John Bliss desired to open up career opportunities and knew education was a key component.
Bliss graduated with a Georgia Tech Professional Master’s Degree in Applied Systems Engineering in 2013. Within months, he was hired to lead project management teams at a new GE Oil and Gas facility and boosted his salary by 20 percent.
Through the program – referred to as PMASE — he acquired systems thinking skills that kept him from being pigeonholed professionally. By honing his problem solving and project management tools, Bliss recognized he was qualified to pursue a senior management position in a different industry.
Holding an advanced degree from Georgia Tech gave Bliss, who earned a bachelor’s degree in aviation, the credentials to be viewed as a serious candidate. He didn’t have specific oil and gas experience in his 11 years of experience with GE and other companies, but he changed industries, thanks to his PMASE education.
“The degree itself, that obviously helped land the interview,” he says. “They recognized that somebody with a master’s level degree in a program like systems engineering has a diverse background and can transfer from one industry to the other.”
Throughout the interview process, Bliss relied on PMASE tools to state his vision for the team and how he would gather requirements to meet GE customers’ needs and create action plans. Bliss started his new job as senior project manager for drilling overhaul services in January 2014 at a new GE Oil & Gas facility in Louisiana.
GE, which contributed to his PMASE tuition – along with the Department of Energy – also relocated Bliss’ family from Georgia to Louisiana. Armed with PMASE tools and methodologies, he came into the job with a plan for forming his own team, roles and responsibilities. The GE facility expects to have significant customer growth in its first year, says Bliss, whose team is responsible for all customer communications and prioritizes and coordinates work throughout the facility.
“It was a big step with a lot of opportunity. From day one, I’ve been able to be a big contributor to the new facility here,” he says. “My team touches everything within the building.”
Earning the PMASE required a time commitment from Bliss, was working fulltime for GE and has three children ages 8, 10 and 11. Because of the program’s hybrid format, with a blend of online courses and face-to-face instruction at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, he continued to coach his kids’ sports teams. He often ate lunch at his desk to watch lectures, participated in online meetings with his cohorts after work, and completed assignments at night after the kids were in bed. The program was demanding but flexible, due to the online component.
Bliss and his cohorts met at Georgia Tech three times during the two-year program for lectures and meetings. The visits were full days, but helped the students and faculty form relationships and created a sense of accountability.
“By still having the onsite classes periodically, you still have a lot of structure to the program,” Bliss says. “You knew you had to sit in front of your cohort and faculty and answer to them.”
Now, Bliss is confident that he can lead his teams as they communicate with customers, learn about requirements needed to put together action plans and execute those plans.
“My career potential was limited, and I knew I needed better tools to take advantage of the skills I possessed,” he says. “Now, I’m able to bridge the gap between customers and engineering teams to make a real impact. I use what I learned from my professional master’s degree every day.”