Opportunity knocks, engineering grad answers…and keeps the door wide open

BreeAnn Schmidt
Degree: Bachelor of Science in Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering, College of Engineering & Applied Science
Hometown: Brillion, Wis.
It’s a fact:  She is a certified scuba diver and once traveled to Australia, where she spent time diving the Great Barrier Reef.

When she was asked to join the only all-female High Mileage Vehicle Challenge team in the state high school competition, BreeAnn Schmidt discovered her career dreams.

Her passion for innovation flourished, and eventually led her to pursue her engineering degree. She chose UWM because of the quality of its engineering program. But she also notes that the professors at UWM are special, because they truly care about what students want to do after graduation.

“My professors always related coursework to real-world situations,” says Schmidt. “We visited so many different plants in Milwaukee to see how they work, instead of just sitting in class.” She says homework, projects and lessons always applied to real work situations to make learning not only thought-provoking, but results-producing.

One class that stood out was her senior design class.

“We got to work with Harley-Davidson, rebalancing their small-engine line,” Schmidt explains. “We worked with their engineers and operators, and experienced what it would be like in the workforce doing what we want to do when we graduate.”

Beyond classes, Schmidt also participated in the International Industrial/Academic Leadership Experience Program, spending a summer studying abroad in Taiwan.

“It’s really hard to find study-abroad programs that focus specifically on what I want to do, but this one was perfect,” says Schmidt. “I was put in a group with Taiwanese students, and learned so much about technology and communicating with other cultures. It’s really helped me in my internships.”

Schmidt has spent the past two years interning at GE Healthcare, working in lean manufacturing and sourcing with suppliers from all over the world.

“Lean manufacturing is all about process improvement and trying to make things flow better,” Schmidt explains. “It’s about finding ways to eliminate waste, bottlenecks and anything that could be holding up processes.”

She has also been an active member of the Society of Women Engineers and Institute of Industrial Engineers chapters at UWM.

“All the organizations UWM offers are so helpful for networking, meeting different companies and being involved in events,” says Schmidt. “I don’t think you could get that exposure anywhere else.”

When she attended one such event through UWM, she was exposed to over 250 hiring companies. She had several on-the-spot interviews and was flown to interview with several other companies afterward.

She eventually received six job offers – all before her December graduation.

Though the decision to choose just one position was difficult, she decided to enter the Chrysler Leadership Development Program – a two-year program that will allow her to spend time in various engineering positions before selecting a final career path at Chrysler.

“I’ll rotate positions every four months to get all aspects of the business,” Schmidt explains. “I’ll be getting five years of experience in just two years.”

During that time, she also plans to complete her MBA.

In the end, Schmidt hopes to move into a manufacturing management role. But no matter where she goes from there, it’s clear Schmidt will always engineer amazing opportunities.