Find Inspiration in these Success Stories by Industrial Engineers

It is best to imagine yourself as an industrial engineer if you like to be hands-on on projects or if you grew up playing with physical toys rather than computer games. Industrial engineers focus on improving the performance of complex machines as well as systems involved in the manufacturing of products we use daily. This is a great industry to focus on if you're a visual person.
Nader Mowlaee

When organizations can optimize their processes to give their customers the products and services they need, it's a win-win for both the business and the end-user. But to achieve improved processes and systems, organizations rely on industrial engineers as well as system engineers whose primary focus is to improve just about everything that's part of a complex, physical and/or virtual machine or business.


From inventing technical methodologies to devising steps to reduce waste in a company's production process, some of the most successful industrial engineers' achievements continue to impact organizational operation and efficiency. That's part of why industrial engineers often have lucrative careers. In fact, some of the richest engineers in the world are industrial engineers or have studied systems engineering. But achieving your own path to success in the field of industrial engineering calls for having a plan. Discover how these industrial engineers carved out a path to success:

What Do Industrial Engineers Do?

As an industrial engineer, your job primarily entails finding various methods to make the production process efficient. That calls for getting rid of wasteful steps that may slow down the production process. Some of the duties you may expect to complete as an industrial engineer include reviewing process flows for a manufacturing plant, mapping out plans for delivering services to maximize efficiency or putting quality controls. Your exact duties will depend on the company you work for, your role and your industry.

What Skills Do Industrial Engineers Need?

Successful industrial engineers often develop skills and gain an education in industrial and systems engineering. Many engineers also get at least a bachelors degree from an ABET-accredited program. Some key skills you should have as an industrial or systems engineer include analytic skills, problem-solving skills, creativity, critical thinking skills and interpersonal skills. You may need specific skills, such as expertise in Tableau, Excel and other programs, such as McKinsey business analyst and Northeastern University industrial and systems engineering graduate Jeff Barkas. The specific skills you need in your role will depend on your position and organization.

How Do Become a Successful Industrial Engineer?

Some engineers specialize in systems engineering while others branch out as industrial engineering consultants and entrepreneurs. Here are a few success stories of these professional engineers who worked as an industrial or systems engineer that you can use as inspiration for carving out your own path to career success:

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  • Lillian Gilbreth. As the mother of modern process management, Lillian Gilbreth played an integral role in devising techniques for industrial management, including improving processes by focusing on time management. Gilbreth was a consultant to various industrial firms, such as General Electric. She recognized how stress and fatigue adversely impact time management and helped pioneer methods for aiding women who were disabled to completed tasks in the home, such as washing dishes more efficiently and faster. She was also responsible for modern workplace standards, such as job simplification.

  • Kuntoro Mangkusubroto. Kuntoro Mangkusubroto's path to success as an industrial engineer led him to achieve several accomplishments in the public and private sectors. He was former Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's trusted senior advisor where he would find issues that hampered the country's development and devised solutions. Mangkusubroto also worked as a professor at the Bandung Institute of Technology and was the Minister of Mining and Energy for Indonesia. He was the CEO of an electric company, a coal mining company and a tin company, which he helped become the first state-owned organization on the stock market that was publicly listed. He attended Northeastern University where he earned his master's degree in industrial engineering. As a result of his efforts, Mangkusubroto earned the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Engineering Excellence Award and various honors.

  • Tom Gilb. The tech industry can thank systems engineer, consultant and writer Tom Gilb for the development of the Agile programming methodology. Gilb was a forerunner in the development of Agile methods and contributed extensively to the methodologies of incremental cycles. Gilb is also responsible for inventing Planguage---a planning language for project management as well as driving evolutionary project management and software metrics. He's also written several books on systems engineering, management and software engineering that organizations around the world have adopted to help run their operations, including Citigroup, IBM and HP. Gilb started his career working at IBM in Norway but later transformed from just working in software engineering to the field of systems engineering. Gilb helped devise ways to improve large-scale systems, including electronics, aircraft and telecoms. His efforts have also led him down the path of being a consultant, professor and keynote speaker at several conferences.

  • Tim Cook. As Apple's CEO, Tim Cook has taken the innovative trillion-dollar company to new heights. Cook earned an industrial engineering degree from Auburn University and his MBA from Duke University. He started his career at IBM and eventually became the company's fulfillment director of its North American division. He also served as Intelligent Electronics' COO. But before taking over Apple when Steve Jobs passed away in 2011, Cook served as the vice president of Compaq---a now-defunct PC manufacturing company. He made it a mission to focus on sustainability at Apple and has made it a goal for the company's supply chain to use renewable energy exclusively. Cook's knowledge and experience in industrial engineering helped him to effectively strategize how to save Apple money over the years, including replacing Apple's warehouses and factories with contract manufacturers. This move helped Apple rebuild the company and avoid bankruptcy as it was able to make larger quantities of devices faster.

Final Thoughts

Whether you want to start a career as an industrial engineer or systems engineer, it's important to know what it takes to make your career a success. Luckily, you can draw inspiration from the stories of these professional engineers who have carved out their own successful career paths. By gathering ideas from their stories, you can map out your own strategies for achieving the successful career you desire.

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