Mike O’Brien Selected as SIE Alum of the Year
Mike O’Brien, who earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the Department of Systems and Industrial Engineering, has been selected as the 2021 SIE Alum of the Year. O'Brien currently works as the chief operating officer of the real estate development company Kiernan-West.
After earning his bachelor’s degree in systems engineering in 1991, O’Brien spent two years in industry before returning to the UA for his master’s degree in industrial engineering. After completing his MS in 1996, he went on to work for companies such as Intel and Verizon doing supply chain data analytics. He said the toolbox he started building as an SIE student, with methods for defining problem boundaries, identifying clear cause and effects, and grading potential solutions, has helped him differentiate himself in his career.
In 2015, he fulfilled a longtime goal by returning to SIE as a lecturer. He spent two years as an adjunct professor before he returned to the private sector, joining Kiernan-West in 2019. He’s still an active member of the department community, attending panel discussions, offering guest lectures, and serving on the SIE Partner Board.
“I absolutely loved those two years and fully intend to return at some point, if the opportunity arises,” he said. “One of the things I’ve always enjoyed throughout my career is mentoring, or just imparting what I do well onto those who are eager to learn.”
Some of his top advice for students? Look at ways to bring together the social and academic parts of your life.
“The more opportunities you create to apply your coursework to real-life problems, the more passionate you will be, and the better you will grasp the concepts,” he said. “The problems you solve in your professional life will not be the same ones you solve during your school years. So, understand that the goal is not just to learn how to solve a specific problem, but how to problem solve in general.”