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BS, Chemical Engineering

Noemie Midrez joins SDM from Hewlett-Packard, where she works in the Metal Jet 3D printing group as a process development engineer. While her background is in chemical engineering, she’s already taking a systems approach to her work and is excited for the core curriculum’s approach to managing complex systems. “I’ve realized just how important it is to understand how your work fits in the big picture and interconnects with everybody else’s work,” she says. “We are in this international, cross-functional world where technology is becoming more and more complex.”

What is your work? What do you do at HP?

I’m a process development engineer at Hewlett-Packard in 3D metals, which is a broad role involving work ranging from customer support to research and development projects. My first responsibility in this team was studying material recyclability and figuring out ways to capture and characterize the evolution of metal powders over time and use. Then I started familiarizing myself with our 3D printing process and its complexity by running and leading R&D efforts to inform and validate our future technology. 

I spend a lot of time in the lab running and checking experiments, but also a lot of time analyzing data and building presentations and reports to communicate out to the broader team. Our group is split between two countries where the product development happens on one side and the process development happens on the other side. That really forces you to communicate clearly, concisely and in a timely manner. I also support our early customers and work with them to develop the right print process for the best quality output.

How did you hear about SDM?

I was starting to get more responsibilities at work, but I knew I was missing quite a bit of knowledge about management, such as how to deal with big systems and problems, how to improve our operational efficiency, or how to organize my own work to make it as impactful as possible. I was looking for graduate programs that would allow me to study engineering as well as learn the business side of technology with a broad approach. I love doing a little bit of everything and I hate specializing. Someone brought up the idea of systems engineering and engineering management to me, so I started researching programs and found SDM. When reading the description, everything seemed like it was the perfect fit.

How do you think systems thinking will affect your work? What do you look forward to learning in the core class?

To do this job well, I need to understand a little bit about all the subsystems of our printers to know how they can impact my work and how my work can impact them. It’s a lot of experiment planning, but also being agile and able to move on the spot if you get results that invalidate your whole hypothesis. It’s a unique type of experiment design where you need a plan, but more importantly you need lots of backup plans in case your original plan fails and you need to start over. 3D Metals feels like a startup within HP, since it’s a much newer field, constantly changing and evolving, making it difficult to have our structures and systems in place.

Operating in this chaotic environment drew me to this program to learn how to navigate these problems. How do you make decisions about what features to implement in your next product? What will be the long-term impact of that feature? How do you make decisions about the next fifty challenges that you need to face and prioritize? I’m also interested in the human side of things, which makes everything more complex. When making decisions, how do you navigate them so that people feel valued and empowered, and so they have clarity on how they can contribute? How do you pivot your team to fix a big fire without giving up on projects focusing on long-term, future technology? I hope to come back with some answers to these challenges in order to forge a team that feels valued and supported while still making progress towards our business goals.

Are there other courses you’re interested in?

I’m really interested in People, Teams and Organizations in the Sloan School of Management. There are also a lot of leadership classes which seem to be addressing those key complexities that appear when you’re dealing with people in innovative technology spaces. On the engineering side, my interests lie more towards industrial engineering. My undergraduate degree was in chemical engineering, but I want to understand organization and efficiency better. My goal is to avoid wasting time by setting up and streamlining processes for the people I work with. 

What’s something that excites you about meeting your new classmates?

I love the diversity of this cohort and, especially, how many international people will be part of this program. I am an international student myself as I was born in Mauritius and raised in Belgium, and then came to Oregon for my undergraduate studies. It’s one thing to come from different industries and different companies, but I’m curious to learn about everybody’s way of seeing problems based on the different cultural backgrounds. I am excited that the program is set up to force interaction and collaboration by having us work with each other on group projects. 

I believe I’m also coming in with less than the average amount of work experience, so I’m really eager to absorb knowledge and experience from people that have worked longer. My goal is to be a sponge when I get there.