Category Archives: Student Stories

Stories about the Career Journeys of Michigan Tech students.

Conciseness in Communication is Powerful

In High School, I remember the first assignment that needed to be typed and not hand-written.  I had to get my mother to do the typing for me!  The technology of manual typewriters, ribbons, and white-out demanded a high degree of skill, manual dexterity, and practice.  Advancements in word-processors, electronics, and printers have made this a distant memory.  There is no question that documents created today are easier to read, analyze, and search.  

Videos and Infographics seem to be in a similar realm.  The software to create and edit videos has evolved to be nearly as simple as word processing.  The file sizes and amount of information processed is “orders of magnitude” larger, but the process is surprisingly simple.

The focus on being concise and efficient hasn’t changed.  

Students struggle with the idea of making a 1-page resume and a brief cover letter.  They constantly have more information to add to the single piece of paper used to summarize their life and accomplishments.  Conceptually, the focus on the audience and what is important to them is extremely difficult when you are personally invested in the topic.  

Last year, we made a decision to make short summary videos of the CareerFEST events held on campus.  Taking 6 hours of raw footage from any event and distilling into 2-minute videos doesn’t seem fair!  There were hours of planning meetings, scheduling, and logistics that went into these events.  But, when you watch the final product, the focus needs to be on the design and outcomes of the event.  The videos are available on: https://www.youtube.com/user/MTUCareer

Today’s student has grown up with access to the Internet in their hand – both literally and figuratively.  They would much rather see infographics, diagrams, and videos to describe events and complex relationships.  Why not watch the video online rather than read the book?  I have to admit, when these things are done right, I’d rather watch a video or review and infographic too!


Co-op experiences produce graduates desired by industry

Rich Wells, Vice President of Michigan Operations for Dow Chemical, walked into a room of talented students from top Universities across the U.S.. These students were working as employees at Dow’s diverse chemical production facility in Midland, Michigan. Each student’s job is not to sweep floors but to take part in a wide variety of meaningful projects that will significantly impact the company financially, while allowing each student to develop meaningful career skills.

The first question for Rich from these student co-ops was what skills did he see entry level engineers lacking? He quickly listed off five areas. 1) Decision making – being comfortable making decisions with limited data. 2) Trusting the knowledge you have gained in school and build on it. 3) Problem-solving skills that allow you to break down complex challenges and develop an array of solutions. 4) Interpersonal skills ranging from working effectively in diverse groups to constructing a clear and concise e-mail. 5) Producing results where he notes that answering e-mails does not qualify as a result. Dow Chemical structures student co-op assignments to develop and foster these skills in young engineers.

Caleb, a chemical engineering student at Michigan Tech from Leelanau, Michigan, was assigned to the pesticide production division. His process engineering duties included working with a diverse workgroup in both age and experience. Caleb’s communication strategy followed the saying “two eyes, two ears, one mouth”, meaning we were all meant to spend more time observing & listening and less time talking. Caleb learned volumes of information from his mentor Dave and the hourly operators like Scott who had been working there for over 20 years. In the process he gained their respect, allowing him to lead by influence as he successfully completed his projects.

Holly, a third-year chemical engineering student at Michigan Tech from Essexville, Michigan, was assigned the role of process safety engineer. Her job was to ensure all chemical storage and shipping containers were labeled with appropriate hazardous material signage. If these containers were involved in an accident, a labeling mistake can cost lives along with millions of dollars in fines. Holly developed the ability to build a network of ‘expert’ resources as well as a process to accomplish the task for the diverse number of chemicals and storage units.

Andrew, a third year Mechanical Engineering student at Michigan Tech from Reece, Michigan, was tasked to assess and recommend new water pumps to be purchased for the manufacturing complex. These pumps supplied water for steam generators vital for successful operations of chemical production throughout the facility. Andrew’s recommendation must satisfy needed flow rates at an acceptable cost.

Each of these students was given work meaningful to operations of one of Dow’s largest productions facilities. These students were provided mentors, needed resources, and the support of their superiors. They brought the knowledge they gained from their educational experiences, combined it with the practical knowledge they gained from their peers, and developed multidisciplinary teams to successfully solve the challenges they were assigned.

Dow Chemical’s co-op/internship program allows students to put their acquired knowledge to work in a real world setting. Caleb, Holly, and Andrew will leave this experience having not only provided Dow with valued contributions, but also having developed the skills that Rich Wells and industry covenant in their new college recruits.


Great Career Opportunities In #Steel

Arcelor_Tour_Group_Photo_IMG_6526Huskies have a long and proud history of careers in the steel industry.  To help students learn about the opportunities available to them, ArcelorMittal partnered with Michigan Tech to transport a bus full of students from Houghton, MI to Northwest Indiana.  These students had a chance for an all-access tour of the Indiana Harbor facility along with some unique dining and sightseeing opportunities.

