Many people enroll in the Manufacturing Operations Management (MM) program with a straightforward goal: to learn technical and applied skills that will lead to a great job in an ever-evolving industry. But Kezele Livingstone goes a step further. He takes manufacturing principles that he learns in the classroom and adopts them as a way of life.
“In manufacturing, you don’t put effort into something that doesn’t pay back,” Livingstone says. “Customers are only willing to pay for what will add value to their product. I take that into my own life, especially when it comes to time management. I’m only doing things that will add value to my life.”
Livingstone came to the MM program with a hunger to learn and a drive to chase opportunity. His native Liberia, still recovering from 14 years of civil conflict and broken school systems, left him with few options by way of gaining an education, not to mention finding a suitable career. So in 2009 he moved to Minnesota where he had family members to help him get his feet on the ground. From there, he explored education options. His search led him to an undergraduate degree in geology, followed by a sharp pivot away from that major, which he wasn’t sure how he would apply in the real world. Instead, he earned credits for his general courses while continuing to search for a degree that felt like a good fit. Finally, Livingstone realized where he wanted to direct his ambition to learn and develop his profession: Manufacturing Operations Management.
“I was working as a quality inspector at Medtronic at the time, and one of my coworkers began to tell me about the U of M’s Manufacturing Operations Management program. He thought it would be a good fit for me,” Livingstone remembers. “So, I did some research on the program, then met with an advisor. Shortly after that, I applied to the program.”
And he hasn’t looked back. The program has been life-altering for Livingstone, who happily waxes poetic about streamlining manufacturing processes and the beauty of data as proof points when it comes to designing more efficient systems. Livingstone is a scholarship recipient who takes on his schoolwork with gusto, knowing that what he’s learning in class is pure, applicable knowledge that will carry him far in a manufacturing career. Learning about how efficient systems work and how success is gained by only pursuing that which adds value triggered something for him. As a man with a wife and two kids, a full-time job at Medtronic, and an academic career as a full-time student, he applies the golden rules of manufacturing to his own life. It’s working well for him.
“I think about time management. There are only so many hours in a day. There are only so many days in a year, and only so many years in a life. I ask myself, In the next 10 years, what do you want to achieve at this organization? I use that to focus. In manufacturing, you ask yourself those kinds of questions when you think about your operation and the evolution of technology and efficient production. You ask yourself, What are my limits? How do I eliminate waste from process? You have to ask yourself the right questions to be successful.”
Livingstone will graduate from the MM program in December, and plans to go on to earn his master’s degree in Manufacturing Engineering. Beyond that, he wants to gain work experience in the US, but ultimately he would like to return to Liberia, using his manufacturing operations management expertise to create opportunities for disadvantaged youths who are eager to learn and develop skills in a technical field. He would like to open a manufacturing facility in his native land that will put people to work and serve as a means of reducing the country’s dependency on some of the imported goods that could be manufactured in Liberia.
Livingstone keeps his aim high because, thanks to his MM degree, he feels prepared to take on whatever challenges are thrown his way.
“The MM program gives you the tools you need and the skills to give you confidence to articulate yourself to engineering leaders and business executives.” he says. “In short, you get the leadership depth and technical breadth, coupled with problem solving skills. With those things, you’re able to solve many complex problems.”
Kezele Livingstone is a recipient of the Nolte-Miller Scholarship and the Joan T. Smith Scholarship.