“Alright stop, collaborate and listen!”
Though I’m not a huge Vanilla Ice fan (David Bowie’s “Under Pressure” is most DEFINITELY the superior song), this line from “Ice, Ice Baby” is one that expresses an important aspect of all majors in Viterbi, and most specifically my major: Industrial and Systems Engineering.
For many prospective students, including myself in high school, Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) may be the most enigmatic major in Viterbi. What does it mean to engineer a system? In a nutshell, ISE’s are concerned with system efficiency: in some cases, this means improving existing systems, in others it may mean creating new, replacement systems.
But then what is considered a system? Actually, almost anything can be considered a system! In my Introduction to ISE class, a course I took during my first semester at USC, much of the class was focused on defining systems and recognizing how processes fit together and form systems, which may be parts of even larger systems, and so on. For example, one specific case study we examined in that class was Amazon, specifically operations within Amazon’s fulfillment centers: the warehouses where workers (and in some cases robots) are picking orders, packing them, and sending them across the country. My professor organized a field trip for us to actually tour Amazon’s fulfillment center just outside of LA, and I can honestly say it was the coolest field trip I’ve ever been on! As we toured the facility and asked workers questions about their specific roles, we learned more about process improvement carried out by Industrial and Systems Engineers working for Amazon. These ranged from automation of processes to design of workspaces which encouraged greater productivity, all of which add value to the company as a whole. After the trip, we worked on creating process diagrams and identifying additional points where Amazon could improve its processes. Later in the semester, we took another field trip to USC’s Keck School of Medicine to learn about process improvement at the hospital. You can see my classmates and I wearing scrubs to see surgical equipment cleaning processes above!
ISEs aren’t only confined to manufacturing related fields, in fact ISEs can do almost anything after graduation! Because ISE classes provide fundamental critical thinking and problem-solving skills, we’re able to work in many different areas. ISEs go into everything from project management to consulting to tech-related fields. Personally, this is one of the aspects of the major which I love the most. My interests are constantly evolving, and because ISE opens up so many different doorways, I’m confident that I’ll be able to pursue any career I may be interested in. I’ve already seen this at USC’s career fairs and networking events — even if a position may seem more business oriented, recruiters love engineers, and especially ISEs, who have the skills to analyze business processes, work with data, and, perhaps most importantly, communicate their results and work with a team.
Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about Vanilla Ice. At the start of this post, I promised that I’d tie that iconic line from “Ice, Ice Baby” to ISE and all Viterbi majors. Collaborate and listen. Engineering is a discipline built upon collaboration, something which Viterbi professors and students alike recognize. Group work is encouraged: in my Introduction to ISE class, my final project was a group assignment in which we chose an existing system and made thorough suggestions for improvements — my group decided to propose a strategy to optimize water usage on agriculture in California. If you walk around the Epstein Engineering Plaza, through Ronald Tutor Hall, or any one of the campus’ coffee shops, you’ll see engineering students working intently together, laughing at jokes, and bonding while studying. There’s so much value in hearing the ideas of others. Personally, I feel that I’ve learned grown so much just by being around my fellow Viterbi students. I’m constantly amazed by the brilliance of my peers, and also the diverse perspectives that each of them brings to the table.
I’ve loved being a part of the Viterbi School of Engineering, and I’m super excited to continue diving deeper into Industrial and Systems Engineering. That’s all for now (hopefully I didn’t get “Ice, Ice Baby” stuck in your head), until next time, fight on!