Then and Now: Some Perspective from an OSU Alumnus

By Katherine Snyder

My name is Katherine Snyder and I graduated from Ohio State in May 2016 with a degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering.  At Ohio State, I was involved in the Green Engineering Scholars (GES) program, and was President of the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE).  I loved being involved in the ISE department and working with professors, students, alumni and companies to provide the best opportunities for our engineering students.  I also loved spending my Thursday nights at Out R Inn, and Saturdays at The Shoe.  I mention this because I think all of these things prepared me equally for life “in the real world”.

Joining student organizations was one of the best decisions of my life (second only to coming to OSU in the first place).  They taught me the skills to become a great leader, got me over my fear of public speaking, and gave me an incredible network of people I can rely on both as friends and as professional contacts.  Without GES and IISE, I would not have grown as much as I did in school, nor would I be as prepared to handle a full-time career.

In my opinion, your social life is just as important as your academic life.  Yes, you need to work hard and be driven to achieve your goals, but if you’re not giving yourself balance and a way to unwind, you’ll find it hard to actually make those goals a reality.  Plus, in the corporate world, you need a way to connect with your coworkers.  As engineers, we’re so often brushed off as awkward and anti-social, but if you can be an outgoing, well-balance engineer, you can open so many doors for yourself.

Right now, I work for Cisco Systems as an Associate Sales Representative in their Sales Associate Program.  Basically, this means I’m in training to go into a technical sales role, and will start my job as an Account Manager at the end of this year.  When I started at Cisco in August, I came in as an Associate Systems Engineer, but discovered that being so technical wasn’t my strong suit.  I just recently made the transition to the Sales Rep. side, and I couldn’t be happier.

Not to oversell it, but Cisco is a fantastic company to work for.  When I was thinking about what kind of company I wanted to work for after graduation, the top of my list of requirements was a place where I could feel comfortable, and feel like everyone wanted me to succeed.  Cisco exceeds these requirements for me, and I highly recommend trying to find a place that will give you the same sense of purpose and security that I have.  I also recommend finding a job you love, and fitting your lifestyle to that job, rather than taking a job you hate, just to support your lifestyle.  You spend a majority of your time at work, you might as well enjoy what you do.

Outside of my actual job though, the transition into the “real world” wasn’t quite as smooth as I would have expected.  I had so enjoyed my time at Ohio State, that leaving, moving to a different state, far away from all of my friends and family was difficult.  For me, Ohio State was “the opposite of loneliness” (which is a great essay by Marina Keegan that I HIGHLY recommend every single student reads, by the way).  It was my home, my family, my life for four years, and leaving that to start over in a new city seemed daunting.  On top of that, I was going into a male-dominated industry where I had to learn an immense amount of technology in a short amount of time.  To say I was nervous would be an understatement.

When I started my job, I came into the program with forty other recent college grads.  We spent almost every day together in training classes and working on our assignments.  In a way, it was similar to being in college—we had homework, tests we had to take, we spent most of our days in class with an instructor teaching us about Cisco’s products.  For the most part, this made the transition easier, but I still found it difficult to navigate how to draw the line between a work and personal relationship.

In college, that’s easy, because you live down the street from all of your closest friends.  You can be 100% yourself with them, because your job doesn’t rely on you looking professional all the time.  But in an office, you have to think about the fact that these people could be responsible for your career one day, a fact that I seemed to be hyper-aware of in my first few months on the job.  It was hard for me to connect with everyone on a deeper level.

I don’t say this to scare anyone, but just to say that it’s ok to feel this way.  I know I’m not the only one who struggled with it, and it does get better.  Eventually you’ll find those work friends that you can open up to, and you’ll find other ways to make connections too.  For me, this was finding a great church to go to, and going to the local OSU bar to watch all the football games.  The biggest piece of advice I can offer here is to put yourself out there—go to the mixer events for your apartment complex, join a gym and talk to people there, find an app or website or bulletin board that lists upcoming events in whatever city you land in.  As intimidating as it may feel, everyone is in the same boat and wants to make friends.  Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later.