Industrial Engineer to Startup VP with an MBA
Q & A with Damaune Y. Journey, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Harvard Business School.
Watch the Engineering to MBA Google Hangout with Damaune and other engineers.
Industrial & Operations.
Did you know in undergrad that you wanted to go to graduate business school?
I decided to attend business school my sophomore year of college.
What was your career before business school?
Operations/Manufacturing. Prior to b-school, I worked for Dell Computers as in New Products Introduction coordinating the introduction of new technologies (SW and HW) into our global manufacturing sites while ensuring compatibility between computer configurations. I then worked for Eli Lilly and Company (Pharmaceuticals) as both a process engineer, ensuring the proper operation of drug manufacturing processes, and packaging engineering team leader, where I lead a team of engineers who designed, developed, installed, and operated a multiple line drug packaging facility that produced over one billion package equivalents annually.
Tell us about yourself (who you are, where you are from, how you got to where you are today)?
I'm from Flint, Michigan and was inspired to pursue engineering both through a variety of middle/high school engineering programs including the National Society of Black Engineers. With strong engineering schools like Kettering University (formerly GMI) and University of Michigan and General Motors as anchors in the community, engineering was natural for high achieving students in math and science in Flint.
What is your current job?
Vice President, ShotSpotter Security Solutions.
How many hours do you typically work each week?
What is a day in your life like?
I run a start-up technology business as part of a more established tech company, so my days are extremely varied. I can be meeting with US Government officials discussing the value of indoor and outdoor gunshot detection and location systems one minute and discussing the multiple HW/SW modalities required to properly detect and locate gunshots with our 30+ patent holding engineering team the next. From pricing to marketing to strategic partnerships to media engagements to engaging with potential investors, I find myself participating in all parts of starting a tech business in silicon valley.
Why business school?
I believe business and government are the two external factors that most impact American life and business school was the best way to gain a better understanding of business so that I could have an impact on the lives of others. With the critical thinking and problem solving skills gained through engineering (and the comfort with technology), the missing component for me was how to bring ideas and solutions to market to positively impact the world. Business school helped to bridge that gap for me and give me credibility to assume more authority in organizations to make decisions that impact others.
When you're not working, where could we find you?
You'll find me spending time with my family (wife and infant daughter) and friends, either traveling, watching sports (Go Blue!), or engaging in some friendly competition.
How did your engineering experience help you stand out as a business school applicant?
Although engineers make up an increasing percentage of b-school, comfort with numbers and critical thinking are skills that help engineering graduates stand out. Additionally, the types of work engineers do tend be dramatically different from the typical consultant/banker applicants, providing another source of differentiation to help round-out an applicant class.
Which skill sets from your engineering background do you think were your strongest assets in business school and on the job?
Critical thinking/problem solving, and leadership. Engineers are ultimately taught how to breakdown complex problems into less complex parts to generate a solution. The ability to think, quickly, and methodically in this fashion is a very useful life skill that can be applied in business school and on the job. Additionally, engineers are often provided opportunities to lead earlier in their career. Be it engineering projects, project teams, or manufacturing teams, the skills required to effectively influence and lead people to accomplish a goal is tremendously useful in both business school and beyond AND is highly valued in bschool applicants.
Read: How an MBA Can Advance Your Engineering Career
How did you fit studying for the GMAT™ exam into your busy schedule?
I cut other things out frankly. It became the most important activity after work. Many other activities were placed on temporary hold until I received the score I wanted.
What is your best GMAT study tip?
Study for the test, not the content. I recommend taking a GMAT prep class and do EVERYTHING they recommend. Success on the GMAT is not about intelligence or getting the right answer. It’s about eliminating the wrong answers and getting to the right answer quickly. So, you’re really taking the course to learn the tricks to recognize problem types, typical pitfalls, and GMAT exam taking skills to save time, avoid typical errors/traps, and stay calm throughout. For example, no math problem on the GMAT is even as challenging as Calc 1. BUT, solving a basic geometry problem through the classic methodologies learned in HS is too slow to allow you to complete the math portions. The tricks/tips learned in the course can help.
What's your remedy for pre-test nerves?
What advice do you have for other engineers who are planning go to business school?
Take a class in accounting, finance, stats, quant analysis if you can. These courses aren’t about learning to count, it’s about learning the language and business analytics methods.
What was your biggest challenge you had to overcome? Biggest reward you reaped?
Learning to understand and speak the language of business specifically accounting and finance. That’s why any pre-b-school classes you can take in these areas is so valuable. Biggest reward = feeling comfortable engaging with business discussions.
What resources did you use to research graduate business schools and programs to which you applied or may apply?
Rankings, business school websites, personal network, The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, on-campus visits. It’s important to talk to graduates of schools of which you’re considering. They have the best perspective on the culture/priorities/objectives/benefits/challenges of the program. Make sure you force them to answer tough questions about what they didn’t like, because graduates have a tendency to be cheerleaders for their school. Make sure you assess if the school is a good fit for you, not just highly ranked.