Infinite Careers is a collaboration between Career Services (CAPD) and the MIT Alumni Association to explore career paths and the non-linearity of career decision making. Read profiles of alumni with unique career paths, hear their stories and network at a series of talks.
MIT, SB Environmental Engineering Science University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, MSE Environmental Engineering (1996) MIT Sloan School of Management, MBA (2006)
Kerry and his consulting firm partners help organizations tackle social, economic, and environmental problems with a focus on strategy, management, operations, and design. Prior to co-founding Msaada Partners, Kerry acquired extensive experience as an environmental engineer and manager during nine years with Texas Instruments (TI) and more than eight years with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Kerry worked on Facilities and Environmental, Safety, and Health (ESH) projects at TI including air pollution abatement, chemical & gas delivery systems, life cycle analysis, water conservation, and hazardous waste management. As Special Assistant to the Undersecretary for Environment at the Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs (EEA) Kerry provided oversight and assistance to EEA agencies and offices. Then as Associate Commissioner for Operations in the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) Kerry worked with MassDEP’s bureaus, offices, and regions to expand the outreach and technical assistance of the agency and also represented the department on the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, MA Food Policy Council, and the Commonwealth’s Climate Change Adaptation Sub-Committee. Kerry also led the state’s Brownfields Program and MassDEP’s Environmental Justice Strategies. In addition to holding leadership positions at his church, Kerry is a Food Solutions New England Trailblazer, mentors start-up firms as part of the MIT Venture Mentoring Service, and serves on the MIT Climate Action Advisory Committee and the Board of Overseers of the Museum of Science. Kerry holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in environmental engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Michigan, respectively, as well as an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management. Kerry lives in Somerville, MA with his wife, Sherri-Ann, and two young daughters.
What influenced you to choose your majors in undergraduate and graduate school?
My mother was a high school biology and chemistry teacher, so I was very interested in science. However, being at MIT I was drawn to engineering and almost compelled to be an engineer. Chemical engineering and environmental engineering seemed to be the best integrations of the natural and built environments. Environmental engineering was just getting started at MIT when I was an undergraduate, so I chose it. Continuing as an environmental engineer into graduate school was a natural progression.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your career?
The ability to help people create new things or improve existing ones whether working on Brownfields Development with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or with entrepreneurs and small business owners.
What motivates you to do the work that you do?
I have a passion for efficiency, so throughout my career I have typically found myself in liaison or translation roles where I stand at the nexus of multiple groups. I help them to execute better by listening, observing, and communicating shared objectives and values. Most projects and relationship for that matter do not succeed or grow due to ineffective communications.
What professional development activities did you participate in when you were in school or early on your career?
Most of my professional development activities during undergraduate came through participation in the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). Early on in my career I received a tremendous amount of professional development training at Texas Instruments (TI) in Dallas. Many have joked that “TI” actually stands for training institute. Nevertheless, most Fortune 500 companies spend a great deal of money and time investing in their employees as it accelerates impact and decreases the mean time to contribution.
What professional development activities do you participate in now?
I take advantage of MIT Alumni Association offerings such as the annual MIT Alumni Leadership Conference (ALC), and I attend workshops, conferences, seminars, and summits whenever my schedule permits (e.g., HUBweek, Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit).
Looking back on your experience at MIT, what advice would you give yourself if you knew then what you know now?
I would have told myself that professors are there for me, that I should seek out more international travel opportunities, and that I should venture farther outside of my comfort zone.
Do you have any tips for networking or job searching for current students and recent graduates?
Utilize the Infinite Connection and reach out to people who appear to have traveled along the career trajectory that you are pursuing. Alums do not receive that many requests for students, so when we do we often are very responsive. In addition to free advice you might even get a free cup of coffee or lunch. Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Be proactive, the worse that can happen is that the alum does not reply to your message or says that he or she is not available. The upside of reaching out far exceeds the downside.
What does “work-life balance” mean to you and what do you do to maintain a work-life balance?
My wife and I are both very busy with our professional lives, but we live by the mantra of “Family First”, especially when it comes to our two young daughters. This means that while our professional lives are very important that they do not supersede our personal and family lives. Thus, we make sure that one of us is at all school and extracurricular events for our girls if it is all possible, and we make it a point to carve out couple time and family time.
What do you like to do outside of work (e.g., to relax, for fun, as a hobby, on your free time, etc.)?
I am a big college football fan, so barbecuing and watching a couple of football games on a Saturday is my bliss.
Do you participate in any extracurricular or volunteer opportunities? If so, how do you manage your time and balance your professional and personal responsibilities?
I mentor entrepreneurs via the MIT Venture Mentoring Service and office hours at the Roxbury Innovation Center (RIC). I also serve on the MIT Climate Action Advisory Committee and the Board of Overseers of the Museum of Science. I also assist with the nursery and teach men’s bible study at my local church. I can only be in one place at a time, so I often times have to make tough decisions about where I spend my time. And over the years I have found out that it is necessary to say, “No”, a lot more than I would like to in order to say, “Yes”, when I really want to do so.