There have been a number of dramatic turning points in the career of Stevens alumna Mary Farley (B.E. in Computer Engineering, 2003; M.E. in Systems Engineering, 2009), but none can compare to the life-changing experience of being on the 40th floor of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
At the time, Farley was an undergraduate at Stevens – a sorority president, tennis player, and a Cooperative Education student. The Point Pleasant, N.J. native trekked into Manhattan that morning for her Co-op assignment at Lehman Brothers, where she worked in network operations supporting the trading floors and ensuring connectivity between global offices.
When the planes flew into the Twin Towers, Farley and her coworkers were incredibly fortunate to escape unharmed. But, like the rest of the world, their lives were on hold. The immediate task at hand was making sure Lehman Brothers – a critical cog in the global financial system wheel – was up and running by the next day of trading.
“Rebuilding Lehman and reconnecting it back to the markets in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks was truly unprecedented,” Farley said. “We had to work incredibly long shifts, but we had a great team and we worked together to make it happen.”
The experience also made Farley think about what she really wanted in her career and personal life. In class at Stevens, she had toyed with electrical engineering and gained experience as a computer engineer – her major – at a Co-op assignment at MITRE Corporation, where she worked overnight shifts at Fort Drum testing defense technologies while soldiers took part in combat exercises.
Still, after reflecting on “what really drives me,” Farley’s choice was health care. Much like engineering, she felt healthcare was exciting – technology changes every day and forces you to stay on your toes to adapt and solve problems. And working in healthcare also meant Farley could make a real difference in people’s lives.
So although Farley was offered a hard-to-pass-up opportunity to work at Lehman Brothers, she set her sights on a job at Johnson & Johnson. Out of approximately 4,000 applicants, she was among the 40 selected for the company’s prestigious Information Management Leadership Development Program, where she spent two years rotating between different parts of the business.
“The exposure was great,” said Farley, who did highly technical projects such as public key encryption, as well as healthcare policy work during her rotations. “We got to understand all that J&J had to offer and what part of healthcare they dig into.”
Farley got a lot out of J&J’s leadership program. She finished as the top-ranked member of her group by company-wide managers, earning instant recognition. She also discovered her future home state when her third rotation brought her to LifeScan, a California-based J&J company that manufactures diabetes control products.
“When the rotation ended, I didn’t want to leave,” said Farley, who provided technical support for the sales and marketing team at LifeScan. “Not only did I love California, but I loved being closer to the end customer who actually used our products.”
Today, Farley works as a sales account executive for GE Healthcare, where she has flourished for the past three years. Although the position may appear removed from her previous experience, she said it all relates.
“My talent is in taking a technical message and connecting the dots and communicating it,” said Farley. “That’s what medical sales is all about.”
As usual, Farley has achieved success after success at GE Healthcare. She started out by selling mammography equipment to clients in Northern California and Northern Nevada, and in just two years, she completely turned around the territory and was the top sales rep in the country. She was then chosen to sell the full portfolio of GE Healthcare products to key Bay Area hospitals, a job that requires unsurpassed strategic thinking, relationship-building and customer-service skills.
Farley said her engineering background is critical to her success as she pushes multi-million-dollar technology deals to some of GE Healthcare top accounts.
“My clients are leading radiologists and leading doctors, but I look extremely young and I have no clinical experience,” said Farley. “But I get instant credibility from being an engineer. They realize I can have a conversation on a peer level. They realize I have a vision of what healthcare will look like in the future and how technology fits into it.”
After another great year earning President's Circle recognition, Farley recently had another career turning point occur when she had just such a strategic conversation with none other than GE CEO Jeff Immelt, who was so impressed with Farley’s work and ideas at a roundtable discussion in San Francisco in July that he invited her and her team to a personal lunch at GE headquarters.
“It was incredible,” Farley said. “Jeff Immelt understands the importance of engaging with key hospitals to be able to prepare GE for the future of healthcare. He wanted to talk with the local sales team to get our opinion and feedback.”