EXXON Hires Three NJIT Seniors: Great Jobs with Great Pay

The three seniors who will work at Exxon are (from left) Yohana Garcia, Michael Scudiero and Victoria Leybova.

Right after they graduate, three seniors will work at ExxonMobil, which will offer them challenging assignments and high starting salaries. All three of the seniors major in chemical engineering at the Albert Dorman Honors College.

Last year, Exxon also hired three seniors, all of whom now work there as engineers. It’s thus unsurprising that Exxon returned to NJIT to hire three more graduates. Here’s a brief story about each of the three.

When Victoria Leybova was a little girl, her father would tutor her in math. He was an adept tutor -- he works as a chemist -- and Victoria soon outpaced her classmates. She still recalls the first day of first grade, when her teacher distributed workbooks to the class. Victoria took the workbook home with her that day and worked on it all night. The next morning, she handed the book to her teacher, who flipped through the first few pages, paused, and kept on flipping. It flummoxed her to see that Victoria had finished the entire workbook, which was intended to last the entire marking period.

“She was mad at me,” recalls Victoria. “Because of my dad, I was always a little ahead in math.”

A little ahead may be a little bit of an understatement. When, for instance, Victoria took the SATs in high school, she scored a perfect 800 in math. That same year she signed up for AP physics. She was the only girl in the class and she could sense that her teacher, as well as some of her classmates, were uneasy about her presence.

“I had the sense that the teacher wanted to make inappropriate jokes but couldn’t because I was there,” Victoria says. “But I liked being the only girl and liked the fact that he couldn’t make those jokes.” 

In her senior year, Victoria applied to the Honors College, which took note of her good grades and her perfect SAT score. She was in.

As a freshman at NJIT she was shy; she didn’t like to speak publicly. To overcome her timidity, she signed up to work as a student ambassador in the admissions office, giving tours to high school students. And after awhile it worked -- she bloomed.

“Not only was I able to overcome my shyness but I was able to convince other shy incoming freshmen that NJIT may be the place for them,” Victoria says. “The most convincing thing I said to get students to apply to NJIT was that it’s a tight-knit community. I would tell them, ‘I never thought I'd be giving tours of my campus, but knowing staff and faculty motivates you to try different things and make yourself known around campus. Here, you'll never be just a number.’”

Now, four years later, Victoria is graduating with a 3.99 GPA, high honors and an award for academic achievement. When people hear about her academic and professional success, some assume she’s some kind of genius. But her success was begat not by genius, she says, but by industriousness.

“Truthfully, I have always set goals and I have worked hard to accomplish those goals,” she adds. “I might have a natural talent for science and math but there are so many students who are even better than me at those subjects.  And there are tons of things I am terrible at that others are great at.  I think everyone is a ‘genius’ in his or her own way.”

One thing Victoria excels at, no doubt, is engineering. And that is why she’ll move to Houston this summer to work as process engineer for Exxon’s Downstream Research and Engineering division. Last year, Exxon recruiters came to the Career Development Services office to interview top NJIT seniors. She impressed the recruiters, who later flew her to Virginia for another round of interviews. She again impressed them; that’s how she got the job.

Victoria has come a long way, academically and geographically.  She was born in the Ukraine; her parents came to America when she was 4 years old. They settled first in Brooklyn and then moved to West Milford, N.J., where she grew up.  Both her parents work as chemists, so Victoria was weaned on math and science. Yet she also always liked to work on projects with her hands, so engineering was the major for her. And Exxon may be the perfect company – and job – for her.

“One of the NJIT seniors who Exxon hired last year -- Faidy Rusinque -- will be my mentor when I start my job,” says Victoria. “I’ll have support from her as well as from the other two NJIT grads Exxon hired last year. I’m really looking forward to taking what I have learned during my time at NJIT and putting it to practical use at Exxon.”

**********

Yohana Garcia has also come a long way.  She attended community college, worked for a few years and then was married -- all before beginning her studies here. She came to NJIT with maturity and direction and it served her well. After she graduates this May, she’ll also  move to Texas, where she’ll work as a process contact engineer at Exxon’s Baytown site. What follows is her story -- in her own words.

How did you get the job at Exxon?

Last summer I was awarded the ExxonMobil LOFT (Latinos on Fast Track)  Fellowship. Through this program, I participated in a Harvard-certified ExxonMobil mentorship program. At the end of the program I was invited to participate that fall in the ExxonMobil Future Leaders Academy. It was an inspiring and encouraging experience for me. I met some of the leaders of the company as well as learned about Exxon's career opportunities. This experience as well as NJIT's Career Fair helped me get the offer.

Why did you major in chemical engineering?

I chose chemical engineering because you receive a broad education, which opens many job opportunities. I liked that I learned about many different topics and didn’t feel constricted to a narrow field. Also, the market for chemical engineering majors is strong and you can get a good job with a bachelor’s degree. 

