal product designer for CVS Health.

Patrick Gendron's career has been in digital product design, but after eight years as an individual contributor, he wanted to learn how to grow as a leader. For that, he turned to Northwestern Engineering's Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) part-time program.

"I chose MSIT because I thought having a business foundation and a technical foundation would round out my knowledge base," Gendron (MSIT '21) said. "It would prepare me to move into a design leadership position where I can speak, understand, and contribute to balanced business decisions." 

Gendron's prediction was right. During his time in MSIT, Gendron changed jobs twice. While working at Allstate, he became the experience design lead and manager, which allowed him to create and lead the company's community of practice for all experienced designers, as well as lead and manage design for three product teams. Then in September 2020, Gendron became a principal product designer at CVS Health, where he leads the design effort and management for one of the company's verticals. In that role, he plans design staffing, design roadmaps, and manages execution efforts. 

Working at a health company during the COVID-19 pandemic was a unique experience, Gendron said. 

"We got a bit of advanced notice on how CVS was going to help with the vaccine rollout, and it felt special to work for a company that had such a hand in public health," he said. "The aspect of my job that I enjoy most is organizing the way we work together to deliver the value needed by our customers and the business."

Gendron credited MSIT not only with giving him the leadership skills he craved but also instilling valuable skills and lessons that he relies on daily, from agile methodologies to understanding how back-end systems work and how they relate to a business and customer experiences. 

He also had the opportunity to learn more about himself and who he wanted to be. 

"We as knowledge workers have a tendency to define ourselves as the value that we can provide to the business, and MSIT taught me that value is also limited or expanded upon by how a company works," he said. "CVS has a lean, agile, product development part of their organization where I can lead and provide much more value."

Gendron's time in MSIT is done, but he expects to take advantage of the program's options for alumni to audit classes. He also thinks the program's alumni network will be beneficial for years to come.

As for prospective students considering the program, Gendron recommended they think of their lives and careers as a story, then consider how MSIT could fit in. 

"Does a fundamental understanding of technology and some business knowledge help tell your story?" he asked. "Does it help propel your story toward your desired future? If so, do it. It will take dedication, but the program, its professors, and its administrative staff are wonderful and will help along the way."

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