Kelli Martino

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Engineering student Kelli Martino finds a Deere job waiting across country
Engineering student Kelli Martino finds a Deere job waiting across country

When Kelli Martino graduates, she’ll have a lot to celebrate. The Rowan University senior mechanical engineering major from Dennisville is an accomplished student, a service leader and a former General Mills intern at the Vineland Progresso plant. She also has a job lined up after graduation — halfway across the country.

Martino recently accepted a job offer from John Deere. After graduation, she’ll pack her bags and move to Ottumwa, Iowa, to work in a manufacturing engineering position in the company’s agriculture division. Until she visited the facility for her interview in January, Martino had never been to Iowa. The area, she said, is comparable to the size of the Millville-Vineland area in South Jersey. Martino did notice one big difference between her home state and Iowa.

“There’s lots of corn out there,” she said.

Career waiting
In this economy, any student would be glad to have a job — an actual career — waiting for him or her after graduation. “I’m excited to have the independence,” Martino said, “and a little bit nervous, because I don’t have any family or friends out there.”

Still, Martino anticipates making new friends in the Midwest. John Deere has “a young population in the company, a good social network.” Martino is excited to be a part of that network.

That social network, of course, isn’t the only part of the job that Martino is looking forward to. She will work with hay-bailing equipment, supporting the production lines. Martino is most looking forward to the hands-on experience — something her Rowan engineering education has prepared her for very well.

It was Martino’s clinic courses that pointed her in her current career direction. “I liked product development,” Martino found out, “but getting into how things are mass-produced” is her real passion. The course Martino most vividly remembers is the Baja clinic she worked on as a junior.

Working late nights
“There were a lot of late nights. When you get to know the third shift housekeeping crew by name, you know you’ve spent too many late nights in the building,” she said.

The construction of the Baja car — a one-person, off-road vehicle that students design, build and race in a competition judged by car manufacturing company representatives — was full of ups and downs for Martino and her team.

“We were still finishing building the car when we left for the competition” in April 2010, she remembered. But the Baja car did something even Martino didn’t anticipate: it crossed the finish line, making Martino and her crew one of the few Rowan teams ever to do so.

Martino called the memory “bittersweet,” noting that the team’s long nights were worth their success. “It’s very challenging, but you learn so much from the project. Our hard work paid off. I thought, ‘I can’t believe we did it!’” when the car crossed the finish line.

The Baja competition is a special memory of Martino’s, but the 2010 president of Rowan's chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) is careful not to call it her favorite memory. “There are so many different outreach activities that it’s hard to pick a favorite,” Martino said.

Learned from SWE
Martino learned a lot from being part of SWE. “Getting to be more of an active member and moving up through different offices taught me delegation, people and organizational skills,” she reflected. “SWE was the foundation. I probably wouldn’t have gotten the internship at General Mills without my involvement and leadership in SWE.” That internship and its accompanying manufacturing experience helped Martino secure the position with John Deere.

In fact, Martino’s involvement in SWE is what brought the John Deere position to her attention in the first place. “I never really thought of John Deere,” Martino said — until the November 2010 national SWE conference in Orlando introduced Martino to the John Deere representatives. The company was part of a massive career fair. Martino applied online at the end of the fall semester, “thinking nothing of it.” Soon the company contacted her for a phone interview. Eventually, the company offered to fly Martino to Iowa for an on-site interview.

Grabbing opportunities
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Martino said. “I decided to take the opportunity. It’s a free trip.” Most students are nervous enough going to job interviews even without having to be flown to the site, but Martino kept her composure.

“This is my opportunity,” she decided. “I’m just going to do my best. I wasn’t really nervous, but I wasn’t not nervous, either.”

Luckily for Martino, she didn’t have a long time to be nervous after the interview. She said, “Within 48 hours John Deere contacted me with an update on my interview status.”

Before finding the John Deere position, Martino confessed, she had absolutely no idea what post graduation would be like. Now she looks forward to specific opportunities.

Working with mechanical equipment and manufacturing is on the list of things Martino can’t wait to do. So is working for a strong company despite the economy.

Martino credits her Rowan engineering professors for helping provide her with such a stellar foundation. “I’d like to say thanks to all of my professors for the support I’ve gotten from all of them,” she said. “They’ve all helped me out in very different ways.”

Although she learned and achieved a lot during her time at Rowan, Martino is ready to move out of academia and into the professional sphere. “I’m looking forward to having a lot more free time,” she said, noting that although her formal education is completed, her informal education is just beginning.

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