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Embracing the Career Journey – Fail Forward

Adeniji_LeahBy: Leah Adeniji, Assistant Director of Career Services

The career path is rarely linear. It often comes with twists and turns, as we evolve and manage the uncertainty that the career journey brings.

I grew up wanting to be a lawyer. This was my “dream job.” My senior year of high school, I took a law satellite class, where I was in the courtroom two times per week. From taking this class, I realized that this career would not be fulfilling for me. I found it too routine and boring. Now, I am grateful that I took Law Satellite, and learned this as a senior in high school. However, back then, this realization was devastating for me. Not only had I wanted to do that my whole life, but now, at the tender age of 18, I had to figure out what my career path was going to be. I couldn’t be the “average freshman,” who had no idea of what I wanted to do. It conflicted with my goal-oriented nature and I was freaking out.

I did some research, and was able to find a career course that started a few weeks before I began college. However, it was completely useless. So I was forced to “embrace the career journey.” Now, I look back at how I felt and laugh. I laugh because,

  1. I put myself under so much pressure when my career evolution has involved experiences that have prepared me to be skilled at what I do
  2. It is rare that people have engaged in the types of life experiences that creates career clarity

Since experiencing this, I have changed career paths again, and I continue to evolve in this aspect of my life.

My story is primarily related to not knowing what I wanted to do, but there are many other career-oriented stories that we have experienced. I have met with college students and working professionals who have been put in this place of what I will call “career uncertainty.” They have come to me because they are experiencing career challenges that conflict with their goals like,

  • Not getting an internship or full-time job in the timing expected
  • Being laid-off
  • Frustrated with the process and effort that is placed into the job search
  • Afraid that they either don’t have meet the requirements or have the career skills to get to where they want to be

When put in these types of situations, we begin to feel like a failure. Berating ourselves and questioning our worth. The word failure is harsh, and inaccurate. Many of these experiences are related to factors such as development or learning, and other things that are beyond our control like change and policies.

I recently attended a workshop at the NASPA Conference that included a discussion on resilience. Parallel to the conversation of resilience was failure. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines resiliency as: “the ability to recover or from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” Our presenters’ spoke about how the conversation regarding failure needed an adjustment, and I agree. One thing that is constant in this life is change. I believe that each experience that we have in this life can make us stronger, wiser, and better people if we are able to reflect on those experiences in a positive light.

So, I encourage you to embrace the change and cultivate resilience so that you can face adversity well, without compromising your sense of self-worth. And the next time that you feel that you have failed, consider it an opportunity to “fail forward.” To come out of the experience better than you had been prior. To bring this to life, I will close by sharing some online articles related to people who “failed” that achieved great success:

23 Incredibly Successful People Who Failed at First

13 Business Leaders Who Failed Before They Succeeded

Good luck on your career journey!

Leah

Alumni Spotlight: Lance Co Ting Keh, Data Engineer at Box

By: Ric Telford, PMP Adjunct Faculty

Last semester I caught up with one of my former students, Lance Co Ting Keh. Lance graduated with a Master of Engineering degree here at Pratt and is now working in Silicon Valley. I was anxious to hear how things are going for him out in the “real world.” Here is what he had to say.

Ric: Lance, you gradated in May of 2015 from the Master of Engineering Program. Tell us a little about what you are doing now.

Lance: I work at Box, a Cloud storage firm that was actually founded by a Dukie as well! The CFO is a Dukie, Dylan Smith. I do Data Engineering there. Think of Data Engineering the middle ground between Business Intelligence and Analytics. Our job is to provide the toolsets and the data sets for Business Intelligence workers who want to make business data queries. A good example of a business data query is “among all our customers, which are the best ones to upsell next?” Data is stored everywhere, and the goal is to gather all this data and join it so that it can be queried.

Ric: Are your customers primarily individuals or businesses / corporations?

Lance: Box caters to businesses. Most of our sales are to businesses. It is a very sales-driven company, focused on selling to businesses. Duke, for example, is a customer of Box.

Ric: Being in Silicon Valley, what can you tell us about the technical skill requirements of the high tech world?

