Nina Hackel, BS
Degree earned from WPI:
BS in Chemical Engineering, MBA
Why did you choose WPI?
The projects. I just thought WPI would be more hands-on and fewer tests. I thought that WPI would have more well-rounded students. The IQP would weed out the real social misfits. I got into Cornell and RPI, but they were just too conventional. WPI was just great.
How did your experiences at WPI prepare you for graduate school?
I went to WPI for an MBA after undergrad, and I took courses at MIT at night. WPI was terrific at preparing me. The other school was really just not as hands-on, so people knew theory but not how to go about finding the answers.
How did your WPI studies help prepare you for the work you are doing?
Fun question. In my senior year, I realized I did not like chemical engineering. Just too dirty and smelly—plastics are just shocking. So I had taken two electrical engineering classes and sold the person who interviewed me on the fact that I could learn anything. Well, they hired me in analog design, then digital design, then as an applications engineer, then sales engineer. I switched to networking sales and marketing. I ended up running Asia Pacific for the Networking Product division of Nortel. Now I am retired and own a kitchen remodeling business. Honestly, WPI could not have prepared me better. I knew how to find information and use it. All my changes in careers, I believe, were due to the strong technical problem solving I had at WPI.
How did WPI's philosophy of Theory and Practice, and working with teams, prepare you for facing real-world challenges in the workplace or graduate school?
I think the whole idea of practice in projects is just fantastic. It is more how people work in the real world. It helps you gain problem-solving skills and helps you to think out of the box. Other schools lead you to water, make you drink it, and spit it back to them. WPI makes you understand the water, makes you think of the ways you can use it, and gives you the creative outlet to actually mix it with something else and make lemonade.
Groups or extracurricular activities I participated in at WPI:
Crew, soccer manager, and ultimate Frisbee. I also worked 20 hours a week.
Additional comments you would like to include:
Do not forget to mention the contacts you make at WPI. The last company I worked with in Asia was Eracom Technology. Their board of directors was in Germany. So in the interview process, I had to fly to Germany to be interviewed by the board of directors. The board was familiar with WPI and was so impressed that they offered me the job without even calling my references. WPI is well known in the engineering field—another story that I think shows the character of WPI.
I picked WPI because it was project based, and I found under stressful testing conditions that I had trouble reading. This was before anyone knew what dyslexia was. I had a professor actually notice that I did well on the homework and that I understood the material. He noticed that I would misread the questions on the tests. He asked me if he could help me do better on the tests. I said I do better if someone reads them to me. So he actually read my tests in a cassette, and I aced my competency exam. I was always told that in college that the professors were more distant. But, with the project work and the hands-on application, they really get to know you. I had a professor go way out of his way for me.
I will never forget my WPI education. It was the best decision I ever made.
"Other schools lead you to water, make you drink it, and spit it back to them. WPI makes you understand the water, makes you think of the ways you can use it, and gives you the creative outlet to actually mix it with something else and make lemonade."