PhD Profile: Josh Waite
Current Job Title: Consultant at McKinsey & Company
Undergraduate Degree: Mechanical Engineering, University of Maine, 2010
MS Degree: Mechanical Engineering, Duke University, 2013
MEMS PhD Program Path/ thesis topic: Mechanical Engineering, Topic: Turbomachinery, Dissertation Title: Physical Insights, Steady Aerodynamic Effects, and a Design Tool for Low-Pressure Turbine Flutter, 2016
What do you do at your job?
At my job, I help top businesses make lasting improvements to their performance and realize their most important goals. Typically, I spend no longer than 2-3 months at a specific client before moving on to a completely different industry (e.g., pharmaceuticals, media, med tech, industrial equipment) or topic (e.g., strategy, pricing, sales effectiveness, supply chain). So, it's never boring; it's like joining a new start-up 5-6 times a year!
How did your time at Duke prepare you for your current job?
My Duke experience strengthened my communications skills quite a bit. Communication wasn't my strength coming into Duke, but by leveraging the various unique opportunities provided to me (e.g., Oral communications expert training, traveling to six international conferences to give research talks, presenting at free-lunch seminars, departmental poster contests), I learned how to better communicate through multiple trial runs in low-risk environments. Now, as a consultant, I'm often teamed with people having unique personalities and backgrounds. Therefore, effective communication is important to both tailor what you're saying to your audience's interest and explain complex topics in a structured, logical fashion so they're easy to follow.
What was the most valuable part of your Duke experience?
The friends I've met and network I've created will last a lifetime (not to mention my wife!). I have so many memories from my time at Duke, including grad student campout, E-social, and participating in intramurals on East Campus. Duke is more than a place where you come to learn.
What were the most useful classes you took at Duke?
Dr. Witelski's Partial Differentiation Equation class. With tough exams and homework, this course taught me how to really prepare myself for challenging work. I also enjoyed the class for which I was a TA: Dr. Kielb's Advanced Mechanical Vibrations. Teaching assistantships like this one will develop new skills for early graduate students, especially in regards to mentoring.
What advice would you give to someone considering a PhD in MEMS at Duke?
Picking a lab or advisor is a big decision. If you're interested in multiple opportunities, reach out to the professor to ask questions. Most will respond quickly, but you should also ask for a referral to another student or PostDoc in the lab. They'll often have more time to answer your detailed questions.
Why did you choose Duke for your PhD degree?
Other than the basketball, Duke has a phenomenal brand name and incredibly devoted faculty. If you can succeed at Duke, you can succeed anywhere, and employers recognize that.