Final Five

Jackie Bieber has proven that it’s never too late to change the course of your career – even after 30 years on the production floor. She earned her B.S. in industrial engineering from Youngstown State University in May and is searching for her first role on a renewed career path.Jackie Bieber

Where did your road begin to becoming an IE?

This journey really began with my first full-time manufacturing job. I was an electronic assembler at American Glass Research. When they embraced JIT manufacturing in the late 1980s, the production staff was trained in the philosophy as well. Fast forward through several manufacturing jobs, raising a family, and a hope to someday go to college – in 2010, the timing was finally right.

How did you manage work, school and family simultaneously?

I have a wonderful husband and three terrific daughters. When I started going to school, my oldest was also a freshman at college. My first classes were at Butler County Community College toward an associate’s degree. I took two or three classes each semester. During my second semester I began working on third shift, 10:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. Most of the required classes were only available during the day, so I felt fortunate to be able to fit everything in. I kept up by napping in the car before classes and doing homework between classes. My husband and kids took over the household duties – cooking, laundry and errands.

There were many discussions about the logistics of completing a bachelor’s degree. I packed up my car on Sunday evening for the week and then headed to my first shift at work to begin my week. I slept in my car, showered at school, ate too much junk food and went home on Friday. Weekends were committed to homework and studying.

My husband made sure I ate meals. My young granddaughter would cuddle up beside me on the weekend to do homework. She would practice her letters and numbers while I completed assignments. My daughters and I compared notes on classes and projects and looked forward to breaks so we could see each other. It was odd asking my kids for advice on how to handle things at college.

Now that you have the degree, what are your career goals?

As a recent graduate, I’ve been applying for entry level positions where I can develop my new engineering skills. With my work history, roles in manufacturing, continuous improvement and ergonomics would be a good fit. Rotation programs would also be a great way to explore where I can be most productive. My goal is to find a company with a great culture where I can continue the journey.

How did you discover IISE?

Youngstown State University has an active student chapter. I was the program coordinator – helping with the Six Sigma and lean manufacturing green belt classes. YSU is affiliated with the Columbus, Ohio, professional chapter, making the transition to a professional membership very easy.

What advice would you give someone seeking change midcareer?

Define what you want to do. Creating opportunities to advance is one thing, but looking for a totally different career is something else. At midcareer, you will have a good idea about what you love to do and what you hate to do. Dream and define with your significant other so you are moving forward together.

Change is uncomfortable. Embrace the journey.

– Interview by David Brandt