img-tom-photosTom Cook

Business & Computer Systems

International Business

Class of 2003

“MSOE prepared me for almost anything in the corporate world.”

Tom Cook can handle anything that comes his way. One of his toughest classes, Business Law, was also one of his favorites at MSOE. “I enjoyed the discussions and debates and think it helped develop my critical thinking skills. I also had an investment class my senior year, where each student managed a $100,000 portfolio of stocks. It was a good experience and interesting to see how classmates invested differently. If only I had the foresight to actually invest in Apple back then.”

In fact, all of the classes Tom took at MSOE helped him. “In the early part of my career, the technical classes helped in my role as a technical engineer, supporting and designing information systems. Presentations and public speaking also helped as they’re a critical part of my career. Since I’ve moved into a managerial path, critical thinking has been an important skill. Overall, I thought MSOE prepared me for almost anything in the corporate world and my work experience builds upon those skills. You never stop learning.”

As a student Tom stayed busy outside of the classroom. He held a part-time job his freshman year, and in his sophomore year he interned with Northwestern Mutual in their Information Systems Department.

“Junior year, I studied abroad in Germany and had an internship with the local utility company who provided the gas and electric utilities, as well as running the bus lines. The utilities were profitable, however the bus lines weren’t,” said Tom. “A group of us were responsible for bringing them out of the red. We also had corporate and factory visits with Mercedes Benz on their SL lines – an awesome case study. This was definitely a priceless experience both from an educational and cultural perspective.”

Tom returned to Northwestern Mutual in his senior year as an intern and ultimately was offered a full-time position upon graduation. He has been there since.

Recently, Tom faced the greatest challenge of his life. He was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma (MM), a rare blood-related cancer. The average age of someone with MM is late 60s. “I started right away with chemotherapy and reached remission,” said Tom. A few months later Tom underwent an allogeneic bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor from Germany. Six months post transplant, Tom is proud to say he is still cancer free.

Much of Tom’s treatment consisted of drugs and standard of care that was researched and funded by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) over the past 50 years. Tom recognized the value of this and wanted to give back. He competed in the “Man and Woman of the Year” campaign, a friendly fundraising campaign for LLS, and raised more than $25,000 in a 10-week period. “I was proud of the awareness I brought to people within the region. At work, my department leadership was supportive of my cause and I was very appreciative of the positive response from co-workers,” said Tom.

Tom’s education helped pave the way to his success. He has been a Team Lead for the past six of his ten years at Northwestern Mutual. “I am responsible for transition management within IT Operations. I oversee eight people, responsible for their operational effectiveness. The majority of my time is spent with a people manager focus, doing things like performance management, coaching, developing employees, budgeting, vendor management, and contributing to the organizational strategy as part of my area’s leadership team.

“At the places I interviewed approaching graduation, MSOE was highly regarded. You learn more at an accelerated rate, but complete in the same time as a traditional university. I also believe studying abroad my junior year and living off campus my senior year helped with the transition towards life after graduation.”

Tom offers the following advice to students considering MSOE. “Talk with current students, visit campus, and prioritize what you want out of your college experience. If you’re uncertain about MSOE, check out one of the summer programs—I did the business program. You can always visit friends at other schools on the weekends and breaks.”

As for current MSOE students, Tom says, “Stick with it. Times can be challenging, but you’ll have a great reward upon graduation. Explore the city and if you can, stick around in the area for the summer. Find an internship that fits with your major. Make the most of your time and don’t forget to have fun.”


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