Lance: Coming out of school, the big difference I see now is that people expect well-rounded employees, not just one technical expertise. These days even if you specialize in one area, it is important that you understand all parts of the technology “stack” – mobile, front-end, data, back-end technologies, etc. It is good to have a good academic foundation of the hardcore computer science skills with real-world industry skills, such as how to build a web app or how do you maintain a repository. Not all schools are there yet, but Duke is doing a better job of teaching these more practical skills.

Ric: Outside of the technical skills, what capabilities do you find most valuable in your skill set and that of your fellow engineers?

Lance: “Soft skills” are very important. It is just as important to handle yourself well in the workforce, as it is to be able to build something. There will always be personal issues that come up, there is going to be conflict. Being able to navigate that and work in a team structure, being able to talk to people and being open in how you give feedback and receive feedback are all important capabilities. As engineers we are very passionate about what we do and we want to get the job done. Sometimes you get lost in trying to build something and you forget that the folks you work with are people to. Finding that balance and being able to do that “social dance” is a very big role in the day-to-day job.

Ric: What advice would you have for the new Master of Engineering class as they work toward their degree?

Lance: I would tell them to take advantage of as many classes as they can that they can’t take outside of Duke. Separate those things you can learn on your own from that which you can only get from a big university. I started doing this during my time at Duke and it helped me a lot. Take the hard classes that you know would take a while for you to sit down and crunch through if you did it yourself – things like Machine Learning and Bayesian Statistics. You can do these things yourself or on Coursera, but it is hard without a professor or people with which to collaborate.

Ric: Finally, can I have you do a little reflection? In thinking about your time here at Duke in the MEng program, what would you say were some of the most valuable experiences?

Lance: There are two things I would mention. First was the research experience. I am an academic at heart and I was fortunate enough to be able to move around to different labs and see how they operate. That academic approach to problems shaped the way I think and I believe I still think that way in industry. Second was the project experience. I learned a lot just from building projects with my peers. There are many things I built with others, both as part of class and as a fun project. These projects taught me a lot – not just the technical skills like writing code but also working with people as well. It is a high intensity environment in college and everyone is very busy. Personal conflicts will occur and l feel I grew a lot as a person in working with other people. It is something I take with me at work.

Here is a video clip of Lance giving advice about being on the job.

 

5 Things We Look For in MEMP Applicants

By: Susan Brown, Assistant Director of Admissions

What kind of applicant are we looking for in the Master of Engineering Management Program? There’s no single answer. We consider your academic record, test scores, recommendations, resume, and statement, but in today’s post, we thought we’d expand on those 5 qualitative aspects we introduce on the MEMP website. The ideal candidate may show many of these qualities, but all candidates should be open to developing these characteristics through the program.

Engagement in the classroom, extracurricular activities, or in industry

Strong academic performance is important to any graduate program, but we’re interested in what you do beyond studying. Do you regularly contribute to classroom discussion, and can other students count on you in group projects? Or are you a student-athlete, an extra-effort volunteer, or active in clubs within your university? Perhaps you’re a member of professional organizations or an award-winning team member at work? We seek a well-rounded class of students who are engaged in the program, and your previous activities give us a glimpse into the kind of student you’d be.

[The skills I found most valuable were] communication skills, robust negotiation, and persuasive skills that I learned while being part of multiple MEM student bodies and clubs.” – Abdul Khan, MEM Class of 2012

Leadership in academic to professional settings

What kind of impact have you had? Whether it was a team, project, or program, your past experiences in taking the lead form the basis for your development at Duke. Our programs strive to develop future industry leaders that drive innovation and development.

We want [students] to learn to leverage diverse opinions and approaches to develop solutions that are better than anyone could reach alone. Developing leadership skills requires not only an understanding of leadership principles and approaches but also opportunities for students to actually lead and receive feedback on their actions.” – Brad Fox, Associate Dean and Executive Director, Professional Masters Programs

Global Awareness the appreciation and understanding of the world’s varying cultures, economies, and political systems

Today’s engineers are expected to work with colleagues all over the world. It’s crucial to understand how others perceive problems and solutions. Employers value engineers who can contribute to and thrive in diverse teams, and with our global student body, we do too.

