After Discovering Inner Strength in MOT, Alumna Earns Promotion at Prominent Engineering Firm | Technological Leadership Institute

Posted on
December 19, 2017
Photo of MOT 2009 alumna Debbie Lee Reider, along with the title of this blog

For years, Debbie (Lee) Reider thought of herself as a stereotypical left-brain person: good at math and science, and squeamish when it came to communication-related matters. And while she always excelled academically and professionally, she often doubted herself as a leader.

A 2009 graduate of the M.S. in Management of Technology (MOT), the Debbie Reider of today is a completely different woman. Donning a power suit and contagious smile, Debbie is confident and enthusiastic. She is a self-made leader.

Reider grew up in Pepin, Wisconsin, about 30 miles southeast of Red Wing, Minnesota, and went on to earn a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Minnesota in 2004. Upon graduating, she was hired by Leo A Daly, an architecture and engineering firm, to work as a mechanical engineer and sustainability champion. After eight years, she started contemplating ways to fast track her career.

“I was impatient and wanted to climb up the ladder as fast as I could, and I knew grad school would give me that advantage by exposing me to a higher level of thinking to quicken my professional development,” said Reider, who had also gone through the company’s Leadership Institute program, an experience that made her all the more curious about continuing education.

One of the programs she considered, like many of our alumni and students when they initially explore graduate school options, was an MBA. But one major concern was, would it lead her away from engineering?

“It left unanswered questions about where I could go, and I was determined to stay in the mechanical engineering industry,” said Reider, who learned about MOT through her husband Neile Reider who was in the Infrastructure Systems Engineering program (class of 2008).

“Once I heard about MOT, what really appealed to me was that I could still work while earning my degree. I was drawn to having leadership and business classes with a strong foundation in technology and not moving away from engineering,” said Reider.

“I was convinced MOT was for me after meeting with Dr. Massoud Amin, whose passion was contagious and who excited me about learning from talented and brilliant individuals who teach in the program.”

Once in the program, though, she describes having been intimidated by her confident and forward classmates and the illustrious faculty.

“I used to doubt myself and it wasn’t until I continued through the program that my confidence started to grow,” she said. “I re-evaluated why I was accepted into the program and started to place more confidence in my abilities.”

She surprised even herself when she turned a weakness into one of her biggest strengths.

“The reason I even wanted to go into engineering was that I loved math and science, and soft skills weren’t my forte,” she said laughing as she recounted getting a sub-par grade on her initial writing assessment in Dr. Stephen Wilbers’ class. “MOT challenged my writing skills and I’ve learned how vital communication is. Writing is actually now one of the ways I’m able to differentiate myself from my peers!”

She says she owes a lot of her fortified confidence to her spouse because of his support.

“While we were in school at the same time, we’d study together and we felt like we were in the grad school and professional development journey together,” she said. “Then 2009 ended up being one of the biggest years of my life: I graduated from MOT, got married, and took and passed the professional engineers exam.”

Shortly after MOT, she was ready for a new challenge and took on a new role as senior mechanical engineer at AKF, a global MEP design and consulting firm that services owners, developers, architects and facility managers.

“I was the design lead and oversaw mechanical engineering design on projects,” said Reider. “I eventually moved into project management and became responsible for all the electrical, mechanical and plumbing components of a project, budgets, production and design staff. I was really building upon all of the management responsibilities that are required of leadership.”

As her role evolved, her former boss became an important mentor, and Reider became his right-hand person on office operations. When he resigned, she knew she was ready to take over his responsibilities and lead.

In June, Reider was promoted to principal in charge of AKF’s Minneapolis office.

“I’ve been able to leverage communication skills learned in MOT to be an effective leader,” she said. “And, because I didn’t get it during undergrad and my first job, having a financial and accounting foundation was extremely helpful for the operational side of the business. I felt so much more confident collaborating with all the departments in the company.”

She and the company have worked on a diverse breadth of projects, including Westminster Presbyterian Church, multi-family residential buildings and corporate office projects.

“Today, thanks to MOT challenging my analytical and strategic thinking skills, I’m constantly assessing how we can leverage emerging technologies. The mindset my firm and I have is adapting to changes in the workforce. This adaptability is what’s going to distinguish companies and individuals alike.”

She says her goal is to continue building a successful team with a sustainable office in Minneapolis to attract and retain talent and clients.

“I’m proud in taking ownership of so much that happens in the firm, and I’m committed to giving both our staff and clients an amazing experience,” said Reider. “My leadership has really come to blossom and, because I feel empowered, I also want to empower and fulfill people.”

Three such people? Her daughters, 6-year-old twins and a 2-year-old.

“Having them honestly helped me become a better professional,” she says, attributing her new-found organization and efficiency to motherhood. “I want to present myself as a strong professional to my girls. Even though I’ve overcome a lot of self-doubt, I hope they never have to go through that process in the first place. I used to be afraid of failure, but I’d much rather have them try and persevere.”

And to MOT students and prospects, she has a similar message: “Be brave. It doesn’t mean that you’re not scared, but that you overcome fear. That’s when you’ll be the most proud of yourself. That open-mindedness and reward of accomplishment when you achieve your goals will be worth it.”

To learn more about the M.S. in Management of Technology, be sure to attend an upcoming information session or set up an individual appointment with a member of our admissions team.

About the Author

Photo of Azra Halilovic

Azra Halilovic

Senior Communications Specialist

Once I heard about MOT, what really appealed to me was that I could still work while earning my degree. I was drawn to having leadership and business classes with a strong foundation in technology and not moving away from engineering.

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