Chemical Engineering major Luis Mendez is already working at Exxon.
Luis Mendez graduated from the Albert Dorman Honors College in three and a half years, a semester early, and has already begun working at Exxon. He’s an engineer in Baton Rouge, responsible for the daily and long-term operation of units in Exxon’s refinery and sulfur plant.
The day he was offered the job, he says, was the happiest day of his life.
His family immigrated to America from Guatemala when Luis was 9-years old. He was always a hard-working student whose dream was to graduate from a top college and get a great job. In this interview, he explains how he did both.
Can you talk about your job at Exxon?
I actually started working at Exxon on the first week of February; I graduated from NJIT in January, a semester ahead of schedule and decided to start working right away. I really enjoy the people’ there's an open- door policy and everyone is willing to help you out and there's an emphasis on working together. I never thought that I would have this great job and start my career in a company that truly cares about my professional development.
Are you a first-generation college student?
Yes, I grew up in Guatemala and moved with my family to New Jersey when I was just nine-years old. I always dreamed about graduating from college and having a great career. I worked extremely hard in high school. I participated in Project SEED, a program run by the American Chemical Society that helps economically disadvantaged high school students learn about scientific careers. The program allowed me to do research at NJIT for two summers, during my sophomore and junior years, with Professor Gordon Thomas in the Physics Department. The American Chemical Society also awarded me a scholarship, which, along with Project SEED, helped pay for more than half of my education. I’m really grateful to them for that.
You were the second in your family to graduate from the Honors College?
Yes. I had the support of my parents who worked multiple jobs in order for my older sister, Carol, and me to have a chance at our dreams. Carol, who also graduated from the Honors College, is a great sister and role model to me. Even though she's smaller than me, it was hard to fill her shoes.
Did NJIT help you to get the job at Exxon?
Yes! My job at ExxonMobil would not have been possible if it wasn't for NJIT. I first interviewed at the NJIT Career Fair; a few days after the fair, I was given another interview on campus. Three weeks after my on- campus interview, I received a call to schedule an interview at the Baton Rouge refinery. It was an all-day interview; I interviewed with six different people, and at the end of the interview I was given an offer on the spot. It was the happiest day of my life -- to see all the hard work pay off and get my dream job at a great company.
Do you think NJIT prepared you well to work in industry?
NJIT offered me a unique experience; not only was I challenged technically as I progressed in my degree, but I also learned other important skills to be successful in the real world. I learned how to manage my time effectively, work with others and look outside the box for a challenge. I was in the Honors College and this allowed me to take different classes and enhance my overall experience. The chemical engineering department at NJIT offered great professors who have prepared me to take on the challenges I am facing now.
What was the highlight of your NJIT education?
The highlight of my NJIT education was probably my last semester. When you are a freshman, you sometimes question why you need to take a certain course. But once senior year comes, trust me: You are going through those old textbooks to help you out. I really enjoyed how everything came together at the end, when the fundamentals you learned in your earlier years are challenged in your latter classes.
What will you miss about NJIT?
I will miss talking with Professor Barat about Star Wars theories, trying to find in which office Professor Perna was hiding that day and waking up on Saturdays to attend an important Professor Bilgili lesson. I feel I was able to establish professional relationships that will last a lifetime and of course I made great friends along the way who will be part of my life for quite a while. I will miss long chats with Professor Reginald Tomkins, but I’m extremely thankful that his advice helped me to grow, not only as an engineer but also as a person.