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Mike Jacobs Shows the Flexibility of an Engineering Education

Friday, June 17, 2016
Mike Jacobs

Worldwide Reach: Chemical engineering alumnus Mike Jacobs is vice president and chief procurement officer for Staples, Inc., a multi-billion dollar office supply company with more than 2,000 locations in 26 countries.

Not all Rose-Hulman graduates become engineers, but virtually all find that a science, engineering, and math education pays off no matter what profession they choose.

Mike Jacobs is a good example.

"Oddly enough, I've never engineered in my life," says the 1979 alumnus, now vice president and chief procurement officer for Staples Inc., a global office supply retailer.

After earning his Rose-Hulman chemical engineering degree, Jacobs got an MBA from the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business. That combination opened a lot of doors, Jacobs says.

"If you mix business and engineering, the world can be your oyster," he says.

In 25 years as a business consultant, Jacobs has helped dozens of companies deal with major challenges. His work has taken him around the world, including eight years in London as a senior leader for A.T. Kearney, a global management consulting firm.

Jacobs now lives in the greater Boston area where he's worked since June of 2014 for Staples, one of several big-name retailers adjusting to the growth of online shopping and other changes. He is helping the company cut external costs through procurement savings-putting it in a stronger position to adapt to an evolving marketplace. He is also expanding an online ordering process linked to store pickup locations, he says.

As a consultant, Jacobs regularly draws on logical-thinking skills he acquired at Rose-Hulman. For example, he often visualizes a process-flow diagram he first encountered in an engineering classroom.

"That mental image comes back to help me better understand the problem," he says.

After graduation, Jacobs started his career at Procter & Gamble as a production team manager. The company wasn't necessarily looking for an engineer; rather it was "looking for people with a logical approach to defining and solving problems," he recalls.

But his engineering education provided the groundwork.

A Rose-Hulman education "vastly enhanced my success…You can never go wrong with an engineering degree."