Online Master's in Electrical Engineering

Graduate Success Story Heber Nielsen, honing leadership skills

June 13, 2017

Heber Nielsen was an engineer already successful in academic medicine when he was accepted to the University of California, Riverside. He knew he needed a graduate degree for his professional advancement but, as you’ll read in the Q&A below, he came to find that this program could have also been helpful in the early part of his career as well.

Would you recommend this program to someone seeking a Master’s degree in Engineering? Why?

Yes, I would. I believe that the courses that are offered, and especially those taught by Dr. Fryer, are well adapted to the needs of an engineer and the management style of engineering as opposed to other types of business management. The program is tailored specifically to the kinds of activities and
scenarios that an engineer will need in a management role. The faculty provides a lot of real world engineering expertise and experience.

I speak with new students quite often, how would you describe your experience in the program to them?

I would say that it is a welcoming program. The online program is organized and coordinated with the graduate school so you have coaches to help you make decisions on course selection and guide you on your path at UCR. They’re also there to solve any administrative problems that may arise. The faculty was always available for answering questions and providing support and assistance.

If you could speak to someone who is considering obtaining their Masters in Engineering degree from UCR, what would you tell them?

I would tell them that one advantage to the program is that it is designed to move students through to complete their coursework in 15 months. It is time intense but the benefit is that you get to the end of the program much more quickly than many other programs. The program is designed to fit into the schedule of a working professional. The courses are filmed so you can make learning work for you without having to be live on the course. It is good quality content for the cost.

Please describe your experiences with UCR faculty and instructors through the online program, including examples.

Dr. Fryer, the head of the core courses of the program, has a very relaxed and engaging lecture style. He is very careful to make sure that students have all of the materials that they need to be successful.

He is always engaging his students with his real life stories that are pulled from his years and involvement in many different spectrums within the industry. Dr. Fryer once shared that he was having lunch with a well-recognized individual in the field. When that individual made him a job offer during their meal he turned it down. Dr. Fryer admitted that in hindsight this was one of the worst decisions he could have made. He openly shares his mistakes as well as his successes because Fryer knows what it is like to form a company and have it fail and to form one and have it succeed. These are very valuable lessons for a student to hear from a seasoned, respected member of the engineering community.

Did you learn anything during the program that you have been able to apply to your current position?

I am in academic medicine and have a lot of experience running my own research with a number of people reporting to me that I have hired. I wish I had known years ago many of the skills and approaches that I learned from Dr. Fryer. For example, Dr. Fryer teaches the importance of understanding the differing backgrounds of people. With the knowledge from this lesson I would have been able to lead stronger and more productive teams because I would have had the skills to motivate people in the way that was right for them. I also wish I would have had a deeper understanding of the concepts taught by Dr. Fryer early in my career to lead my teams to think in a more innovative manner. Dr. Fryer really helps you understand how to put people in the right position to help them, and the team, be successful.

What impact has the program made directly on your life?

Although many engineers may be very intelligent, this program has helped me to understand that a lot of the skills required for an engineering leadership position, are not necessarily the same skills that come naturally to an engineer. The courses have helped me to understand that there is a lot that I could learn to do better.