Alumni

Management, Engineering and… Marriage?

Management and Engineering for Manufacturing might be described as the marriage of Business and Engineering degrees, but every so often, it actually inspires true love.

Marino-Cooper-MEMVictoria Marino and Justin Cooper, both class of 2019, met in the fall of 2016 in MEM 2211. Justin had just recently transferred to Storrs from the Waterbury campus. He walked into his Introduction to Manufacturing Systems class, then taught by Dr. Roy and Dr. Thakur, and sat down near a mutual friend who introduced him to Victoria.

“I was excited and I wanted to meet him right away,” Victoria said. “I wanted to get to know as many people as possible so I would never have to do homework alone and would have people I knew to do group projects with. We became good friends that semester while working on group projects and having a lot of mutual friends.”

The couple didn’t start dating until the fall of the following year, however. “Well, we had one date the previous spring,” Justin said.

“Except I didn’t know it was a date,” Victoria reminded him. “He asked me to lunch, but I didn’t know he was thinking it was a date.”

“It was great though because we talked and got to know a lot more about each other that day,” Justin said.

They dated the rest of the way through college, sharing friend groups and working together. “We were even lab partners for Sensors and Data, which was great,” Justin said.

“It was great because we always tried to get in the same group for group projects and it was so nice to get to know each other as classmates and partners,” Victoria said.

“Working on projects together, seeing how we solve problems together, and how we manage stress was really good,” Victoria said. “The Industrial blower report was one of the first really difficult projects we had to work on together and Justin really eased the stress.”

“I liked to make her laugh,” he said. “And still get serious when we needed to get to work too.”

When Senior Design came around, the couple’s friends were taking bets on whether it would be their demise. Thankfully, they said, they were assigned to different projects.

“That was probably a really good thing because Senior Design was really stressful,” Victoria said.

“We never called in those bets,” Justin said glancing at Victoria.

Marino-Cooper-Engagement-MEM

Just a week before graduation while the couple was taking graduation pictures together in front of Castleman, Justin dropped to one knee and proposed. “It was my favorite building so it was a really romantic place to do that,” Victoria said. “I always wished I had more classes there, but now I have this memory.”

While the couple had planned to marry in May of 2021, they postponed their special day due to Covid concerns and are now planning their nuptials for April 24, 2022. “We are hoping to have an MEM banner at our wedding,” Victoria said. “The one with the old logo.”

They expect many of their MEM friends to be in attendance, including Victoria’s best friend who is also an MEM alumna and will serve as her maid of honor.

Victoria Marino currently works at Kaman Precision Products as a New Product Development Engineer and she accepted the role as MEM Industry Advisory Board member starting summer of 2021, while Justin Cooper works at a small direct-to-substrate printer manufacturer.

Industry Advisory Board Members Selected Among MEM Alums

The Management and Engineering for Manufacturing (MEM) program has recently selected two new members for its Industry Advisory Board, Adam Duong, B.S. in MEM ’16 and Victoria Marino, B.S. in MEM ’19.

The MEM program and its directors have recently decided to expand its industry advisory board members to MEM young alumni in order to gain a valuable perspective from recent graduates who are familiar with the program from the inside, how it prepares its students for careers in various fields, and ways the program might be strengthened. Duong and Marino will be the first two MEM alumni to join the board of manufacturing professionals from across the state of Connecticut.

Duong, is currently employed by Pfizer as a Digital Client Partner / Experience Designer for the pharmaceutical giant’s Global Operations move to Hudson Yards in Manhattan. He is working on planning space and emerging technologies. Previously, prior to his 2016 graduation date, he also worked for Pfizer as an Analyst and for Southern Tide as a Brand Ambassador.

Duong says, “The MEM program is a rigorous and dynamic curriculum that balances both the business and the technical which is invaluable in today’s climate, because the ideal leader today balances both.” He goes on to say how pleased he is to be joining the advisory board and to “bring a cross-industry, cross-disciplinary perspective on how the program can best cultivate well rounded individuals.”

Victoria-MarinoMarino, is currently employed by Kaman Precision Products as a New Product Development Engineer. She has also served as a Leadership Development with the company, rotating through various areas within the company, such as Sustaining Engineering, New Product Development and Program Management. Prior to her 2019 graduation date, she also worked for Wireless Zone as a Supply Chain Purchasing Intern and for Legrand North America as a Quality Assurance Intern.

Marino says she is excited to bring a young professional’s perspective to the Industry Advisory Board. “I greatly enjoyed my experience in the MEM program. The diverse coursework and strong student-alumni network greatly prepared me to enter the manufacturing workforce. Having started my career in a multi-department rotation program, I was able to be a valuable contributor in each role I explored.”

The first meeting of the board for the 2021-2022 academic year is scheduled to take place in August 2021.

