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Blugold proves it pays to have a plan by landing dream job after graduation

| Erin Finneman

In college, students often learn that best-laid plans don’t always work out as they intended. Job offers may come from far away, financial stress can cause roadblocks and getting involved may be more difficult than it seemed. Life tends to throw a lot of curveballs, but learning how to stick to the plan — and hit the curveballs — often leads to big victories.

Not only has Patrick “Patch” Smith proven that he can hit the curveballs life throws, he is a legitimate home-run hitter. Patch is proof that, with the right amount of work and dedication, career plans can fall perfectly into place, even if they involve moving across the country.

“I didn’t expect to experience many of the things I did in college. But through it all, I now have the opportunity to move to an entirely new place to take on a challenging full-time job,” said Patch, a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire operations and supply chain management major from Shakopee, Minnesota, who will graduate in May.

Through his dedication to his studies during his time at UW-Eau Claire, Patch has lined up a career that suits him well and will keep him on his toes for years to come. Patch has accepted a job with Lockheed Martin, the biggest defense contractor in the country. Patch completed an internship with Lockheed Martin last summer in Ocala, Fla. Following his time as an intern, Patch applied for their leadership program, which has a very low acceptance rate. To his surprise, Patch was chosen for the three-year program and will start working after graduation this spring. Graduating and landing a dream job is now part of Patch’s reality.

“During my time at Lockheed Martin, I will focus on streamlining manufacturing processes to help the company run at its peak efficiency.” Patch said. “Essentially my job is to help the company do more without incurring more expenses.”

Cutting waste and increasing production while reducing expense is a tall order for a recent college graduate, but Patch is excited about the challenge.

First, Patch will be headed to Dallas to work as an operations engineer on the PAC-3 Patriot Anti-Missile. This missile is the most accurate anti-missile in the entire world and is properly called an “anti-missile” because its purpose is to intercept incoming missiles.

After his time in Dallas, Patch will head to Fort Worth, Texas to tackle a new task working on aeronautics for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet. Just like the PAC-3 Patriot Anti-Missile, the F-35 fighter jet is cutting edge. It is considered by many to be the most capable fighter jet in existence, and the F-35 has been called “the fighter jet of the future.” Pretty heady stuff for a college graduate, but Blugolds like Patch are thrilled by the challenge of working on such a huge project.

Patch’s career plans are extremely impressive on their own, and his college resume is something special. During his time at UW-Eau Claire, Patch has stood out both academically, and as a leader within the College of Business. Patch has proven his leadership skills for the past three semesters as the longest-running UW-Eau Claire chapter president for APICS, the Association for Operations Management. Every week Patch takes on the task of leading meetings along with his board of co-leaders for the growing student organization, which currently has about 90 members.

“APICS is a super fun organization that helps me develop my leadership and public speaking skills every week,” Patch said. “I joined as a first semester freshman and never left. We get to attend really cool international conferences, most recently in Las Vegas. It’s an awesome way to meet people and network during college.”

Patch didn’t stop there though, he also gained valuable experience working on process improvement at UW-Eau Claire. He was personally selected by his academic adviser to help out because of his standout performance and proven leadership skills.

“After budget cuts were made, the university needed help being just as effective with fewer people. I was selected to help streamline processes to do even more than we were doing before,” Patch said.

Through all of his unique opportunities, Patch felt ready to tackle the hardest task he had taken on to date: passing the Certified and Production Information Management exam before entering his senior year. The CPIM exam is a series of five tests that, if passed, serves as a professional certification of operations management skills. Patch was the first student his academic adviser had ever seen pass the exam before senior year.

Patch is undoubtedly an outstanding student and developing professional, but remains humble and gives credit to UW-Eau Claire and his professors for getting him to where he is now.

“The professors here have always pushed me and they really make an effort to know me personally,” he said. “I chose to join a student organization and take on leadership opportunities because they stressed the importance of doing those things all the time. They know what works and what is marketable after college, so they really do what they can to see their students succeed,” Patch said. 

Patch also feels as though the courses he has taken at UW-Eau Claire helped set him apart from other students at bigger schools.

“The operations courses at UW-Eau Claire are tailored to help prepare you for exams,” Patch said. “I feel like my coursework helped prepare me for the CPIM exam and having that done before many of my competitors helped me nail down my job.”

After reflecting on his time at UW-Eau Claire and his crazy string of real-world experience, Patch offers a bit of advice to current and prospective students.

“Join an organization and get involved right away,” Patch said. “In college, you have to learn to say ‘yes’ to every opportunity and be a leader when you can be. Sometimes opportunities will be unexpected, but choosing to take them on can help set you apart and will without a doubt help you land your dream job after graduation.”

It’s hard to compete with a Blugold with a plan.