Beyond K-State: Meet Bryce Huschka, '07 BSMS, of ExxonMobil
Beyond K-State is a series that takes an inside look at the lives of successful IMSE graduates and highlights the exciting career options available within the IE field.
Meet Bryce. He’s the distributor business consultant for ExxonMobil, based in San Francisco, California. Bryce joined the company in 2007 after graduating from the inaugural Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering (IMSE) joint bachelor’s and master’s degree program at Kansas State University. His first title was territory manager where he was responsible for a multi-million dollar business right out of school. Since then, he has steadily advanced and now manages the lubricants distributor network for the western United States. His role is to manage a network of business partners and build their capability to connect end customers across a wide range of industries to products and services that can improve their productivity, energy efficiency and equipment life. “My industrial engineering background, and specifically my master’s thesis, changed the way I see and solve problems,” Huschka said. “It drives me to understand the complex systems around us, to seek out their barriers and to break them down so we can exceed what was previously thought possible.”
Did you always want to be an engineer?
No, I wanted to become a lawyer and to eventually enter the public sector. I thought engineering would be a good stepping stone, so I signed up for an orientation at K-State. My seat happened to be next to David Ben-Arieh, a K-State IMSE professor, who couldn’t stop raving about the “People” side of industrial engineering (IE). To be honest, I had no clue what it really was, but I was sold. It still isn’t easy to explain IE. Some call it “imaginary engineering.” I think that is why I fell in love with it so early and law school became an afterthought. It was imaginary because we were applying engineering in areas that no one else was. Who would have thought engineering could be used to most effectively move humanitarian aid during third world country crises? It is still a young profession and will confront increasingly difficult business, people and geo-political challenges for years to come.
What is your biggest professional accomplishment?
It’s hard to decide. Each job seems to get bigger – so I will give you two examples. In my second role at ExxonMobil, I served as a financial analyst in Washington D.C. and was a lead on one of the largest-ever SAP system implementations. I embraced technology and was eventually leading global analytics seminars for the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia regions. More recently in audit, I was able to lead significant changes to the way our organization, and even the corporation as a whole designs and evaluates controls. There were just a few hundred of us across the corporation and we were trusted with a great deal of responsibility in helping managing the risks associated with a multi-billion dollar, extremely complex and dangerous business. We traveled across the U.S. and internationally looking at how we developed the latest technology, manufactured products, invested in projects and managed our customer service (I think I tallied over 170 nights in hotels in one year and developed an itch for traveling that will never fade). My work to improve our commercial risk management culminated with a presentation of my vision to General Auditor and his leadership team. Right before I presented, he had to leave the room because CEO Rex Tillerson had arrived for a dinner with the group later. I will admit that the Chairman did not stay for my presentation, but at ExxonMobil it was still like the President of the United States showing up to speak right after me!
What advice would you give future IMSE graduates?
We are all entrepreneurs. You own your career, and that will always be your business. After you understand that, invest in yourself early and often because time invested today is worth way more than time invested tomorrow. Be curious, be different, and be passionate. Once you find something you love, start connecting the dots, finding the barriers, and then break them down. Finally, and most importantly, use your success to give back and have fun. Nothing else is worth it without that.
Who is your mentor or Icon?
My grandfather is definitely my icon, and my middle name Martin came from him. He was one of those model Americans: a World War II veteran, a hardworking farmer, a long-term county commissioner and a constant community servant. He taught me that we will fall down. Our challenges will change but the principles with which we confront life never have to: faith first, opportunity, hard work, perseverance, service, laughter and, most of all, love. At 91 years old, you could still catch him driving around delivering meals-on-wheels in his red pickup truck. That is just one example of how he taught me to selflessly give back. My passions are education and energy. Before I moved to San Francisco, I volunteered for Higher Achievement an organization that strives to increase college entrance rates for less privileged students.At K-State, I am now the Vice-Chair of the IE Advisory Council, have established two separate scholarship endowments with my family and the help of ExxonnMobil’s 3-to-1 matching program, and just started an “innovating engineering education” fund directed at any efforts to change the way we teach our students. I just hope that work has an impact on others, like my grandfather had on me, and inspires others to pursue challenging careers and use their success to give back for years to come.
What is one thing you wish someone would have told you about Industrial Engineering?
I guess it is probably really similar to the advice I would give students today that I mentioned. I would add that, with the versatility of an IE degree, you are sitting on a lottery ticket. Honestly, your biggest challenge now is to figure out what problems you want to spend your life solving. I suggest finding your passion and then figuring out a way to use your IE background to change the organization and people around you. If you do that, work will always be fun.
Are you currently reading any good books?
No, nothing in particular. I probably don’t read enough books. I am a very active reader of the news and especially current events with geo-political context. It is really a challenge today with all the content out there to focus on the things that matter. It is also easy to get caught up in our jobs or quick social media type headlines. To keep myself honest, every night my girlfriend and I try to discuss four new, interesting things we learned throughout the day. It has been rather enlightening to see how differently we look at the world, and it definitely forces us to pay attention because it has turned into a competition!
How do you balance work and life?
I guess I try to always just keep moving and work as hard at having fun as I do in my career. My favorite things to do in my personal time are to travel, try great food and drinks and to challenge myself mentally and athletically. One of my most recent adventures was to register for a marathon in Antarctica. Eventually I want to run a marathon on every continent and I thought I might as well knock the most difficult one off second!