Q&A With Natiya Washer – 2021 Grad Hired by Senior Design Sponsor

“I got to interact with the assembly line workers all the time. That was a really great way for me to display my set of skills of working with people that streamlined me into this engineering job, where my primary function is working with assembly line workers in the company. So, it was a direct transferable set of skills that I was able to showcase during the senior design project…”

Hi Natiya and Congratulations! I was so happy Professor Calvert shared with me that you were hired by your Senior Design Team sponsor! Wow! Can you tell me about that?

Natiya: The company I got hired into is called Prysmian Group. They’re based in the Willimantic area and my senior design project was really unique in that I got to go onsite even during the pandemic. We took all the necessary precautions to do that, of course, but that meant that I really got to meet all of the sponsors and the workers face to face about every 2 weeks and it really helped build my relationship with them. When I heard that there was a job opening, I asked about it and I was actually able to skip a couple of interviews. It really helped streamline me into the interview process and ultimately get the job.

That’s fantastic! So did your other teammates go over with you as well?

Natiya: Yes, we went over as a team and actually, in the 2nd semester, one of the workers at Prysmian was just asking us out of curiosity, “what are your plans after college?” My two teammates had other plans outside of looking for jobs, but in that moment, I was like, “oh, I’m looking for a job! Do you have any postings?” And he’s like “yeah. Here’s a link. You can all look at it if you’d like.”

That’s great. It shows that there was some dialogue going on between you, the team, and the company and that there’s sort of an almost nurturing aspect. How did you feel about the relationship building process?

Natiya: On the senior design project, the relationship building process was really fantastic. It was nice from the very beginning. We set up a very open dialogue between our sponsors and our team and so it meant it was very relaxing and not nerve wracking to email them any questions or just having constant line of communication. So it was nice to have the setting where I was able to talk to the professionals in the field without having a lot of that nervousness if I went up to them during a career day or anything like that. It was just since I already was in a project with them it made it a lot more relaxing and I was able to talk to them more on a personal level than a high stress level.

Do you feel like there was anything specific about your senior design project that made you a natural fit for the job?

Natiya: My senior design project specifically was helping redesign parts of this assembly line at their company which meant that I got to interact with the assembly line workers all the time. That was a really great way for me to display my set of skills of working with people that streamlined me into this engineering job, where my primary function is working with assembly line workers in the company. So, it was a direct transferable set of skills that I was able to showcase during the senior design project which was why, when I went in for the interview, so many of the workers, already knew that I was fit for that aspect of the job. I just had to prove it to all the other people that were interviewing me. So, that was very nice.

That’s great. During the interview process, aside from being able to skip the steps and having them already know you, do you feel like it made you more at ease? Or do you feel like it gave you a leg up in any way?

Natiya: I think I got a leg up because during the interview process, there were some people who reached out to me who were my senior design sponsors and they said, normally I would be in this interview right now, but you’ve already convinced me so, I won’t sit in on the interview, but here’s some other people you haven’t met yet. And when I would call into those, it’d be like, “Hi, Natiya, we’ve heard so much about you. We’ve heard such good things. We’re just hoping to clarify some points or just have you elaborate on other ones,” so it was really nice to not be working off an empty slate. I kind of already had this reputation built for me that was very positive so, it was really more them validating and asking about some of this past experiences I had with the company already and then using that as a stepping point to go back into my previous internship experiences and resume bullet points.

Will your job will be a continuation of your senior design project in some way or is it a completely separate thing?

Natiya: So I’m getting hired in as a process engineer, and the job I’m hiring into is not a continuation of my senior design project. I’m actually working on a different part of the facility, but I’ll still be using the same skills that I use on the same design project, which is really cool.

So when do you start?

Natiya: My official start date is June 17th, but I’ve actually been lucky enough that they wanted me to come in so we’ve actually started a part time agreement where I can work anywhere between 4 to 16 hours every week to just shadow all my other process engineering coworkers – ultimately, just get more comfortable with the plant. On June 17th, I can hit the ground running and we’ve already done all my onboarding. I’ve already met everyone in the entire plant, and so I just jump right into full on projects. I have been extremely thankful that they offered the part time position to me because again, it makes it so much less stressful because I’ve had so much time to really ease in right now while the expectation is only for me to shadow. So, it’s a really great way to see exactly what I’m doing before I have to hit the ground running.

Wow! What a great opportunity! Did you have any different kinds of jobs in mind before being offered this, or did it change during your senior design project or at some other point?

Natiya: I’ve always been really open minded about what field I wanted to go work in. Prysmian manufactures cables, which sometimes people might think that’s not as stimulating as working in aerospace or working on assembling fighter jets, but for me, I’m really passionate about process flow, and process flow can be found in any industry and in any factory. So, once I was able to go in and see the factory and get a feel of the culture and what they were doing there, and just meeting all the management and even the people working on the floor, I realized that the company’s values aligned with my own and that’s why I was really excited about interviewing with them because they had all the processes I was interested in and a great company culture. And what more can you ask for.