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Becoming the Leader I Envisioned With the MSEM: Making an Impact on Senior Management

For Chris Rafferty, MSEM ’18, the MS in Engineering Management program showed him how he could use newfound knowledge on leadership to propel his journey forward.
Chris Rafferty, MSEM '18, is Program Manager at Raytheon.

Chris Rafferty, MSEM ’18, was an individual contributor at Raytheon when he started the On-Campus MS in Engineering Management program, but he always envisioned more for himself – he wanted a path that would alter his trajectory, bring increased responsibility, and allow him to make an enduring impact on the industry. For Chris, that breakthrough started with an “excuse” to showcase a new level of abilities while completing a core component of the program.

 

Generally, furthering your education will put you on the path towards promotion, but how did the Tufts MSEM program uniquely position you to gain exposure to senior leaders and make an impact while you were still enrolled in the program?

One of the most valuable things from the MSEM program is that it gives you an excellent “excuse” to talk to senior leaders and cross functional stakeholders at your company who you may otherwise not get a chance to interface with. As part of the MSEM program’s Capstone Leadership Project, you get to seek out a side project outside of your normal scope of efforts at work that demonstrates your newfound leadership and managerial skills. That can bring real, positive impact to your company and give you great exposure. Sometimes it’s hard to bring that on yourself without a good excuse. 

Halfway through the program, I was able to get a promotion into a management role to lead a group of engineers. The MSEM program brought me a ton of exposure to senior leadership that I didn’t otherwise have and gave me visibility into the program management group which is ultimately where I ended up transitioning to.

 

The program’s curriculum is a blend of technical knowledge and leadership enhancing skills. How do you see these applied in your role on a daily basis?

When I was considering options for graduate education, I was choosing between an MBA and the MSEM program. The MSEM program is a technical degree but it effortlessly ties in the characteristics of an MBA – the soft skills, the leadership qualities, etc.

The soft skills certainly weren’t something I was expecting to have such a big impact on me, but those have been the most beneficial thing you really get out of the program.

The leadership and managerial skills are definitely what you use the most on a daily basis. Everything ends up coming down to working with people and how you interact & treat people. It’s how anything’s going to get done and how you’ll be successful.

The MSEM program has also given more context to what leadership styles out there are and the importance of self-awareness in understanding different types of personalities. I’ve been able to put some educational background behind the strategies and experiment with them.

 

How were you supported throughout your experience to ensure you were able to leverage the knowledge you were gaining in the classroom?

As you’re going through the program, you are able to apply things as you learn them, understand them, and get feedback from the professors and your colleagues at Tufts Gordon Institute (TGI). It gives you a structure like things to try, and how & where you want to apply them.

TGI faculty across the board are diverse and interesting. Working with the faculty was great. I got to work with a lot of influential people with a lot of positive energy. There’s a lot of good support in the program from the leadership team to the professors. The information they give you, the real-world experience they share with you, is positive from day one right to the end of the program.

 

Let’s go back to day one of the MSEM program. What were your aspirations coming into the program, and now, with hindsight, what was TGI’s role in getting you there?

Coming into the MSEM program, I was an individual contributor. During the time I was in the program, I was able to transition into an engineering management role. From there, I was able to pivot into a program management role, which is really what I wanted to do. That’s where I wanted my trajectory to go, and TGI gave me the tools and the skills to make that leap from the engineering side. That’s put me on a trajectory of escalating responsibility.

I wanted to be in a leadership role, be more involved with strategic planning, and look more on the business side of things. That’s where I saw I could grow, and I could see there was a lot more opportunity. I’m now where I always envisioned.