Q&A with Alumni: Thomas Igeme
January 19, 2018
Meet Thomas Igeme, an MS&E alum who is currently a Group Product Manager for LinkedIn.
He has led their innovation & Data Products Team and now runs their Product team that is responsible for all technology across their sales organization.
"For me, being an MS&E alum means taking old concepts and trying to look for new places to apply them, or to search for old problems to apply new frameworks to."
Why did you choose MS&E?
I came to Stanford as a pre-med who was going to double major in Anthropology and Biology. Being of African descent, I wanted a way to connect with my roots. So, I helped a group of international students as they formed the Stanford African Business Association. The Association allowed me to build relationships with some of the most impressive people that I’ve ever met. I was blown away by their strategic and organizational skills; they all seemed to understand what made businesses tick. I wanted to be like these rockstar Stanford students, and they were all MS&E majors. So I started taking MS&E classes, and never looked back.
What does it mean to be an MS&E alum?
I am really proud of how interdisciplinary the MS&E program is. For me, being an MS&E alum means taking old concepts and trying to look for new places to apply them, or searching for old problems to apply brand new frameworks to. That’s what MS&E taught me--taking something and shifting it to the side. I got exposed to a multitude of disciplines that I would never have imagined falling under Industrial Engineering. Taking one creativity course really stretched my idea of “fuzzy” versus “techy.”
How does your time at Stanford impact what you do now?
Stanford taught me how to learn and the value of thought diversity. It also instilled in me the importance of innovation; doing new things and the value of being at the forefront; and changing versus maintaining. So, that is what I do now. I focus on sales technology at LinkedIn, but I don’t focus on what we are doing today. My entire scope is what we are going to be doing three years from now, and how we build today what will be used then. And so literally nothing that is happening less than eighteen months from now is on my horizon. At Stanford, I always felt pushed to look forward, think ahead, think bigger, and stretch myself beyond what was to be expected.
Was there a particular class or professor that really stuck with you?
I don’t think I have a favorite, but I could list a couple of classes that I loved. I loved “Introduction to Network Theory,” which was a cross-listed class between MS&E and Public Policy. I thoroughly enjoyed “Introduction to Political Theory,” as well as an entrepreneurship class where we were able to write our business plans, which I loved. It was with Tom Byers in the Stanford Technology Ventures Program.
Can you tell me about the work you are doing now?
I am a Group Product Manager for internal sales and technology at LinkedIn. I run a team of PMs who are all responsible for the internal technology that our sales use. They design the experience; they do the testing, they build the technical solution so that engineering can pull it through. And then I have a bit of my team that is the classic strategy role, examining the market and figuring out where we think the market is going and predicting the risks and opportunities it presents. But I’m leaving LinkedIn next month to co-found trybe.ai - we’re building an AI/Voice personal assistant and career coach for the millennial professional. I can’t wait for the next adventure!
What inspires you most about this company?
The people I work with inspire me. I love what I do, but the most important thing to me in any role is my team; and my ability to develop that team and see them reach their full potential. I also enjoy being hands on, I love the content that we work on.
If there are one or two things that have enabled you to be successful in your career, what would it be?
Grit and growth. When I say growth, I mean the growth mindset, kind of the idea that failure is not something to be afraid of. We will fail, but it is about what we learn from it. The idea that intelligence isn’t a fixed thing, but something that grows. And that provides me with the understanding that I may become intimidated, but never scared off from things I don’t know. I found myself in all of the roles where I initially did not know what I was doing, but that is okay because you grow and you learn. I think the second is grit. It is the resilience to figure out what your passion is, and use that energy to push past the moments of failure and stick through the hard times. And once again, I think that enduring quality has served me well, as I have been able to take on challenges that others have walked away from.
What advice would you give to a current MS&E student?
Challenge yourself. If there is one class in your freshman or sophomore year that you don’t think you want to take, but many people say has an incredible professor, please take it.
Can you offer some words of wisdom for MS&E alumni and students interested in pursuing a career similar to your own?
Pick a rocket ship over a role. What I mean by this statement is pick a company that is going somewhere and needs to grow. If you find that exciting company, take any role and make it your own. So, if you end up on the product management (PM) track, rather than looking for PM roles, figure out who is creating really cool products, go in and start doing sales, and figure out a way into product. Companies that are growing always have more space, and it is easier to move around. Optimize for growth and trajectory of the company over the particular type of role.
Is there anything you would like to say before we end?
No one knows immediately after graduating what they will be doing in five years or what they want to do. Don’t be afraid if you are also uncertain, hide it. As long as you approach every situation with a learning and growth mindset, by figuring out what about it worked and what about it didn’t; and how you are going to grow from that. There is no such thing as a bad choice in your career.