Meet Rock Mendenhall

August 26, 2014 | By GTPE Communications

Rock Mendenhall – a 2014 Professional Master’s of Applied Systems Engineering graduate – gained an advanced degree from Georgia Tech and friends who inspire and motivate him to move ahead in his career and education. “The classmates have a high drive for success,” he says, of his cohort. “You’re in a network of people that keep driving to do more. It pushes you to keep learning.” He was among 32 students who earned their degrees in August 2014.

He was attracted to Georgia Tech’s Professional Master’s of Applied Systems Engineering (PMASE) because the degree tied the technical aspects of systems engineering with leadership development, he says. Mendenhall, who earned his bachelor’s degree in electronics engineering technology from the University of Akron, originally considered earning his MBA.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit funded his master’s degree. He participated in the two-year program while working full time as a staff operations officer for the U.S. Air Force and as owner of a Virginia-based consulting firm providing aviation, systems, and electrical engineering, industrial psychology and data link design to the Department of Defense and commercial industries.

I wanted to continue my job,” he says. “This was perfect. I could keep working and it’s a Georgia Tech degree.”

He appreciated how his PMASE cohorts, a multi-ethnic group that includes professionals living in the U.S. and around the world and representing different ages and positions, offered diverse perspectives during online discussions, web conference sessions, team projects and three cohort visits to Georgia Tech in Atlanta during the program.

Mendenhall’s clients have asked him to take on more systems engineering-oriented projects, recognizing that he was expanding his “systems thinking” skills in a program offered by a top-ranked institution. Now, he is seeing more systems engineering-related job openings in the defense and other industries. If he were to pursue those positions, Mendenhall believes the PMASE degree will make him a stronger candidate as companies look to fill those skills gaps.

The PMASE program taught him, along with his cohorts, to look at the big picture and bring structure into problem solving. PMASE faculty – Georgia Tech professors and Georgia Tech Research Institute scientists and engineers who offer extensive real-world experience and lead research for industry and government – provided exposure to an abundance of tools, practices and processes. He’s able to better approach projects to mitigate risk and make the most out of the design of a system.

“You can deal with complexity and also be a problem solver,” he says.