BY LYNN NIXON
County College of Morris alumna Michelle Wallig has parlayed her associate degree into a successful tech career that began with American Express and wound its way to Microsoft and beyond.
Wallig had a position on the product launch team for the Xbox 360, and her success as a Microsoft employee also landed her on the pages of Working Mother magazine.
“I was featured as the Xbox Mom,” said Wallig.
Some students end up working in the field of their degree, others do not. For Wallig, choosing a degree path in computer technology was a no-brainer. While she was a student at CCM, she saw the April 1984 cover of Time magazine with Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, holding a floppy disc.
“I knew that was where I wanted to be,” said Wallig. “Bill Gates was my inspiration from afar.”
Wallig graduated from CCM in 1986 with a degree in computer technology, and then attended Drexel University for computer science but never graduated. She went to work in the technology field and built a successful career with only a degree from CCM.
“I got my first real job at American Express as a database analyst,” said Wallig. “Every year or so after that I moved to bigger firms.”
Wallig has worked for some of the biggest names in the financial world including Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase.
In 1999, an opportunity at Microsoft presented itself and she quickly got hired by the firm.
“I was at Microsoft for 15 years, I went in to create a human resource system since Microsoft was getting 15,000 resumes per month,” said Wallig. “I created a database to help get the best candidates worldwide,”
After that project, she landed the Xbox job.
“I worked on the Xbox 360 team for four years; the creator of Xbox was my mentor,” said Wallig. “We built a huge server environment so people creating games could send them in for testing to make sure they would work on Xbox.”
In May 2005, Wallig said she felt like her path had come full circle.
“Twenty years after being inspired by Bill Gates on the cover of Time magazine, there he was again, on the cover of Time holding the Xbox, the console that I worked on,” Wallig said.
Today, Wallig is an Executive Director for Ernst and Young where she consults with large corporations. She still attributes her CCM degree to her success.
“I’m very proud of my CCM degree, it got me where I am today,” said Wallig. “If I wouldn’t have done it, I wouldn’t have worked on Xbox, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I’ve had.”
But following the same path started at CCM is not always how it turns out, as was the case for Maureen Germinder, a CCM graduate.
Germinder chose to attend CCM after high school because she didn’t know what she wanted to do.
“I took the chemistry class and loved it,” said Germinder. “My professor, Johannessen, was awesome, she got me excited about it.”
After graduating from CCM in 1992 with a degree in chemistry and environmental science, Germinder obtained her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Caldwell University. She then started her career as a chemist at Benjamin Moore paint company.
“I was in their research and development department doing reverse engineering on competitor products, to see what they were made of,” Germinder said.
Germinder worked at Benjamin Moore for almost 20 years, moving up the ranks in product and marketing, and eventually working on the company website which catapulted her into the world of digital marketing.
Today, Germinder works for Asurion, a mobile technology support company, as a Director of Digital Marketing, and she loves it. Even though Germinder started her path with a degree in chemistry, the skills she learned at CCM have proven invaluable in her current career as a digital marketer.
“A lot of what I learned at CCM in chemistry built my foundation that I still use today— analyzing data, experimenting, and having controls,” said Germinder. “So much is exactly what I apply to processes in digital marketing to analyze data, it’s fact based.”
Like Wallig, Germinder believes that her CCM degree helped her success.
“Your decision today may not necessarily be the career you have in 20 years, but it could influence it,” said Germinder. “Students should make good choices now so they have that foundation for later on.”
And that is exactly what Natasha Griffith, a CCM communication major, is doing.
“I chose a major in communications because I love writing, I’m a people person and I have an imaginative mind,” said Griffith. “I have no idea what I am going to end up doing with my career, but I know being a communications major will help me interact with people and help me with my writing.”