Former students offer career-impacting advice at Boss Talk


Some of the most difficult challenges facing professional engineers aren’t technical; they’re personal, according to Jay Graham ’92, CEO of WildHorse Resource Development Corporation. Graham, along with four other former students — all successful CEOs and presidents — spoke to a crowded Rudder auditorium audience about the importance of hard work and integrity.   

Boss Talk, hosted by the Engineering Entrepreneurship Program, drew more than 1,000 students Thursday evening. Dr. Mark Weichold, associate dean of academic affairs for the Texas A&M University College of Engineering, moderated the event.  Joining him on stage was Graham, Tammira Philippe ’95, president of Bridgeway Capital; Stephanie Murphy ’01, president of Alpha Space and executive chairman of the board for MEI Technologies; Kenn Hall ’90, president and CEO of Anadarko Industries; and Derek Southard ’94, vice president of CryoLife, Inc.

As questions poured in on Twitter, there were emerging themes and concerns, namely, “What more can I do to be prepared for a career outside of engineering courses?” 

“We really enjoy bringing opportunities like Boss Talk to our engineering students,” said Rodney Boehm, director of the Engineering Entrepreneurship Program. “Creating interaction between former and current students inspires our students to accelerate their pathways to future successful careers,” he said.

As more questions came in about academic success and how that impacts ultimate success in the workplace, the bosses touched on similar advice each time. The experiences you gain outside of the classroom can ultimately shape your success in industry. Leadership, relationships and extracurricular experiences all enhance the education you get. There could be no success without a well-rounded experience.

Some of the advice extended into the first years of a career, emphasizing relationships and continued learning, particularly in the world of entrepreneurship. 

“I came to Boss Talk because I wanted to learn from execs who were in industry,” said Asa Graham, a computer science major. “I looked them up beforehand and knew that they took some of the paths that I’m considering for myself: entrepreneurship and going to business graduate school.” 

Asa Graham said his favorite piece of advice was to find someone who can serve as a mentor.

“Let them be a mentor and do everything you can to form a relationship with that person and gain as much knowledge as you can,” he said. “Being an entrepreneur, you need to have that experience on your side so you don’t make mistakes that lead to failure later on.”