The magazine of the Case Alumni Association
at the Case School of Engineering


Eighteen alumni offer the Class of 2021 advice to live by.

Have dreams and goals but be receptive to new career opportunities that might present themselves. Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Rely on your excellent Case education to explore new frontiers that will provide you with professional and personal satisfaction.

If you think of solving a problem just 8 hours a day, you are selling yourself short of opportunity. I have found that putting a notepad and pen by my bed allows me to jot down a thought that may come to light when I am drifting off to sleep or when I wake up suddenly at night.

Understanding the details of why something did not or doesn’t work helps you find potential solutions. Examining what would happen if you did the opposite of what you know is a possible solution, to see the details of causes and effects, may lead to solutions that are free from flaws.

Take advantage of any opportunity that comes your way because you never know where it might lead you. Be confident in your abilities and do not be afraid to take risks even if you think you aren’t qualified.

No matter what the job, always do the best job you can do. And if you’re doing a job for free, do it like they’re paying you. (That’s how they see it). And if you can’t do it well, don’t do it – no one will be happy with the results.

Life is a marathon, not a sprint, so take care of yourself. The learning is just beginning now that you finished college. Good luck!

Always focus on doing an outstanding job in carrying out your current responsibilities, and don’t worry about getting rewarded (promotion, money, praise, etc.). Don’t worry; consistent good work will yield those rewards!

Also, always allocate time for family and friends.

Find a mentor. Strive to be humble but confident – not an easy balance.

KA-PI HOH ’84, MS ’87, PHD ’89, Organizational Change Manager, research chemist, Lubrizol Corp., Painesville, Ohio, Macromolecular Science and Engineering

Know the business you’re in and how you contribute to the bottom line. Network broadly to understand how the organization works and who does what. Sometimes it’s not what you know but who you know... and, even more importantly, how you work with them. Cultivate your emotional intelligence and your ability to work with others.

Even after graduation, continue to learn, develop and grow yourself. Take risks, be flexible/adaptable and be open to feedback. Identify and tap your passions and your strengths.

There are more opportunities to be successful
doing something you enjoy.

Take notes and take risks: As you move on to exciting new opportunities, take good notes. Overconfidence bias lets us think we’ll remember what seems clear to us in the present, but it’s so easy to forget why you made a certain decision or how you calculated a certain result. I have a lab note- book I maintain in Google Drive for each of my projects, with headings for each calendar date I worked on the project along with whatever I learned. This is like a searchable augmented storage system for your brain.

Also, take risks! You’ll never again be as young as you are today (that’s true for all of us!) so try saying yes to new experiences. It can help you overcome fears and you can almost always change your mind if it doesn’t work out.

IAN CHARNAS ’05, Co-founder and Director of Innovation and Technology, Sears think[box], Cleveland, Ohio, Mechanical and Computer Engineering

CARMEN FONTANA ’00, MS ’05, Leader of Modern Software Delivery practice, Centric Consulting, Chagrin Falls, Ohio, Computer Engineering and Management

My best advice is to be “open to opportunity.” Your career does not need to be linear – don’t feel obligated to stay in one lane. Some of my best career growth came when I took a step off the beaten path to try something completely unexpected.

If you have the ability, focus on working on things that will fundamentally improve the world, society, or even life for a small group of people. Alternatively, work on things that help other people build things that improve the world, society, or even life for a small group of people. Question whether every piece of work you’re about to do has a meaningful outcome. Focus on these outcomes, not just output. It’ll help you make meaningful change that will compound. Also, these things worth doing and building are often really, really, hard. But that’s what makes them worth doing.

PRINCE GHOSH ’19, Co-founder and CEO, Workbench, Palo Alto, California, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

GLENN RICART ’71, MS ’73, PHD, Computing pioneer, enshrined in the Internet Hall of Fame, Salt Lake City, Utah, Computer Engineering

You’re much more likely to achieve a goal if you plan for it. There are few limits to what you can accomplish if you don’t take credit for it. Let your skills support your idealism.

LARRY SEARS ’69, Inventor/developer of new technologies, including remote meter reading, Chagrin Falls, Ohio, Electrical Engineering

To use a trite phrase, "think out of the box." In other words, for an idea to be profoundly innovative, it will, at first, likely sound absurd. The statement is reminiscent of an event that happened at a conference of physicists in, I believe, the 1960s. Someone presented a paper about strange, hypothetical atomic particles. The ideas presented were so new and bizarre that there was a bit of an uproar. Someone, it may have been Feynman, said, "Ladies and gentlemen, we all know that this is a crazy theory; the question is, is it crazy enough to be correct?"

As you graduate from CWRU, know that you leave with an incredible skill set that will allow you to do just about anything in life that you can dream of. For me, that dream was to become an astronaut and orbit the Earth, which I was able to do four times aboard the Space Shuttle. So, whatever your ultimate dream is in life, know that you now have the ability to turn that dream into reality. It may take some time yet for you to get there, and most likely involve continued hard work and dedication, but I urge you all to persist on your journey. Never give up on your dream in life and one day you too will reach the stars.

If I were to go back in time, I would tell my younger self to not stress too much about the grades or even the major. We assume that our major will define our career. But the reality is our careers are a journey — and if you're open to it, you may discover very rewarding paths and grow in unexpected ways. In fact, when we sample a breadth of disciplines in our careers, we bring a unique perspective to the table which is its own form of a competitive advantage.

The most important thing I learned while at Case was not the specifics of each course I took, though these were valuable, but rather the ability to continue learning throughout life. We learned how to learn at Case. “Experiential” learning: In labs, making things work; in groups, making relationships work; in extracurricular activities, finding yourself. All are important to one’s career, family life and self-respect. Get a hobby, get extra exercise, work on relationships and you will have a wonderful life.

Keep pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, just a little bit at a time, by taking on new challenges and learning new things. Case provides a great foundation and it's up to you to build upon that foundation.

There is more to our lives than our work, there is more to our work than our jobs. Focus more, don't try to do too many different things. Appreciate what others do.

@2020 Case Alumnus Magazine
Case Alumni Association, Inc.
All rights reserved.

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