Alumnus Catch-Up: Bryan Towns
Being in college, the idea of one day being an alum of the University of Maryland seems far into the distance. While it’s something we talk about often, it isn’t something we are ever prepared for when it finally arrives. With this said, our greatest hope is that when the time finally comes, we can take what we learned from our classes and experiences and apply them to the real world.
I recently reached out to Bryan Towns, a QUEST Cohort 7 alumnus that graduated in 2002 from the Clark School with a degree in Chemical Engineering. I got to learn about his work for Abbott Laboratories and how QUEST not only helped him attain his first job but has since also helped guide him with the special and unique skill set it gave to him.
Where do you work and what exactly do you do there?
I am Director of Program Management at Abbott Laboratories in Chicago. In that role, I lead the product development efforts for one of Abbott’s diagnostic divisions. The product that we are developing is a really cool automated instrument that isolates and identifies DNA and RNA to enable hospitals to diagnose a larger number of infectious diseases with higher accuracy and faster than is otherwise possible today.
How did QUEST help you in getting your job?
I still remember the specific interview question that landed me my first job out of Maryland! In a dual-sided panel interview (multiple interviewers asking the same question of multiple candidates), we were asked how to bring a team with differing views/interests to a consensus decision. I described the Pugh decision matrix that we had used across my three years in QUEST. After landing the job, I was told that response helped to set me apart by demonstrating the systematic thinking and team building skills that QUEST instills and are in demand across all industries back in 2002 through today.
If you could do things differently, what would you do?
I wish that I had become more involved at UMD and QUEST earlier in my career. I have become very involved in recruiting, sponsoring QUEST projects, and participating in the QUEST Alumni Board over the past 5-7 years, and I seem to learn something new and useful every time I am back on campus. Had I engaged in QUEST a decade earlier, I would have been able to apply those lessons earlier in my career.
What words of wisdom do you have for current QUEST students?
While being a jack-of-all-trades was once valued in industry, a much greater emphasis is put on depth and expertise in a specific field these days. Whatever your major, identify a field that you anticipate being valuable (for example, cybersecurity, government relations, and risk management are fields that are getting a lot of attention right now) and start building expertise in it while in school. Continue building and refining that expertise early in your career and you’ll be amazed by how many options will be made available for you.