“Take the Risk and Put Yourself Out There” – An MSEM Alumnus’ Reflection

Connor Tower, MSEM ’21, took his career to new heights by taking risks and embracing challenges with the support of professors in the program.

During his undergrad experience at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, a project aiming to improve veterinary myringotomies (a surgical procedure to relieve pressure within the ear) helped Connor Tower, MSEM ’21, land a role in Olympus Surgical’s rotational development program.

Now, as the newly minted MS in Engineering Management graduate describes, his career is accelerating, fueled by support from professors in Tufts Gordon Institute’s MSEM program and his embracing of new challenges.

“The MSEM reinforced my confidence that I am capable and that I have ‘the wind at my back' for things I want to push forward. It has made me more comfortable with the fundamentals and foundations of things that really give me a seat at the table,” Connor shared. “Even within my recent business-facing roles, this program gave me the backbone and the technical and business acumen to be competitive within the business world as a technical thinker.”

Recently promoted, Connor attributes becoming Senior Strategy and Portfolio Analyst at Olympus in part to the Capstone Leadership Project (CLP) which provided an opportunity to work on a large-scale strategy project within his organization. For his CLP, he connected with more than 20 new stakeholders in his company across multiple geographies, including senior leaders of the organization.

“One of the fundamental benefits of MSEM is that a lot of the coursework is tailored to our careers. It’s very much, ‘In your company, what can you do to make a difference in XYZ parameter, depending on the course?’ It pushes the students in each cohort to reach into their day jobs and find their own solutions,” said Connor.

He has come a long way since starting the MSEM program – a time when accounting and finance seemed like foreign concepts. Connor credits Frank Apeseche, Professor of the Practice, with helping him uncover his ability to make sense of those topics in a business context and push his career forward. 

“The idea of building detailed financial statements, understanding a P&L, or modeling critical concepts like discounted cash flow – everything that Frank teaches – is something that I didn’t know I could do, nor that I would find so interesting. Frank not only showed us the value of these concepts and how to do them in theory but also showed us how to make these work for us and how to apply them to our career,” said Connor. “The way Frank linked Finance and Accounting for Managers with his thorough and engaging Business Strategy course really changed my career trajectory and made me think differently about how I wanted to push myself forward in the company.”

Just like his undergraduate project (which has roots in the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University), the CLP marks only the beginning of what’s to come.

“I would not be in the role I am in. I would not be comfortable or confident where I am without MSEM. MSEM is the foundation, the toolbox, that got me where I am and really helped me to apply different strategic lenses and change the way I perceived my career path,” said Connor.

Reflecting on how he has grown with the MSEM, Connor said, “My advice to former Connor would be to put in the emotional effort as well as the time and sweat equity. Go big. Don’t be afraid of it. Take the risk and put yourself out there.”