Jerry Higgs, IEM Alumni, AT&T Engineer in Palo Alto, CA.
Meet Jerry. He's an senior development engineer with AT&T. He works in Palo Alto, CA. He just moved there about 3 months ago and credits his advancement to what he calls the "cutting edge forward thinking culture of IEM."
Here's the interview:
IEM: Describe yourself. Who are you, what do you do?
Jerry: I am a modern day explorer. I like to investigate & learn. I live in Palo Alto, CA. I am a senior development engineer working in the ecosystem and innovation chamber.
IEM: How did you end up at IEM? What affect did IEM have on your career?
Jerry: I started out at the University of Alabama getting my bachelors degree. I wanted an MBA, but with technology. I had a professor there recommend the IEM degree, so I came and met with Dr. Callahan. After I talked with him, [I signed up.] I didn't realize at the time how state-of-the-art and forward looking IEM was until I got to the Bay Area and I was so prepared for the innovative environment. At IEM I was taught the same concepts as what they expect out here. Moving outside the norms and being creative is what we use here--and that's the same as IEM.
IEM: What are some of your favorite memories of IEM?
Jerry: Many school-things don't relate to what you need in the workplace. IEM is structured to put you in real life situations with real business people. You learn to manage and operate in the real world when you leave. It goes against the culture of the South--but it's on the cutting edge of what we need here on the west coast. The culture of the South makes it hard to quantify the value of the way IEM thinks and operates, but I get regular recruitment requests because of the value IEM gave me. It's exciting and compelling. There's a shortage of qualified engineers and IEM is very important in getting people out of their comfort zone to be what this field needs.
IEM: What advice or suggestions to you have for other people considering IEM?
Jerry: IEM made it possible for me to go from a Masters to PhD. The projects they assign help me manage the complex engineering problems I face here in Palo Alto. There's a shortage of engineers that can manage projects. So few can bring a project to completion. IEM trains you to do that.
IEM: What book are you reading right now?
Jerry: I read so many technical books with my job that I like to read "Just fun" books, I just ordered "Wild at Heart" by John Eldredge. I haven't read it yet, it just arrived.
IEM: Share with us a random fact about you.
Jerry: My favorite color is black, and I love to watch cartoons with my two little girls, Gabrielle and Zoe.
IEM: If someone is new to Birmingham, what should they be sure to see while they are here?
Jerry: The Civil Rights Museum. It's neat to see where Birmingham was compared to where it is now. Also Regions Stadium.
IEM: We are so excited you're doing so well in Palo Alto. Thank you Jerry for talking with us and please keep in touch!
Jerry: Thank you.
IEM will be in touch with Jerry to see what new and innovative things his new position out in California brings for him. We are sure to update all of our readers here at IEM News with the latest.
You can get in touch with Jerry and learn more about what he's doing at AT&T here.
Are you an alumni?
Do you have stories to share about how IEM impacted your career? We want to share your story!
Contact us here.
Include "Alumni Spotlight" in your subject line.
IEM: Briefly describe yourself. Who are you, and what do you do?
ST: I am a very outgoing individual who enjoys a wide variety of activities. On a personal level, I enjoy being active, participating in many cycling events throughout the year, as well as triathlons. For fun, I teach cycling at a local gym here in Birmingham. Furthermore, my wife and I just had baby Kowen, making 2 boys for me! Professionally, I am very busy working for NWN, a national IT services company offering managed services, cloud computing and enterprise software delivery. Specifically, I work in the software delivery and consulting group overseeing many efforts with one of our clients while managing the development of a new regional product.
IEM: How did you end up at IEM?
ST: Having originally graduated from the UAB School of Engineering, I received some information regarding the program and once I checked into the details, it sounded very interesting.
IEM: How did IEM affect your career?
ST: IEM prompted many changes in my career. At the time of graduation, I received a promotion at work and was given responsibility of managing a large portfolio of business critical software projects. Every step from that moment has been a step up.
IEM: What's a memory you have of IEM that you'll never forget?
ST: Well, off the record, I’ll never forget making all the friends and watching football after class on Saturdays in the fall!! On the record, I will never forget standing up and presenting our final project and feeling like we were pitching an idea to Venture Capitalists. We took it very seriously and that day put a cap on what was a very rewarding time in the program.
IEM: What advice do you have for others traveling the same road you've taken?
ST: Work hard and continuously assess your short term situation against your long term goals. If you see any misalignment in the two, take action to correct it.
