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Conversations with Alumnae

Five Viterbi School women graduates talk about their jobs and experiences making the transition to professional life.

February 03, 2009 —

Five recent Viterbi School alumnae returned to the USC campus January 29, 2009, to coach undergraduate women nearing graduation on the transition to professional life. Over an informal dinner and Q&A in the new Parkside Arts and Humanities

Alumnae 1 Panel
Viterbi alumnae panel, left to right: Anna Ge, Molly Kistler, Judith Mintz, Doris Gebelein and Jessica Sprague.
Residential College, 40 undergraduates questioned the young women on everything from networking and getting a job to adjusting to a new professional environment and striking a balance between work and family.  The event, now in its second year, was sponsored by the Viterbi School Women in Engineering (WIE) Program, Alpha Omega Epsilon and the Society for Women Engineers (SWE). Here are some of the highlights and tips young Viterbi alumnae offered to those following in their footsteps: 



Anna Ge Cropped
Anna Ge
Anna Ge (CEBS ’08; PE license)
Position: Project Manager, Los Angeles Department of Public Works.

Undergraduate involvement: Alpha Omega Epsilon.

Getting a Job:  “Take advantage of the Viterbi Career Fairs.  I was getting pretty stressed out about finding a job when I was a senior, but that’s where I found my job.”

Starting a New Job: “It’s important to learn in a new job. You have to be willing to learn, don’t be afraid to ask questions.”

Value of Degrees:  “In Public Works, you have to have an advanced degree to advance.  I started out at a higher level and I will get promoted at a faster rate.”

Looking Back: “There are things you will miss about college.  I miss getting coffee at 10 a.m. and sleeping in.”


Molly Kistler Cropped
Molly Kistler
Molly Kistler (BSCS ‘03; MSCS ’04)
Position: Engineer, Walt Disney Imagineering in the Show-Ride Engineering Department (creating all new rides and attractions at Disney resorts worldwide).

Undergraduate involvement: WVT Rusch Undergraduate Honors Program.

Getting a Job: “Be open to whatever is out there. I had already worked for Intel for two summers, then I went to this banquet and I ended up sitting next to the guy who became my boss.  So don’t close yourself off to options.”

“In light of the economy, it’s a good idea to go on to grad school right now.  That’s what a lot of students do when companies aren’t hiring, when the economy is down.”

Transition to Working World:  “When you’re in school, there’s a lot of turnover and you get to know new people all the time. When you start working at a company, people stay 15 or 20 years, so the impression you make with co-workers is important.  You need to come into a job with the right attitude and make the right impression.”

Value of Degrees:  “Having a P.E. (professional engineering) license is really important.  I would start toward earning that if you don’t have a job right away. The 4+1 program is great.”

Balancing Work with Personal Life: “You don’t have the kind of time you had as a student. You have to plan your time. Your friends will become the ones you don’t see except every four months, but it’s like you saw them yesterday.”  

On Traveling: “When I went to Hong Kong, it was probably one of the greatest experiences of my life, but it was also very frustrating because the time difference was so great….I felt like my life back in the U.S. was sort of on hold.  In Florida, it’s different because it’s in the U.S….  But you make it work.”

Judith Mintz Cropped
Judith Mintz
Judith Mintz (BSEE ’04; MSEE ’07)
Position: Multidisciplined engineer, Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems.

Undergraduate involvement: Trojan Marching Band, Alpha Omega Epsilon, Eta Kappa Nu, tau Beta Pi.

Value of Extracurricular Activities: “It’s really important to get involved in some engineering activities outside of the classroom.  It gives you a little more practical knowledge and more to put on your resume.”

On Travel: “I have done some traveling in my job. I was in Washington, D.C. for a while and that was very exciting.  Also, you can get on a plane and travel on the weekends, so you make it work.”

Networking: “It’s really important. Use the USC programs to network and meet people”

After Graduation:  “That’s the time to do the traveling you want, right after college.  It won’t be such a culture shock going into the job.”

Doris Gebelein Cropped
Doris Gebelein
Doris Gebelein (BSAME ’06)
Position: Senior designer and CAD resources manager, Miyamoto International (structural earthquake engineering company).

Undergraduate involvement: Alpha Omega Epsilon, Residential Advisor (two years), Emerging Leader Program, Aerodesign Team, Trojan Pride.

Value of Degrees:  “If you are planning on going into industrial engineering, they really like the master’s degree.”

Getting a Job: “If you are juniors or sophomores, get involved in the programs that your department does, because in interviews they look for leadership abilities and you have to display what you did as a leader.   I was able to talk about being on the Aerodesign team and in charge of the propulsion group....it spruces up your resume.”

Starting a Job: “Don’t feel overwhelmed if you don’t know everything.  You’ll learn it as you go along.”


Jessica Sprague Cropped
Jessica Sprague
Jessica Sprague (BSBME ’04)
Position: Programmer, Maverick Technologies (engineering contract company for Anheuser-Busch).

Undergraduate involvement: Alpha Omega Epsilon, Engineering Student Council, BMS student worker.

Quality of Your Work: “You’re responsible for your work. There isn’t going to be anyone looking over your shoulder, and what you produce is going to impact the company.  It’s important to ask questions and produce quality work.”

Getting a Job: “Connections are really a big deal in the real world.”

Alumnae Audience 3 Andrea Brown Prez Alpha Omega Epsilon Audience Cropped
Nikita Sunilkumar listens intently.
Andrea Brown, president of Alpha Omega Epsilon, helped coordinate the event.
Viterbi School undergraduates had many questions for the panelists.