“I’ve had the opportunity to learn from and work with various students whose cultures span the world, and the program has provided me with the chance to get hands-on experience in working in a global environment.” – Dayna Cole, MEM Class of 2014

Emotional Intelligence, including interpersonal skills and teamwork abilities

Emotional intelligence has been a bit of a buzzword, but its underlying tenet makes sense: how well do you understand, interpret, and respond to the emotions of others? How do you contribute to teams? Working effectively with others is a valuable trait for engineers. Your skills in this area will be an important indicator of how well you’ll do in the program.

Three traits that I consider most valuable are interpersonal skills, agility, and attention to detail. In today’s world, these traits are very important irrespective of the field of work. Effective communication and the ability to find opportunities to lead/innovate is the key to being a successful project manager.” – Ramya Ramaswamy, Class of 2013

Engineering Leverage the vision to see your engineering education as the foundation for your graduate studies

You spent four or more years becoming an engineer – and engineers are in demand. The majority of our students find success in technology roles that let them leverage their business knowledge while building on their engineering backgrounds. If you want to reinvent yourself with a business program, there are many other great programs that will help you do so.

The whole MEM experience was amazing. Unlike other programs that push you to a particular field, it gives you the ability to explore diverse career paths. With so many options present, both in the coursework and in potential career opportunities, you have the freedom to choose a role that is suited to your liking. It was a period of a lot of introspection for me as I tried to figure out the right path. It allows you to leverage your background effectively.” – Femi Sokoya, MEM Class of 2013

How many of these traits can you show in your application? Are you ready to develop more? Ready to apply? We’re excited to meet you. Contact us with any questions, and create your application account and apply online! Below is the list of requirements that can be found on our website.

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10 Ways to Stay Confident, Motivated, and Positive Throughout Your Job Search

Christina_Plante-2By: Christina Carrera, Assistant Director of Career Services

The search process for a job or internship can bring up many emotions of frustration, excitement, rejection, and apprehension. Spending countless hours perusing job boards and networking while also trying to stay on top of coursework might start to be overwhelming. Even with these mixed feelings, it is a good time to evaluate your confidence in yourself, with professionals, and in the job search. Adding some positivity can help you retain a sharp perspective and refresh your outlook on prospects.

Surprise! When you are not confident, it shows on the outside. Here are some ways to find your inner confidence and remember that you have what it takes to be successful in your target organizations.

  1. Reward Yourself

Use positive reinforcement in your job search. After completing two job applications or conducting an informational interview, say you are going to go out to eat or meet up with a friend. This way you are rewarding yourself for the work you accomplished and taking a break from the process. Making progress on your search “to do” list might even start to seem fun as you finish your tasks.

  1. Write Down Your 5 Best Qualities

We do not do this enough! What are your strengths? Instead of focusing on your weaknesses, look at what makes you unique and how you use your best qualities on a daily basis. How can you leverage them during a networking event, on your resume, or in your classes? Your strengths can outweigh your weaknesses and be an integral part of your story if you intentionally use them during your job search.

  1. Find Success Stories

Start reading about or talking to successful people similar to your background who have “made it” in your industry of interest. What do you have in common with them? What techniques or strategies did they use to get where they are? Seeing how others made it possible might give you a newfound motivation.

  1. Journal to Reflect on Your Past Experiences

Through writing, it is easier to check in with your life and career goals. What are your values, interests, skills, and strengths? Have they changed in the past few months or over the span of your college career? What do you want in a work environment, place to live, a boss, or co-workers? Think about the last time you had to accomplish a big goal in the past and how did you do it? Make sure your search is aligning with your personality and lifestyle. Reflection and self-awareness can lead to a job that is the right fit for you and it helps you be genuine and authentic during the application process.

  1. Find the Right Mindset

Would you believe that your belief in yourself to succeed actually impacts real success? Through this concept of self-efficacy, believing you will find a job is important. Change your language from negative to positive. Some common thoughts might be “I will never find a job,” “No one I reached out to has responded,” “There are no positions out there for what I want to do.” How can you change this into positive language? “I will find a job,” “Someone I reached out to will respond” (maybe I should change my strategy), and “There is a position out there for me (what do I need to do to search more efficiently?).” Find ways to keep your motivation high and belief strong that something will work out.

  1. Get Other Perspectives

Hearing what others think of you can be great feedback and also a confidence boost even if it is not all positive. Feedback means you are getting a better picture of how you are perceived by others. Ask your family, friends, mangers, or professors how they view you. Have a mock interview with your career counselor. Also have someone listen to your career story and tell you what he or she heard. This will help you understand how to tailor what you say and be more effective to your audience.

