A Top Student with a Great Job Offer: Meet Andrea Kimbrough

NCE’s Top Industrial Engineer, Andrea Kimbrough

Andrea Kimbrough is a senior NJIT, but she already has a great job lined up.  Right after she graduates, she’ll work as an assistant engineering project leader for BAE Systems, a global defense and aerospace company.

Andrea, an industrial engineering major, worked two summer internships at BAE. At the end of her second internship, her superiors were so impressed that they asked if she’d work there part-time during the school year. She happily agreed, and she never left. She continues to work there part-time while attending classes.  

Kimbrough is a top student at NJIT. She’s a scholar in the Albert Dorman Honors College who perennially appears on the dean’s list, and she has a near perfect GPA: a 3.745. She’s a member of the National Honor Society of Collegiate Scholars and belongs to Phi Theta Kappa, Alpha Pi Mu, Tau Beta Pi and she's also the treasurer of the Institute of Industrial Engineer’s Student Chapter. Recently, the Newark College of Engineering (NCE) gave her one of its highest honors, naming her the Outstanding Senior in Industrial Engineering.

By her own admission, Andrea was not always a top student. When she was a teenager, she fell into a trap – a trap of trying to be cool.  She neglected her studies and came close to failing out of high school.  

“My family moved to a small town just when I began to settle into my teenage years,” Andrea recalls. “During those years I was blinded by our culture’s perception of cool. I wanted to be just like the other girls -- cool -- buying new clothes, hanging out late and rebelling.  It was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made and I’ve yet to forgive myself for it.”

In this interview, Andrea talks about how she was able to overcome her rebellious years and turn herself into the university’s top industrial engineering student -- one with a bright future waiting for her. 

Can you talk about how you decided to get serious about school?
When my family moved to Dover, I went through a rebellious period. But a few years later, my family moved yet again, this time to Rockaway Township, where I attended Morris Knolls High School. One day soon after I started school there, I was called in to meet with the “Head Guidance Counselor,” who had my transcript in his hand. I was mortified and embarrassed by the transcript, which read “Overall GPA: 2.0.” That was the lowest GPA a student could earn before failing. Suddenly it just dawned on me that I was now in an academically rigorous public school and that I must do better and forget about fitting in and being “cool.” I began to work as hard as I could and soon my GPA was vastly improved. And by my senior year, I began receiving awards for academic excellence.

But you didn’t come to NJIT after high school, right? 
I took a circuitous route to NJIT. I went to Miami University of Ohio for one year and then transferred to the County College of Morris (CCM), which is close to where I live. I finished a year there and then transferred to Rutgers University. Big mistake. I hated Rutgers. The classes were huge and the professors seemed unapproachable (the exact opposite of NJIT). So after three weeks, I called my professors at the County College and told them I made a mistake. They helped me get back to CCM that semester and enroll in classes. I finished a second year there and then decided to try NJIT -- a university that emphasizes technology and engineering. I visited an admissions counselor here who was impressed with my grades and told me I was accepted. I declared my major as industrial engineer and have been happy here ever since.

What do you like best about your major?
As an industrial engineer, you are not limited to specialties such as operations research, production planning, manufacturing and robotics. You can apply your skills to almost any area of engineering.  While other engineering disciplines focus on one specific area, industrial engineering majors have to grasp knowledge from every area. We are systems people who are taught to look at an industrial system, analyze it and break it down. But we also always have to keep the big picture in mind.

How did you get interested in industrial engineering?
My father used to take me to work with him during Take Your Child to Work Days. He supervised the operations department for a defense contracting company. I was about 11 or 12 at the time, and I loved seeing all the operations in his plant, how the assembly technicians put circuit cards together. I loved the hands-on work and told my father wanted I wanted to grow up and be an assembly technician. But he told me I’d make much more money working as an industrial engineer. And when I came to NJIT, an advisor here told me that industrial engineering allows you to study various aspects of engineering, not just one field. As I said above, that appealed to me immensely.  

Can you discuss your BAE internships?
In the summer of 2005, I was an intern in BAE’s Mechanical Engineering Department. I spent the summer writing a technical paper on mechanical bushings, a cylindrical lining designed to reduce friction and wear or restrain the motion of mechanical parts in a mechanical design for a radio. I calculated the tolerances for the bushing and found that it wasn’t appropriate for the radio. I was hired back as an intern in the summer of 2006, but this time I worked in the he Electrical Hardware Engineering Department. That summer I built an access database with information about labor hours and other statistics. BAE used the database to figure out how to set prices for new products and the redesign of exiting products. I also worked closely with a program manager, and when she was on business trips, I would take over and conduct the meetings for major programs. That was pretty sweet.  They liked my database and after that summer, asked me if I’d stay in the fall, part time, to update the database as well as review the schematics (drawings) for electrical engineering projects. I accepted and I continue to work there till this day. I work at the BAE office in Wayne whenever I have time between my classes.

What are your post graduation plans?
I’ll take the job working an assistant engineering project leader. I love working at BAE. Even as an intern, they’ve given me a good deal of autonomy. If while I’m working on a project I find a better way to do it, my boss will tell me to go ahead and do it. They tease me good naturedly about being a “freshout,” (someone fresh out of college), but they give me a lot of responsibility. But I also plan to come back to NJIT and get my MBA. That degree will be a great complement to an industrial engineering degree. Industrial engineers have a systematic way of analyzing industrial processes and MBAs are taught how to manage business projects systematically. So having both degrees will allow me to move into a top management position at BAE.