I can’t tell you how many times a friend has asked me what my major is, listened to my answer, reacted positively (“That’s awesome!”), and then backtracked and admitted they had no idea what industrial engineering meant or what that type of engineer does… Instead of feeling discouraged by the lack of a general idea about ISE among some of my peers, I figured meeting people and telling them about my major is a great way to get fellow students to find a connection with the idea of what an ISE major does. All I had to do was define ISE in my own words… And here it is in a nutshell.

Traditionally, Industrial Engineering has been linked to working in assembly line and factory settings — optimizing supply chains, testing for quality control, etc. At Viterbi, the “S” in ISE makes a whole lot of difference. Systems Engineering can deal with any type of organization, whether it’s an information technology network, a corporation’s business methodology, or the arrangement of workers and tasks in an assembly line. ISE is all about optimizing systems, finding the most efficient way to solve a technical or business problem and executing that solution with the least amount of resources possible.

An Industrial Engineer will find ways to reduce plant waste and emissions.

Some related studies ISE majors touch on at Viterbi include ergonomics, manufacturing processes, systems simulation, operations research and statistical methods. In my engineering statistics class (ISE-225), all the examples we use in class involve the production of industrial materials and testing the effectiveness of a new procedure on the overall production quality. I really like how every example is relevant to the IE industry. Similarly, in my operations research class (ISE-330), my professor teaches us techniques to find an optimal solution in the quickest, most thorough manner — a skill that’s handy when dealing with finances and technical/business decisions!

At the end of my sophomore year, I decided to take the specialized track within ISE called ISIS: ISE with an emphasis in Information Systems and Operations Management. It’s probably the best decision I’ve made! This specialization fits me best because it gives me a taste of information system strategies and how to help businesses take advantage of information technology. Through this program, I’ve been able to take some Information and Operations Management (IOM) classes under the Marshall School of Business, giving me a broader perspective on the impact of engineering in business, and vice versa.

The ISIS track within ISE builds on the same foundation of classes as ISE, with a few exceptions (like the IOM classes). ISIS also follows the same idea of crafting streamlined, cost-effective solutions to business and engineering problems, but with a stronger focus on information technology, the effects of cloud computing, Web 2.0, and the digital world.
Through my involvement with the Information Systems Association (ISA), I’ve met many Trojan alumni who majored in ISE or the ISIS track and are now in the technology consulting field. For more information about this career path, check out my previous blog post: ISA and the World of Technology Consulting.