Alumni Profile: Dave Willens '09, MS '10, PhD '20



Dave Wilens '09, MS '10, PhD '20 was recently recognized on the Worcester Business Journal 40 Under Forty List. We recently caught up with Dave to learn more.

You started your career at Kinefac while also being a student at WPI. That's a lot to manage! How did you make it work, and how did your education influence your work and vice versa?

Time management is something you learn to master very quickly at WPI and is how I was able to balance my studies, extracurriculars, and working. The founder of Kinefac - Howard Greis - was a big supporter of WPI and served on the mechanical engineering advisory board. He encouraged me to schedule my own working hours during the school year as long as it didn’t interfere with my academic performance. I would try to schedule my courses early in the morning or later in the afternoon so I could make the ten-minute drive to Kinefac during the latter. Sometimes I would travel back and forth multiple times a day during final exams week or if course scheduling was limited. What really made the relationship work was the synergy between the theory I was learning at WPI and the practice I was experiencing at Kinefac. It was reciprocal for both sides and resulted in several research project opportunities and encouraged me to pursue a master’s degree and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at WPI. For a student with this opportunity, you don’t get much closer to living the motto of Theory and Practice. This remains a significant driver in my career.

You've achieved so much in a short time. What advice would you give to young alumni today who are just starting their careers?

Never be afraid to try something new or outside of your comfort zone. Try to set yourself up with a path that you’re passionate about. Absorb as much as you can in the world around you. Always approach each situation you encounter with an open mind. Build a strong network of personal and professional contacts. Be ready to embrace change and adapt at a moment’s notice.

What are the ways you have stayed involved with WPI, and why is it important to you?

I maintain a close personal and professional relationship with WPI and often find myself on or around campus multiple times a week. I serve as the graduate advisor for my fraternity - Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) - which has kept me very close with campus and alumni ties. I enjoy guest lecturing for the ME1800 introductory manufacturing course to expose students to precision metal forming processes and technology. I also enjoy being an active alumni member of the Skull and engaging students in MQP and other project opportunities with my company. Participating in the fall and spring career fairs has yielded several successful employment opportunities for Kinefac and has kept me in tune with the high caliber students continually coming out of WPI. I stay closely involved because its satisfying to see students have the similar experiences that benefitted me in my personal life and professional career. I believe in the WPI framework.