Young Trinbagonian Has Eyes Set on Engineering and Business: Two Important Fields

Features > The Caribbean

By STEM Caribbean | Posted on March 29, 2019

Gervais Attong

Before moving to New York, Gervais graduated from the Couva Government Secondary School. In primary school he was sneered at by his teachers and classmates because he “passed for a government school.” He has since overcome many challenges and received a world class education and is currently in the penultimate semester of a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT). Prior to pursuing an MBA, he obtained a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Management at NYIT.

As a student, Gervais was not only focused on academics. He was tasked with many roles and responsibilities gaining experience and knowledge in business, leadership, and engineering. At NYIT, his leadership roles included communication chairperson, senator, and currently, the advisor to the National Society of Black Engineers chapter at NYIT. During his time as an undergraduate student, he also worked as a Resident Assistant, often described as one the most challenging jobs for college students in the United States. He’s currently the Head Resident Assistant at a postsecondary transition program for students with learning disabilities and Autism spectrum diagnosis at NYIT. In addition, he’s a Graduate Assistant at the Career Services Department. Other roles Gervais held at his college included, the school’s mascot, a student worker at the career center, and also within different departments and the dean’s office. These roles provided Gervais with opportunities to connect with others on campus, opening doors for scholarships and internships.

While many college students spent their vacation from school relaxing and visiting family, Gervais used some of that time to gain valuable professional experience. He was once a​ data management intern for a small Human Resources​ ​consulting company where he gained skills in data manipulation techniques and Microsoft Excel, a useful software for STEM professionals. He was also a purchasing/inventory control intern for an optical frame distributor where he had exposure to supply chain, and became passionate about it.

We were delighted to learn about Gervais’ experience and why he chose to obtain degrees in engineering and business. Read all about it below:

What influenced you to pursue a degree in engineering?

While in secondary school, I took an interest in Math and Physics, when it came time to decide my studies for college it was important to pick a path where these two subjects were at the core and would allow for the opportunity to have diverse options after graduation therefore, I pursued a degree in engineering.

You decided to obtain an MBA. What motivated you to get into business?

During the completion of my undergraduate degree in Engineering Management, I took note a great deal of professionals within the field, who I looked up to, had completed their MBA. Making the personal assumption that within the next 5-7 years this degree would almost be considered a need. I thought it would be best the while still in the collegiate environment I’d maximize my time and obtain an MBA in Operations and Supply Chain Management. The idea was to best prepare myself for entering the field.

Do you think a business degree will complement your engineering degree?

My undergraduate degree was in Engineering Management which at the core focuses on Industrial Engineering. Throughout my studies I learned a great deal of knowledge, some of which regarded Lean and Six Sigma. The MBA I will soon complete has a concentration in Operations and Supply Chain Management. To me it seemed the perfect complement, having a background in efficiency and production to be combined with managerial structures, systems and operations.

Why did you choose to study in New York?

Often, while home in Trinidad, I’d hear about New York weather being in a movie, music or a book. To me it almost seemed has if New York was a core of my dreams and lifestyle, so I choose to immerse myself within the culture, after all “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere”.

While choosing from many schools within the area, my final selection was New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) the University had two key elements, the first; an enticing program and the second; a dual campus, one in the core of NYC, the other on long Island, only a short 40-minute train ride from NYC. This provided the flexibility to learn within any environment best for me.

Was it difficult to adjust to the culture?

It was one of the hardest things I had to do. Not only was it a big shift going from 30-degree weather to 6 months of weather under 10 degrees but, the accepted manner of speaking was completely different from my norm. Common words weren’t so common and often while speaking as I would normally do, people were unable to understand me. Back home in Trinidad I’d read articles about working with multicultural teams and its negatives, but I never really paid much attention to it until I came here. But 6 years later I’ve adjusted and found my way here, without losing my culture.

What were some of your best experiences during this journey?

For me, a key part of my journey has been meeting people from different countries and being exposed to their cultures and their stories. I’ve been fortunate enough to develop a core group of friends, all who are also in pursuit of their degrees which I’d call family.

What are your professional plans?

I’ll keep this one short because I can talk about this topic for hours. While my degree gives me the ability to dabble within my different ventures in the Supply Chain field such as Logistics, Inventory Management, Warehousing, etc, I would love to test them all out until I find my niche. My plan is to start in Procurement and then expand into different areas from there. But honestly my career is just starting so any of the above has the ability to shift, I’d be interested to see what my answer would be in a year or two.

What advice would you give to young Caribbean students who are considering combined careers in STEM and business?

My advice would be to do research, find ways that a STEM degree can complement your business degree. This will make you a great and valuable employee for any company since you are able to understand both sides. Many times, you have engineers who can’t understand business concepts in the workplace and therefore make requests that are outrageous and vice-versa.

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3 thoughts on “Young Trinbagonian Has Eyes Set on Engineering and Business: Two Important Fields”

  1. Beverley John

    Well done Gervais. We are all so very proud of you. Keep reaching for the stars….

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