Kevin Landers '13 M.Eng. '14 once managed maintenance of the actual helicopters used by the President of the United States, a huge responsibility. When the Long Island native moved back to the tri-state area, he sought to transfer those managerial skills to the world of big business.
Enter Stevens, where the combination of a small community, access to New York City, and top-flight academics led to a bachelor's in engineering management, a master's degree in systems engineering — and a new career at Manhattan consultancy Protiviti, which specializes in risk and internal audit.
Landers originally enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps as a mechanic, and was already by the age of 20 supervising a team of ten Marines and signing off on maintenance checks for $30 million helicopters.
"In the military you're out of your comfort zone, in a lot of 'sink or swim' situations, at a very young age. But, in retrospect, you learn great lessons that way," he says. "You learn to handle stress, you learn about management, in a hurry. I'm very grateful for my time in the Marine Corps."
Landers began taking college coursework in Virginia while still enlisted, but his learning really accelerated once he departed the Corps — an honorable discharge and a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal in hand — to enroll at Stevens through the Stevens Veterans Office's Yellow Ribbon Program.
"The career services were the number one draw," he recalls. "I liked the small size and the proximity to the city, and I knew the academics were strong, but the reputation of the career services office for setting up students with opportunities was stellar, and they later proved their worth during my job search."
At Stevens, Landers participated in an interdisciplinary Senior Design Project sponsored by Lockheed Martin that integrated a team of computer and electrical engineers to model and evaluate naval combat scenarios for cost efficiency versus benefits. He also served several internships during his Stevens years, including one as an operations analyst with JPMorgan Chase in which he created financial statements, monitored trade reports and participated in sessions to optimize financial services operations.
When it came time to search for a postgraduate career, all this interdisciplinary experience turned out to be invaluable.
"At Stevens we learn to understand the landscape, the 'big picture' with respect to technology. The academic program here requires us to work together with a lot of different people in disciplines, working on projects and reports, students from many different backgrounds and fields coming together to work on general problems.
That is exactly what real life is like."
Landers received multiple position offers and callbacks, finally settling on Protiviti so that he could focus on his growing interest in consulting work. Accustomed to solving difficult problems on a project-by-project basis from his time in the Corps and his studies at Stevens, he's excited about the career choice.
"My interest in consulting began at JPMorgan, where they basically treated me, an intern, as a consultant," he concludes. "And I loved it. The great thing about consulting is, you don't have to find your specialty or passion right away. I will have a few years to work on many kinds of projects, develop my interests and skills, and accelerate my learning before I decide where my niche will be. It's perfect for me."