During the tour, students saw first-hand some of the challenges and opportunities of careers in the factory.  They learned the importance of teamwork and safe work practices.  Since the tour consisted primarily of first and second-year students, these lessons will help them in their future careers, regardless of their degree or the company they work for.

Some of the post-tour surveys revealed what the students learned:

  • “Everyone we spoke with seemed genuinely invested in the company and also what they are making”
  • “Employees were very satisfied with their jobs”
  • “It is very important for a company to be good to the people that work for them”
  • “…an opportunity to assume responsibility from day one on the job…”
  • “The company…still allows personal fulfillment”

Before the students took the tour, 50% said they probably would not have considered a career in the Steel Industry.  After the tour, 93% of the students said they would consider working for ArcelorMittal.


Messages from Commencement – Pursue your Passion!

Commencement ceremonies are occurring in high schools, colleges, and universities across the country. For graduates, it is a time of anxiety, relief, hope, and choices. A key component of each ceremony is the keynote address by an honored guest whose job it is to capture the magnitude of the moment. They are also asked to provide some insight or pearls of wisdom that can aid you in the journey you are about to embark on with your newly acquired knowledge.

Many commencement speakers focus on the importance of discovering your passion and pursuing it relentlessly. Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, stated “I hope you find yourself on one path but longing for something else, you’ll find a way to get there. And if that isn’t right, try again. Try until you find something that stirs your passion, a job that matters to you and matters to others. It’s a luxury to combine passion and contribution. It’s also a clear path to happiness.”

JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter book series, acknowledges the role that failure will play in your future “You might never fail on the scale I did. But some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all. In which case, you fail by default.”

Others like Larry Page, founder of Google, express the value of dreaming big. “I think it is often easier to make progress on mega-ambitious dreams. I know that sounds completely nuts. But, since no one else is crazy enough to do it, you have little competition. There are so few people this crazy that I feel like I know them all by first name. They all travel as if they are pack dogs and stick to each other like glue. The best people want to work the big challenges.”

Apple founder Steve Jobs spoke of the value of following your own wants and desires in his address. “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it in living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Success in life is a journey not a destination. Each of these commencement speakers has faced obstacles, failures, and immense challenges throughout their lives. They each communicate the value of discovering their passion because that propelled them to overcome each of these challenges and achieve their goals. Commencement is a time to reflect on your accomplishments and begin your next journey. Pursue a career and goals you are passionate about, and the best is yet to come!



#MTUGrad – A New Way To Take Home Memories

102851-stripGraduation is the culmination of a lot of hard work and dedication.  As a way of saying “Congratulations” to our graduates, Career Services organized a photo booth to help commemorate the event.  With a green screen and choice of eight different Michigan Tech related backgrounds, students, their family, and their friends were invited to create “one last memory” of their time in Houghton.

Check out the results of the photobooth on Flikr.


Body Language – It Speaks Volumes!

We were pleased to have one of our Alumni share her stories with our students.  Allie Irwin (Engineered Conversations) visited campus to speak with students and faculty about how body language sends messages about listening, importance, honesty, and many other things without us being aware of it.

The summary of her visit is now available for review on: http://www.mtu.edu/career/students/resources/bodylanguage/



#SigningDay #MTUGrad – Starting a new tradition!

Graduation day is less than a week away! What is the ultimate result of all that hard work? Starting a job with a new company, applying those skills in a new occupation, and earning money!

We copied the idea of a high school recruit signing for a new college or a professional athlete getting drafted.  Here are some group photos next to our statue in the middle of campus. We think this new tradition will take hold!

Thank you to our corporate partners at: 3M, Alliance Laundry Systems, ArcelorMittal, Caterpillar, The Dow Chemical Company, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford Motor Company, Gerdau, Jackson, Kimberly-Clark, Nucor, Oshkosh, Plexus, and Systems Control. Our corporate partners help prepare our students for their careers and now, it is time to get to work!

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The Perma-Smile

Many people talk about the “Senior Slide” as students finish their final year of college, I prefer to talk about the “perma-smile”.  smiley-face-on-beach

Students have worked so hard for their grades.  They have learned how to survive with messy roommates, impossible project assignments, harsh weather, homesickness, and the stress of a job search.  In the last few weeks of the Spring semester, can you blame them for being insufferably happy?

As these students count down the days until they graduate (it’s 22, by the way) – all of their hard work has paid off.  Although nobody knows what it is, they are ready to join the “real world”   As they strike out on their own, hopefully, the Career Culture that we have created on campus will propel them into their first destination.

The educational value of many the things the students have done may not be apparent to them.  There are a lot of technical skills learned in the classroom, but also a lot of other skills learned outside of the class that will help them succeed.  Late nights completing a project before a deadline, networking during a lunch, performing a presentation on a topic in front of their peers, entering a contest, or volunteering their talents to help someone else — these life lessons will serve them well.

To me, the perma-smile is a result of knowing that all the hard work is just beginning but the pay will be much better!