We are delighted to have Michelle Wong, a Rutgers alum, share with us her educational experience at Rutgers, the transition from college to the "real" world, and the advice for her college self. Michelle graduated from Rutgers with a double major in Political Science and Supply Chain Management. She started working for Johnson & Johnson in the summer of 2020 (posted on Oct. 3, 2020).

What did you study while at Rutgers? How did you decide on these areas?

I double majored in Supply Chain Management and Political Science. I’d actually entered college thinking I’d go to law school right after graduation, and only started in the business school because my parents had said it’d be more “practical” than just getting a degree in political science. After taking some courses on legal philosophy and interning with a law firm, however, I’d started to doubt the trajectory I was on and realized I’d never actually put much effort into exploring new areas. I knew that I wanted to work on improving people’s quality of life and contributing to society somehow, and my first few years in college showed me that there are unlimited ways to go about doing that.

I stuck with political science because I enjoyed the material and the professors were also just so supportive and knowledgeable, but I was unsure of which major to declare within the business school. In my first introductory course to supply chain management, my professor had defined supply chain as “end-to-end process management” -- essentially, how any goods get delivered and how anything gets done. From there, I completed a co-op in supply chain and decided that the best way for me to achieve my goals was to leverage supply chain management to address social issues. Political science exposed me to the most pressing issues of our time and taught me how to think critically about social justice, while supply chain taught me how to develop and implement solutions across various stakeholders. Overall, I’m super grateful for all the opportunities made available to me at Rutgers; I really doubt I would’ve been able to study such different fields at other schools.

What have you been working on since graduation?

I’ve recently started working at Johnson & Johnson in a rotational program called the Global Operations Leadership Development (GOLD) Program. The program runs for 2.5 years divided into 3 rotations across the supply chain. I’ll be spending the first 9 months in my first rotation as a consumer supply planner and my second and third rotations (9 and 12 months respectively) have not been determined yet but will likely be in medical devices or pharmaceuticals. The goal for me now is to learn how effective supply chains operate. I’m hoping that by completing this rotational program, I’ll be able to learn more and get exposed to many different parts of the supply chain within a relatively short amount of time.

Aside from my day job, I’ve also been trying to stay active in social organizing. It’s honestly been pretty tough now that work is picking up (and COVID isn’t exactly helping) but I hope in the future I’ll be able to get back into volunteering with local organizations.

How was the transition between school and work?

Moving from school to corporate is a pretty big leap, especially when I was used to taking courses in political science and philosophy and discussing different ideas with friends and professors. I took for granted how much school allowed me to surround myself with people who had the same interests as me. At first, I felt like I couldn’t really be myself with everyone at work, but now that I’m almost 3 months in, I’ve been able to make a pretty close group of friends where I can get “political” and not think twice about making anyone feel uncomfortable. I also started a book club with friends from school and that’s also been a really great outlet for me. I really missed the intellectual stimulation I got from college.

I’ve also found that the 9 to 5 schedule is especially tough to adjust to while working from home. Being in the same space all day while working with people completely virtually can be pretty mentally exhausting, so to anyone who might be going through this: I’ve found that I need to actively remind myself that it’s okay to take breaks and walk outside or call up friends during the day just to talk and mentally check out for a bit. Having a designated office space when possible has also been really helpful.

If you could tell your college self something you wish you had known, what would that be?

Rutgers has so many opportunities, you just need to find them. I wish I’d looked into all the different fellowships, study abroad courses, seminars, and student organizations way earlier. Some pretty pivotal programs and organizations I got involved with were the Lloyd C. Gardner Fellowship Program, the Rutgers Sustainability Coalition, and RU Global. If you have a particular interest or even if you’re not sure of what you want to do or study, Rutgers definitely has something that can help you figure things out. After my first semester, I started to look for events to attend, speak to my professors after class and during office hours, and look for student organizations to join. All of the opportunities I found and took contributed to who I am today. I met lifelong friends from student involvement and my career aspirations have largely been shaped by the classes, programs, and random events I turned up to.

Also, take classes outside of your major(s)!! Shout out to Professor Jiang because I probably wouldn’t even be writing this post if I hadn’t taken his Chinese Religions course (which was one of the most interesting courses I’ve taken at RU). I was definitely one of those people who tried to “optimize” their schedules so that I only took courses that would contribute to my major, but looking back, some of the most personally rewarding courses I took were just for general elective credit. Everyone should try it!