ISE alumna, Juli Trexler, shares her experiences, wisdom and the secret to getting that first job out of college
“I always liked math and organizing things. But psychology and people in general have always fascinated me,” said ISE alumna and Director of Services for the Lenovo Melody Project Office at IBM, Juli Trexler (BSIE, 1997). “I was always trying to find faster ways to do things,” recalled Trexler. “I remember trying to get ready faster in the morning by plugging in two hair dryers. This of course blew out the circuit breaker.” But it was this constant need to find a better way that led Trexler to industrial engineering.
Her father thought she might like engineering. But Trexler also wanted a career that involved working with people. So they set out from Greensboro, NC to visit colleges that included Carolina, Va. Tech, Clemson and NC State. While visiting State she sat down with ISE’s Director of Undergraduate Programs, Clarence Smith. After talking with Trexler, Smith thought she would be the perfect industrial engineer. “It was the mix of people and technical skills that drew me to industrial engineering,” said Trexler. “For the record, Carolina accepted my application and I got to turn them down.” Score one for the Wolfpack.
In the mid nineties, the industrial engineering department was in the Park Shops building. “The most memorable times I have are from Park Shops, recalled Trexler. “We would hang out at Park Shops and we would study at Park Shops. It was just the place to be.” During her last two years at State, Trexler decided to complete four co-op rotations with IBM. A decision she believes was the secret to getting that first job out of college.
“Co-op. That is the advice I would pass along to current ISE students,” recommended Trexler. “Intern, co-op or whatever work experience you can get. When I interview people now, the grade point average gets them in the door, but then after the GPA, I look at any work experience. A person with work experience has a significant advantage over someone who just went through school alone.” Trexler believes that students with work experience can walk through the door and add value much more quickly. They can take the concepts out of their textbooks and apply them in the real world.
While co-oping at IBM, Trexler served in a traditional industrial engineering role on the manufacturing floor. She performed time studies, work load capacity modeling, ergonomics and parts inventory optimization. But it wasn’t until she applied the skills she had learned in class did she truely understand the concepts. “There were a lot of ‘Oh, that’s what they meant’ moments that semester,” admitted Trexler. “Even using a spreadsheet to solve a real world problem for your company is much different then just going through the exercise in class.”
“Co-oping also allows you to build a network within the company and get to know people, suggested Trexler. “It will improve your chances of getting hired by the company after you graduate because they already know you and what a great job you can do.”
That first job was the launch pad for her career. Although she moved into manager and then director positions at IBM, Trexler still uses her industrial engineering skills everyday. “I have used my industrial engineering skills my entire career in every job I have ever had,” said Trexler. “It has been the backbone of my career. In fact, when I hire people I only look for industrial engineers. Now there are cases where I may need a marketing person or something specific, but mainly industrial engineers.”
Trexler’s final words of wisdom: “Treasure your industrial engineering degree. Use it. Use it everywhere you go.”