Alumna Builds the Business Case for New IT Technology Solutions for EMC Corporation
When Stevens alumna Phyllis Doig (B.E. in Mechanical Engineering, 1985) was growing up on Long Island, hardly anyone had a personal computer. When she first entered the workforce in the mid-1980s, it was well before the Internet.
But none of that stopped her from becoming an accomplished business analyst in one of the world’s leading information technology companies, a career she said would not have been possible without her engineering education.
“When you have an engineering background, nothing fazes you. You feel like you can learn and do anything,” said Phyllis, a consultant-level business analyst for EMC Corporation.
Phyllis, whose uncle David Peterson attended Stevens in the 1960s and who was personally introduced to the University at a Women in Engineering Day panel discussion, came to Stevens on a full-tuition scholarship in 1981. Although she was Salutatorian of her high school, was active in four varsity sports, and participated in every orchestra, band and choir group that her high school had to offer, she said that she was not truly aware of her potential until Stevens “took a chance” on her.
“The fact that Stevens recognized my aptitude, even when I didn’t – and especially in being awarded that scholarship – truly sparked my confidence, which was so helpful entering a male-dominated school and pursuing engineering as a career,” she said.
Phyllis majored in a Mechanical Engineering, but she also enjoyed the diversity of coursework that Stevens has to offer, with Physics being one of her favorite subjects and Professor George Yevick being one of her favorite instructors.
"When Stevens sent me to Scotland on an exchange program, I remember travelling to Luxembourg during school vacation to meet a pen-pal I had been writing to since junior high school,” said Phyllis. “What a surprise to see that she had the same physics textbook by Halliday and Resnick, and even more of a surprise that I could (almost) read it in German because it was so familiar to me!"
“Learning so many different subjects gave us a great foundation for real-life experiences in industry,” she added. "Any type of problem is most easily resolved when it is approached by a group of people with diverse backgrounds and experiences."
Upon graduation, Phyllis – who calls herself a “child of the space race generation” – joined Grumman Aerospace as a mechanical engineer, following in the footsteps of her father and grandfather, who both worked in the airline industry, and her uncle, who worked for NASA and had a role in rescuing the astronauts from the ocean once they arrived back on earth. A member of the Navy’s F-14 fighter jet “Tiger team,” Phyllis participated in engineering design reviews for the design, testing and manufacturing of avionics equipment. Her main responsibility was performing heat transfer analyses and writing computer programs to analyze thermodynamics test results.
“I loved that it was a team effort and that right out of college I was on equal footing with engineers from different disciplines with much more experience,” Phyllis said. "Grumman was truly a great place to work. I loved it there!"
However, three years into her time at Grumman Aerospace, Phyllis came to a crossroads – should she specialize further, or broaden her skills? Although she loved mechanical engineering, she decided that pursuing a business degree would give her more opportunities and more diverse life experiences. In 1990, Phyllis earned her MBA in General Business from the University of Virginia, a decision she said changed her life.
“Although getting my MBA took me away from engineering, it also carried me through the highs and lows of the economy,” she said. “When I graduated we were in a recession and high tech companies weren’t hiring. There have been many such economic bumps in the road during my career, but I always seemed to do very well.”
From UVA, Phyllis went to Wyeth, where she did operations analysis and designed databases and management information systems to support business operations. Although it seems like a far cry from her engineering background, she said it really wasn’t so different.
“I looked at it is a form of systems integration, but instead of dealing with machines and mechanisms I was dealing with a corporation and its business groups and systems,” she said.
Next, Phyllis spent six years at Oracle Corporation as a functional and technical consultant for their financial and manufacturing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software applications, consulting at more than 25 client organizations. It was a time of constant change and growth in the industry, given the many acquisitions and mergers that occurred. Phyllis was tasked with designing IT systems to work both through those turbulent times and into the long term.
“It was a very exciting and challenging time,” she said. “At that point I had the business and technological acumen to implement really good systems for the companies I was consulting for.”
Finally, Phyllis landed at EMC Corporation, where she has worked in a variety of positions for the past 12 years. At first she served as a technical expert on Oracle’s financial and distribution applications, and later moved into broader IT analyst roles.
Currently Phyllis is a consultant business analyst in the Office of Architecture and Innovation, responsible for preparing the business case for promising new IT projects and initiatives. A part of the “Solution Desk” group, her responsibilities include leading new initiative teams through the process of developing a case for IT investment, which includes identifying and evaluating technology solutions and preparing their resource plans and financials. In addition, she provides program management support for the IT Technology Advisory Board, a group that prepares and presents the IT technology roadmaps on a quarterly basis.
“Even today, when I’m so far removed from where I started, I find that a well-rounded engineering education is a huge asset,” she said. “It’s the best kind of mindset for when you are working on teams with people from different backgrounds, perspectives, abilities and points of view.”
Outside of work, Phyllis continues to support the engineering community as well as her alma mater. She is active in the Society of Women Engineers – she will soon present her second paper at its 2012 national convention in Houston, Texas – and has volunteered at local high schools to teach students about STEM careers and robotics. Through her church, she sponsors exchange students in the Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program, which for the past 30 years has been bringing mid-career professionals from all over the world to the United States for a year of cultural and professional exchange. She is also the membership chair of Stevens’ Boston Alumni Club, where she organizes networking and social activities.