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Field Trips to SpaceX and Amgen

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

For the beginning of spring quarter, I scheduled two more field trips for our MTM students to explore career positions at large companies. Early in the fall, we visited a space industry company (Spire) and a healthcare company (Counsyl), but these were both startups. Later we visited the largest medical device company in the world, Medtronic. This time, our trips were to two major companies often in the news, SpaceX and Amgen.

Early Saturday morning, we caravanned down to Hawthorne in the heart of Los Angeles and got our money’s worth! Our host, Paul Weitekamp, met us on his day off and gave us the Grand Tour.  

We were lucky to have Paul as our host for several reasons. First, he was a friend of one of our MTM students and second, and he was a former TMP student. Not only that, Paul was a veteran of TMP’s New Venture Competition (NVC) where he and his team, PolySpectra, were one of the finalists in the 2013 competition.

Despite those accolades, Paul didn’t have the pull to get us around the security line! There were lots of friends and relatives being treated to their own personal tour. But we got through the line without any incidence and entered in the cavernous building that housed what appeared to be 100% of the rocket assembly. I have no idea where all those other people in line went. They were swallowed up in the vastness. All around us were big pieces of metal tubing, some welding, and a lot of wide walkways in between.

Paul gave us a first-class tour and guided us towards several impressive areas of SpaceX. One of the cool things was a NASA-like control arena surrounded by glass walls where employees could stand and watch control personnel work during an active launch and recovery.

Another tour treat was standing under one of the booster struts that deploys as the booster rocket safely returns to earth to be reused. Our MTM students were awed by the massive operation and had many questions for Paul. We continued our time together even after the tour and had a tasty lunch right next door at the Eureka! Tasting Kitchen.

Our second company visit, although not solely a career trip (but still awesome!), was our visit to Amgen in May. This trip was particularly intriguing for our MTM students as they could ponder the challenges and impact of working for a world-class pharmaceutical company on the operations side.

Professor Geoff Slaff used his connections to set up a top-of-the-line, behind-the-scenes peek at Amgen’s production operations, including two pilot plants. The Executive VP of Operations, Madhu Balachandran, welcomed our 18 MTM students and hosted us for the entire day. He generously scheduled six of his executives to join our students for lunch and to speak to them about working at Amgen and career advice.  

After that red-carpet welcome, we split into two groups and got an intimate look at the two pilot plant operations within the Thousand Oaks headquarters and learned how Amgen had created state-of-the-art test equipment for product shipping and handling.

Our MTM students learned a great deal from these two trips, thanks to our wonderful TMP alumni working at SpaceX and Professor Slaff hooking us up at Amgen. As of today, none of the MTM graduates have selected jobs with these companies, but several told me that these trips helped open their eyes to interesting positions in industries they hadn’t otherwise considered. 

About David Telleen-Lawton, MTM Career Development Manager, UC Santa Barbara

David works with Master of Technology Management (MTM) students to help them find their ideal work situation after graduation. He develops and maintains relationships with California and national companies that are interested in hiring leaders with the qualifications, education, and experience the MTM degree represents. He spends much of his time coaching students on how to contact key executives and how to present their talent and experiences in a manner that highlights their drive and distinction. To contact David, please email him at dtl@tmp.ucsb.edu.

--The Master of Technology Management (MTM) program at UC Santa Barbara is designed to catapult engineers and scientists into leadership positions — within both startups and established companies. This 9-month, intensive program is designed to teach the frameworks, skills, and techniques you need to be a successful technology manager. No fluff, no filler.  The MTM degree will get you further, faster. To learn more about the MTM program, visit our website at www.mtm.ucsb.edu.