Just for fun:
IEM: What book are you reading right now?
ST: Consulting 101 by Lew Sauder
IEM: One fun fact about yourself. (Favorite movie, animal, talent..)
ST: I am a music fanatic. I love just about any type of live music and I like exploring artists who are good, but haven’t made it big.
IEM: For people visiting Birmingham, what’s the one hot spot they simply must see before they leave here?
ST: Fortunately for Birmingham, it is difficult to name just one spot. With some of the latest improvements we have experienced, there are many things to do here. To name one, though, I would recommend Vulcan Park and just stand and look over the city.
We know that IEM has clients from all parts of the globe, but we recently caught up with 2011 graduate Brandon Morgado, who is now in Seattle, WA. When Brandon started IEM he lived in Birmingham and worked at Alabama Power as a developer. Following the program he went to work for an IEM Advisory Board member Gary York at a start up called Emergency Callworx. Now he is in Seattle working for Amazon and looking to hire IEM graduates.
IEM: So how did you go from IEM to Amazon?
Brandon: I was working at Alabama Power as a computer engineer/developer when some friends introduced me to the IEM program. I applied and started the program and have to admit that APCO paid for most of my tuition. But, two things happened while I was in the program. The first was Dale really got me thinking about what I wanted to do. I never really thought about it, and what I had thought about was not what I really wanted. Through the contacts in the program I got the job working with Gary, which I really enjoyed. Second, was my church. Church of The Highlands was going to send a team to Seattle to start a new church called Hallows Church. My wife and I really wanted to be a part of that team. So I started looking and found the opportunity with Amazon. If had never been a part of IEM, or worked with Gary, I would never have gotten the job at Amazon.
IEM: What are you doing at Amazon?
Brandon: I am a technical support engineer, which means I do a lot of system administration and cloud computing set up. I also do a lot of applicant screening, which is kind of funny because I think of Dale’s book, “Resumes Are Worthless,” a lot. It’s a whole different game being on the other side.
IEM: What was your biggest takeaway from the program?
Brandon: A lot of Dale’s classes I really enjoyed. He talked about the responsibility of success being on you and its true. And, you also can’t just let opportunities walk by. If I had not taken the job with the start-up I would not be here. I still think about entrepreneurial ideas all the time, but I’m having a lot of fun at Amazon.
How is your family, are they embracing Seattle?
Brandon: Absolutely, the move here was a joint decision obviously with my wife and two kids, and last month we had another baby. Our life is pretty busy with the move, new job, the kids, and the baby, but we are all having fun.
In past spotlights we’ve visited with earlier graduates of the IEM program to see what they are doing, but sometimes the most interesting perspectives are fresh ones. David George, technology manager, recently completed the IEM program in May. Here are some of his thoughts on the program, what changed him in the process, and sage advice for second year IEM clients.
IEM: From the time you started in the IEM program to the time you finished – did anything change in your purpose for completing IEM?
David: Yes, definitely. I originally came into the program with the sole focus of getting a graduate level degree. I figured I would do the required work for the grades and move on. I never expected to have my whole perspective on career and myself change in the process. I definitely have a broader perspective on things now and find myself constantly looking for ways to improve workflows and processes in all areas of my life.
IEM: What is the one biggest takeaway from the program?
David: As mentioned before, the new perspective and mindset on my career and myself. The program not only gives you an entrepreneurial view on the world but you also gain a more introspective look on yourself and your “company of one”. You find yourself having different conversations with people than you did in the past and you also find yourself in a new and expanded network of peers to share those ideas with.
IEM: Any advice for people thinking about entering the program?
David: This isn’t your typical MBA program. If you are looking for a program where lectures are one sided (professor to student) this is not your program. Discussions are solicited and encouraged. The professors in this program take a special interest in the clients and relationships are formed from that. I don’t think you get that in most graduate level programs. I encourage people that are thinking about the program to talk to current and past clients and get their take on it. That is the best way to get the most information on the degree.
IEM: Any advice for clients in their second year of the program?
David: My father used to repeatedly give me the advice to “press on”. That is what I would offer to the 2nd year clients. Don’t stop pressing now. Stay focused and finish strong. This is definitely a degree that gives you what you put into it. Enjoy the classes and time with other students. You will miss that when you graduate. Take every opportunity you get in the program to network with other people and try new things. This is the safest atmosphere to do that.