Alumni Profile: Lailah Thompson '16, MS '16
Through advocacy, professional development, and philanthropy, the WPI Alumni of Color Association aims to uphold WPI's commitment to creating institutional change. Meet Lailah Thompson ’16, MS ’16, one of the founders, and learn about her WPI experience and where it has led her.
Q: What are you proudest of in your life after WPI? What are you doing now?
A: I'm a mom of 2. My babies are my biggest accomplishment and the fact that I grew my family from 1 to 2 while completing my MBA at Harvard and landed a job at Boston Consulting Group. I've been working there for 1.5 years now and recently got married in October.
Q: Who made an impact on your WPI experience? Is there a particular faculty member, coach, advisor, student group, or someone else who made the difference for you?
A: There are two people who made the biggest impact on my WPI experience: Norm Wilkinson, the program director at the Business School and Professor Adrienne Hall-Phillips, one of the marketing professors at the Business School. I walked into Norm's office before freshman year started and told him I wanted my MBA. He welcomed me in and guided me on how to accomplish just that and thus I graduated WPI with both my bachelor's in IE and a MS in Management within my four years. Norm was my champion. Professor HP was my mentor and mom while I was away from home and helped me navigate the culture shock of being in New England.
Q: Looking back, what was the most valuable experience or lesson learned at WPI that continues to shape your life today?
A: I've learned 2 important lessons:
1. Ask for help. 9/10 someone is willing to help you, but you just have to ask.
2. Problems are multi-faceted but typically the person enduring the problem will have some idea of the solution. We just have to empower/ help them get there. Martin Burt always mentioned looking at a problem from 4 angles - culture, resources, motivations, etc. It has become my main mantra as an engineer, manager and consultant - I enjoy empowering people to solve their own problems. Not only did I take the social entrepreneurship class but I was amongst the first group to start the Paraguay IQP project and saw Martin Burt's vision and lesson firsthand. That IQP was a pivotal experience in my life.
Q: What advice would you share with students today? With recent graduates?
1. Life is full of choices. Choose to enjoy it. There is no straight path in any career so don't get fixated on on thinking you are stuck in any position or path. Work hard but prioritize fulfillment at some point - the goal should be to work hard at something you enjoy doing.
2. You are more than enough. Have your self confidence - it's easy to succumb to imposter syndrome. But you are enough as you are and you bring alot to the table. Your lived experiences are unique and valuable irregardless of your age, degree or background.
3. Know the difference between mentors, sponsors, coaches and managers. Your direct manager is not always your mentor and does not have to advocate for you. You are entirely responsible for your career advancement and learning/development - not anyone else.
Q: What are the ways you’ve stayed connected to/involved with WPI and the people you met here? Why would you encourage others to stay connected?
A. Outside of social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook, I try to stay involved with faculty and alumni groups. I talk on alumni panels for certain classes or engage with current student groups (ex. BSU/NSBE). A group of my friends and I created the WPI Alumni of Color Association during the aftermath of George Floyd and the BLM. I encourage all alumni to get involved with either Alumni associations because our voices matter and we have such positive influence on the generations studying at the school today. Additionally the beautiful connections we create as alumni through various events both in person and virtual help make adulthood less isolating. Trust me, outside of school it's much harder to make friends.