Joy Martin doesn’t consider herself entrepreneurial, but there she is, one of three managing partners of a young company embedded in the supply chains of one of the country’s busiest aerospace corridors.
How did Martin, with an undergraduate degree in marketing, begin solving supply chain puzzles for suppliers of the likes of GE Aviation and Pratt & Whitney? A growing interest in analytics led her to forgo the job market after graduation so she could pursue her MS in Information Systems at the Kelley School. The decision paid off, particularly with her second career move. When Martin reached out to a friend whose new company had begun making waves in the Cincinnati area, she was interested in working for Robot Morning. To her surprise, she was offered ownership in the company, which develops supply chain automation software for aerospace manufacturing.
You said you were surprised to be offered ownership in the company—but also ready for the challenge. How did the MSIS program prepare you for this leadership role?
“Having that experience of both the business and technical sides of the technology sector, and having that introduction to software that helps almost everything run anymore, has had a very direct impact on what I did during my first job after graduation and what I’m doing now.”
“I built on my undergraduate degree and my coding skills—I took technical courses on such topics as disaster recovery and enterprise resource planning (ERP). The overarching idea was that business and IT were like a Venn diagram. The benefit of the MSIS curriculum was the management side of it, how you manage a team in a tech environment. That’s what I’m doing now. I manage a team of developers at Robot Morning, as well as being a developer myself. I help manage the projects that we have going with our customers and the other departments within our company.”
What do you enjoy about your work?
“Certainly it’s not what I thought I would be doing when I graduated from high school. What I like about it, on the business ownership side, is being my own boss and being able to make those decisions about what I’m going to work on and how I’m going to approach something. There’s something kind of fascinating about seeing certain patterns come about. We work with many different ERPs. My department largely translates data that we’re getting from large companies like GE, Rolls Royce, Pratt & Whitney, what we call OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and get that data to their suppliers. The ERPs can be very different. We’re moving in the direction of finding ways to standardize our approach and processes. There’s that sense of looking at the data and seeing the ways in which the data structures are similar and the data flows are similar.
I’ve found that I really like coding, too, to be able to sit down and start with nothing and then write something and see it work. Coding offers a serotonin hit when you get something working.”
Creativity was part of your academic journey, from playing trombone in the Marching Hundred to majoring in marketing in part because of the creativity involved. Did you have to put that aside during your tech career?
“It’s not what I would have defined creativity as in high school, but finding solutions for our customers often requires creativity. I have data from the customer and I need to get it to the supplier but its ERP doesn’t have a way to handle it. As much as company ERPs are similar, they often have something that works a little differently, so you have that creativity in working out how the data moves. We can’t say, ‘We can’t do that for you.’”
Do you have any tips or insights that you’d like to share with current MSIS students and those who are considering the degree?
- Take chances. “I’m a shy person by nature, but I took chances. So, don’t be afraid to take chances and don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone. For my first job, I could have lived in Indy, where I knew a lot of people, or in Cincinnati, where I didn’t know anyone. I chose Cincinnati because it would force me to network, even if to just make friends. The benefit was to meet people who owned their own companies and have come to Cincinnati from all over the world. Putting myself out there and making myself uncomfortable has gotten me where I am.”
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. “The program leaders and professors are there to help you. If you’re struggling with something, or not really sure where to go or what to do, they have resources.”
- Take advantage of graduate career services. “They’re always willing to put you in touch with companies and career coaches. There are opportunities for mock interviews and to be on the other side of the interview, which is interesting because it lets you see what interviews are like from the recruiters’ position—it humanized the whole process. The interview I had that led to my first job—it was the best feeling I’ve ever had coming out of an interview and that’s because they prepared us for being in those kinds of interviews.”
- You can succeed with undergraduate degrees outside of business and computer science. “It’s not a tech-focused program. It’s about the marriage between the two. If you have an interest in tech but not much experience in it, this could be your introduction, to start to see how it works and functions in a business setting and not simply a pure coding-all-day or tech role. Understanding this is important to any manager.”
You said you didn’t go straight into the workforce after earning your undergraduate degree because at the time, there weren’t many recruiting opportunities for marketing positions that were heavy in analytics. Do you ever regret that decision?
“Maybe its serendipity, but I think about how my life would be different if I had made any other choice—if I had chosen a different college, if I had chosen a different city, if I had gone straight into the workforce. I’m happy that I went the MSIS path because I don’t think I’d be here now if I hadn’t.”