Did you have good professors?

I had great professors. Some go out of their way to get you information for programs and scholarships. Professor Angelo Perna recruited me for the McNair Program, which has been a steppingstone in my career.

What has been the highlight of your time at NJIT?

I am a transfer student from Middlesex County College and started out at NJIT as a sophomore. After Middlesex, I took a three-year break since I couldn't afford a four-year university. During this time I worked at a dental office. I ended up getting married and thankfully was able to return to NJIT. After being away from school for three years, I wasn't sure everything was going to come back as easy (studying).

But you did well in your studies -- things did come back to you.

Yes, and each semester at NJIT just continued to get better. After my first year, I did research through the McNair program, and I've presented my research at various showcases.  As a junior, I transferred into the Albert Dorman Honors College, a great accomplishment for me. I also did a co-op with Colgate-Palmolive, in Morristown. I worked in the underarm protection, or deodorant pilot plant. A pilot plant is a miniature plant and we worked alongside chemists who work on different formulations and my unit scaled them up.

Are you the first in your family to attend college?

Yes, my father is from Colombia and my mother is from  the Dominican Republic. I was born in Venezuela and we moved to the U.S. when I was 5 years old.

You had an internship at Merck.

Yes, I wanted to get experience in the pharmaceutical industry. At Merck I worked in the manufacturing division. My department was responsible for carrying formulations from the pilot-plant scale to commercial production.

Would you recommend NJIT to high school seniors?

Yes. You receive a great education here. There are also many research opportunities and NJIT's Career Development Services is great in helping you obtain an internship.

Are you looking forward to your new job?

I know this job will be challenging but I am confident that NJIT has prepared me both academically and professionally. I look forward to becoming the best possible engineer that I can be and contributing to the company.

**********

Michael Scudiero is graduating from NJIT magna cum laude, with four scholarships and a perennial place on the dean’s list. Yet, these achievements notwithstanding, as a freshman he nearly dropped out. He struggled with his classes and scored poorly on exams. But he dug down deep within himself and found the intestinal fortitude to not only survive but thrive at NJIT. And now a great job awaits him at Exxon. Here is Michael’s story.

Why did you struggle so much as a freshman?

Even with balancing sports and academics in high school, I graduated near the top of my class with very little studying. Because of this, I thought college was going to be  easy; I turned out to be completely wrong. I struggled badly during my freshman semester, doing poorly on all of my exams. There were many times freshman year when I really didn't think I was going to make it.  I wanted to quit. I started pushing myself to work harder, however, remembering that my grandparents, who never went beyond elementary school, would have given anything for the chance to be educated. And as time went on, I  learned to manage my time better and figure out how much work you have to put in to be successful.

How'd you get the Exxon job?

During my sophomore year I was selected to participate in the ExxonMobil LOFT Fellowship, which I found out about through Career Development Services. It was a great program where I met an employee who was my mentor and shared with me what it was like to work at ExxonMobil. She encouraged me to apply for an internship in the local ExxonMobil office, and I was hired as an intern that summer. At the end of the first internship, I was asked if I wanted to return the next summer, which I did. In October, I received a call from management offering me a full-time position. I’ll be based in Annandale, N.J., where I interned the past two summers. I will work for ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company, in the Pilot Plant and Laboratory Engineering Group.

Why did you major in chemical engineering?

I chose chemical engineering because I was always really interested in math and chemistry. Math has always come easy to me and chemistry was fun.  The problem solving that is involved with chemical engineering is exactly what I wanted to do.

What have been the highlights of your NJIT education?

In May, I will graduate with a degree in chemical engineering and a minor in chemistry. I’m a member of the Honors College, Omega Chi Epsilon and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AICHE). I have been the recipient of the Paul Laman Scholarship, the McGowan Family Scholarship, the ExxonMobil Technical Scholarship, and the Otto H. York Merit Award. I’ve also received scholarships from the Honors College. And I have to say thanks to Professor Angelo Perna, who always had an open door policy for me, even when I wasn’t in one of his classes.

Are you looking forward to your job?

Yes, I was fortunate to have had those two internships at ExxonMobil. Therefore, my superiors and my colleagues already know about my work ethic, my abilities and my commitment to the job. I also established a close bond with my coworkers over those two summers. I have a high respect for the management team for the guidance they provided me. I’m excited to continue my work in the pilot plant and expand my knowledge of the petroleum industry.

Last summer when I interned there, I participated as an Exxon employee at one of their community events. Seeing them give back to the community inspired me to want to give back to others when I’m in a position to do so. Many people at NJIT have helped me. All that I have learned from my years at NJIT has prepared me well and I’m looking forward to starting this new and exciting chapter in my life.   

By Robert Florida (robert.florida@njit.edu)