Jesse Herrera, BS
Hometown: Albuquerque, NM
Degree earned at WPI: BS, Mechanical Engineering, Music Minor
Why did you choose to attend WPI? In high school, I thought I wanted to get an Aerospace Engineering degree from a top-notch, somewhat small tech school, but a strong music/choir program was also mandatory. When I looked into WPI, I found all this, but I also couldn’t help but fall in love with its other qualities like the project-based learning or the abundant opportunities to go abroad. These things just really resonated with me, and when I attended, I took full advantage (and I later switched majors).
Present job title and employer: Instructor, Play-Well TEKnologies Performing Artist, Audio Engineer, Artistic Producer (self-employed)
How has WPI’s philosophy of Theory and Practice, and working with teams, prepared you for facing real-world challenges in the workplace? I feel like theory, practice, and working with teams is the scope of work in the “real world.” My main bread and butter is music, music engineering, or music business. Although my ME classes seldom had related titles, I was constantly in an environment that cultivated an incredibly efficient and real “learn/do/cooperate” ethic. How could that not be relevant?
Take Theory for example. At WPI, I learned how to learn because it became a lifestyle and practice. Universities that take a theory-only approach create a learning lifestyle in a vacuum, so when a student graduates, there is a dramatic difference between their college world and ‘the real one.’ In my post-college world, I “do” and “learn” in tandem all the time, and I thank WPI for setting me on that course early on.
The Practice experience at WPI is unique because the projects have actual impact. You don’t “play pretend” at WPI; you design real methods, products, and implementations that do affect others. And because the impact of my work was usually far-reaching, teamwork was required throughout the entire process —from brainstorming a design with other students to speaking through a translator to give new teaching methods to educators in Thailand. Some people still don’t believe that an engineering degree at WPI really prepared me for my current music career. I have to encourage them to look at my day-to-day life. I am constantly learning new things; I am doing “real things” with impact; and I am leading teams, cooperating with individuals and groups, and finding a symbiosis between my talents and the strengths of others. WPI has trained me at an incredibly high level in all of these facets.
Groups or extracurricular activities you participated in at WPI:
- WPI Men’s Glee Club: singer, conductor
- Simple Harmonic Motion (all-male a cappella group): singer, director
- Sweeny Todd (VOX musical production): performer
Additional comments: WPI’s smaller size had an unforeseen benefit for me. Unexpectedly, I found myself leading the musical groups and project teams that I was a part of. I did not originally intend to lead any of them, but through the school’s supportive, close-knit communities, I emerged and grew as a leader, motivator, and director. Thanks to so many of these experiences, leadership is a quality that I’ve come to accept, honor, and rely upon throughout my professional development.
The professors at WPI had such a connected, and aware presence. The Choral Program Director, John Delorey, was especially encouraging as he quickly recognized my unique value and approached me about exciting opportunities and challenges in performance and directing. He also went out of his way to get the choirs truly connected to the broader musical community. My favorite memories of WPI are performing with other New England schools and traveling with the Men’s Glee Club to Greece, Ireland, and Puerto Rico.