  1. Expand Your Knowledge

Sometimes our confidence is low when we have insufficient knowledge about the subject matter. You might have experienced it before when you have to talk about something you are not an expert on. This is why knowledge is powerful when it comes to the job search. Research the companies and industries you are interested in and get to know the key players. What are the company goals, values, mission statement, history, products, or customers? Look up employees on LinkedIn and read about their experience or career path.

  1. Set S.M.A.R.T Goals

Do not set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals. If your goals are constantly out of reach you are more likely to feel discouraged and unproductive. Set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Establish an action step and timeframe that would be achievable for you execute your plan. Set goals in small steps and figure out the logical sequence for you to reach that big goal.

  1. Think about Body Language

You portray confidence as soon as you walk into a room. Things like dress, eye contact, body language, gestures, and tone of voice all show confidence. When you are interacting with others in a professional setting walk with a purpose, gracefully enter and exit group conversations, smile, and have a firm handshake. Hopefully your confidence will be more apparent from the steps you have taken above.

  1. Evaluate Barriers and Supports

When understanding confidence you might feel like it stems from a weakness in an area. What are the areas that you would call a barrier in your job search? Identifying these challenges can only help you address them. Now that you know your barriers, whom can you reach out to for support? Make sure to use your resources and the people in your life to help you along the way. Also, having an accountability partner is a great way for you and a friend to keep each other on track with your search goals.

Feedback—An Essential (and Often Forgotten) Component to Your Success

Johnson_Jenny_2015By: Jenny Sloop Johnson, Associate Director of Career Services

Welcome to the last weeks of class! In the next two months, you will begin your summer internship or your first job after the MEMP or MEng program. Congratulations on your hard work and perseverance!

In Career Services, we’ve found that our students fall into two categories once they have committed to a short-term or long-term role. In one “camp” we have the students who are so relieved to finish their job or internship search that they put the role they will take completely out of their mind. They have classes to finish, projects to complete, and want to connect with friends before they disperse. Think of an athlete who has finished one of the most intense games they’ve ever experienced and you’ve correctly pictured these students. And we get it. You may have spent the last 9-12 months looking for said job or internship and need time to recuperate and finish strong in finals.

The second “camp” of students is those who celebrated accepting a job or internship offer and then recommitted the time used for their search to preparing for the beginning of that role. We’d encourage you to be part of the second “camp” of students. To have the most valuable internship experience or the best first 90 days in your new full-time role, you need to be prepared. And don’t assume that because you successfully completed the job or internship search, that the preparation ends there.

One of the most valuable components in your preparation is the role that feedback will play in your experience. Consider both the feedback you will receive from supervisors and peers and the feedback that you will provide in 1:1 and team settings.

To give you a better understanding of how to receive feedback in a constructive way and how to provide helpful feedback, read this article on The Art and Science of Giving and Receiving Criticism at Work from Fast Company (originally written for Buffer). Learn which strategies will work best for you and ways you can ask for feedback that will promote constructive conversations.

To go deeper into how you receive, remember, and utilize feedback, watch this TEDx talk by Sheila Heen, a founder of Triad Consulting Group, a member of the Harvard Negotiation Project and co-author of Difficult Conversations and Thanks for the Feedback. The 20 minutes go fast as she provides ideas for how to incorporate others’ feedback into your own learning and growth. One of her main points is that you can’t wait to be assigned a good manager who is able to provide feedback in exactly the way you like. You have to learn how to utilize feedback from multiple sources.

Utilize these two resources to help you better prepare for your internship or the start of your full-time job. Knowing how you will handle feedback and also how to provide it to others will be key to your success and professional growth!

Features and Tips on our New Application

By: Susan Brown, Assistant Director of Admissions

This summer, we became the first department to launch a new application that Duke plans to roll out across the university. Being an early adopter had its ups and downs, and we’re still fine-tuning the system in preparation for our early 2016 deadlines, but we wanted to highlight a few features and tips for the new application.

Features:

• GRE Scores: If you’ve taken the GRE multiple times and gotten higher section scores on different test dates, this new feature is for you. Our new application allows you to list your highest GRE section score and the date it was obtained. As long as you report all results to Duke (institution code 5156), we’ll take your highest score in each section.

