Cornell Engineering Management Spotlight: Michelle Cruz

Michelle Cruz headshot
  • Hometown: Midland Park, N.J.
  • M.Eng. in Engineering Management

Tell us about yourself.
I currently work at Lockheed Martin Corporation in King of Prussia, PA where I’ve worked for the past 3 1/2 years since graduating from Providence College in Rhode Island. I am a Software Engineer in the company’s Engineering Leadership Development Program (ELDP), which is a 3-year rotational program designed to provide exposure to a variety of challenging work environments and to develop a cross-business network of contacts for our future careers. The program encourages its participants to experience various engineering disciplines using their rotations, so I’ve taken advantage of that and tried to explore diverse engineering interests throughout my rotations. I’m currently in my third rotation in the program - my first rotation was in a Software Engineering role for the Navy’s AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense Program, my second rotation was as a Systems Engineer on the Navy’s Advanced Sensor Technologies Program, and my current rotation is working in a Business Development role within my Line of Business for the corporation.

In addition to my technical roles, I also am the Community Relations lead for my company’s King of Prussia site, where I work with local organizations to provide funding opportunities from the corporation, as well as lead a team of seven employees who all help to communicate any volunteer needs from the organizations to our employees to encourage volunteerism within our community. Most of these organizations pertain to STEM and Military Veteran organizations which align with our company’s mission, as well.

My Bachelor’s degree is in Computer Science and Mathematics and Film/Video minors. One of my favorite hobbies is playing sports, as I played on the Division I Volleyball Team (Big East Conference) at Providence during my undergraduate career ( and while growing up as a young girl, I participated competitively in volleyball, basketball, soccer, softball, and track. Alongside playing sports and staying active, some of my other favorite hobbies are volunteering in my community, traveling (pre-COVID), and spending time with my family and fur baby, Bella.

Why Engineering Management? 
I have been drawn to the engineering field because of its importance in solving some of the world’s most complex problems. I enjoy being able to use my technical skills to improve the world around us and have always been interested in computers and specifically, building full-stack web applications. I’ve had strong role models in my family, as well, with my older sister having been a software engineer, and my mom’s encouragement to become an engineer.

I decided that I wanted to get a M.Eng. in Engineering Management because I feel as though it truly rounds out my experience as an engineer and employee in the industry. I already have the technical education and knowledge through my Bachelors degree and my work experience, but now I want to expand upon that by learning more of the business-side of the engineering world and getting a more broad view of how the company works and how to further advance our success in our pursuits in the future.

Why did you choose the Cornell Engineering Management program? 
I chose the Cornell Engineering Management program because of the reputation of Cornell’s prestigious engineering program and because in my research of the program before applying, I felt that the program had a strong lineup of courses that pertained to my interests and goals as an emerging engineering leader. Additionally, I loved the fact that the program offered a Online Learning option, which is crucial for me balancing a full-time job from Pennsylvania.

A positive highlight from the program so far has been meeting so many intelligent students with different backgrounds from all over the world within the program. Many of our classes require group projects and in working with other students, I’ve been able to learn from them just as much as they’ve hopefully been able to learn from me and my prior experiences. My classes have had a mix of students who are currently working full-time, such as myself, and those who just graduated from college and haven’t had any real work experience yet, which has greatly enhanced my education because I’ve been able to learn from so many different perspectives that I may not have considered otherwise. The collaboration between students within the program and the support by the faculty and staff to help us foster those relationships has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my time at Cornell thus far.

Can you give an example of something you learned in class that you then applied to your job? 
An example of something I’ve learned in class that I then applied to my job is learning my personal leadership style and understanding when it’s better to use one style over another in certain situations even if it’s one that is outside of my comfort zone. From Professor Newman’s lectures, I’ve learned that various situations warrant a different leadership style to yield positive results and they each have their pros and cons. In learning this, I’ve been able to continuously reflect on my time as a leader and how I can better improve my actions and reactions in each situation I am faced with. It is still a learning process, but I am happy to have learned the attributes of each leadership style and to be able to practice choosing the most effective approach to guide my teams in the right direction as I continue with my career.

What’s next? 
Upon graduating from this program, I hope to be able to continue to apply my Cornell education to my job and to enhance my current leadership skills using the knowledge I’ve learned from my professors and classmates. I also hope to continue the relationships I’ve gained throughout my time within the program and to help grow the Cornellian Engineering Management network by being open to mentoring the next generation of students and supporting the program as an active alumna.

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