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• Multiple Applications: Can’t decide which program is right for you? (See our video below.) Want to apply to several programs? The new system allows you to create multiple applications to several Duke programs in engineering, divinity, or the environment.

Events: Use the system to search and register for events such as webinars, information sessions at various locations, and on-campus visits. We can’t wait to meet you!466445_416426295090340_527763488_o

Tips:

• Document Uploads: We require a resume, statement of purpose, transcripts and other associated documents, but the new system will not show the transcript uploads until you’ve submitted the application and paid the application fee.

• Status Updates: After you submit your online application, you’ll be able to check the status of your application materials via Duke’s Applicant Self-Service system. Applicants who submit their application should receive an email on how to create this log in within five business days. We recommend that you check periodically to ensure that all required application materials have been received.

If you have any questions while creating or submitting your application, please contact us. We’re happy to help!

• Master of Engineering Management (both campus and distance): memp@duke.edu

• Master of Engineering (all disciplines): m-eng@duke.edu

What is the Global Leadership Fellows Program?

By: Lorelle Babwah, Assistant Director of Student Services

The Global Leadership Fellows Program (GLF) is a brand new initiative within the Professional Masters Program led by Bridget Fletcher and myself, Lorelle Babwah. If you are audiovisually inclined, you can learn more about the program by watching our Harry Potter-style recruitment video found here.

GLF Program

We are pleased to announce that the program received 20 applications for our inaugural class! From that, we selected 10 excellent fellows and sorted them further into two, five-person groups: House Babenclaw (headed by yours truly) and House Fletchendore (led by Bridget Fletcher).

The goal of the program is to develop a small community of MEM and MEng students who are interested in digging a little deeper. Fellows focus their engagement in three core areas: Leadership, Personal Development, and Cultural Competence.

I’ll elaborate more on these later, but today I’d like to talk a little bit about our fellows’ current activities—knowledge sharing! In keeping with the school’s mission of “knowledge in service of society,” program fellows must demonstrate leadership through service and ongoing engagement to develop others and improve Professional Masters Programs. Each fellow must plan and execute an activity where he or she shares some knowledge with the greater community. Here are just a few examples of the fellows’ presentation topics for this semester:

Working on Diverse Teams

Singlish (Singaporean English)

Traditional Chinese Martial Arts

Women in the Workforce

Palm-Reading

Chinese Characters

Navigating Chennai

Chinese Culture and Paper Cutting

Living Through the Five Senses

Look for future updates on our fellows and the GLF Program as we progress through this exciting first year. In the meantime, please check out the Global Leadership Fellows Program blog, with special links to hear from the fellows themselves! Who knows, we may even feature some guest bloggers very soon…

MEM and MEng Staff Members Shine in “Meet Your Staff” Summer Videos

By: Bridget Fletcher Associate Director, Academic and Student Services

One of the things that students often struggle with when they first arrive on campus is figuring out which staff member to go to when they have a question or problem. In an effort to proactively manage this issue, I worked closely with current MEMer, Shirin Biswas to create a video introduction to each of our primary staff members.

The videos offer some background information on each staffer, including where they grew up, went to school, and other places they’ve worked. They also outline what they do for MEM and/or MEng and the various ways that they might interact with or help students. The videos were shot at different locations across campus and all around Durham in order to allow incoming students to see some of the place they are about to call home.

The most challenging (and the most fun) video to shoot was for Assistant Director of Student Services, Lorelle Babwah. As an avid cyclist, Lorelle wanted to be filmed while riding her bike. We made it work, but there were a few crashes along the way!

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You can view the videos here:

Bridget: https://youtu.be/v9lXttA3_jA

Lorelle: http://youtu.be/WAcQBpgcVAg

Staci: http://youtu.be/-ekcqxA3Brg

Leah: http://youtu.be/94SWTcGbivs

Christina: http://youtu.be/s9olpVYIYyI

Jenny: http://youtu.be/_V1U_jav6Sc

Susan: http://youtu.be/L4OLlLdtWY4

Jamila: http://youtu.be/TGTtTlq3BWY

Brad: http://youtu.be/hoj1ZDVEB3Y

La Tondra: http://youtu.be/HytH_R5hSKk