Powerful Partnership with GE

GE's new Boston Headquarters

Photo Credit: GE's new headquarters at Fort Point in Boston. Rendering by Gensler, courtesy of GE.

When you think about it, Massachusetts Maritime Academy and General Electric (GE) have a few things in common. Both organizations date back 125 years. Both are leaders in their fields. And both are reliant on the success of the next generation.

When GE, the provider of one-third of the world’s electricity, is seeking new employees, it often turns to the campus in Buzzards Bay for the next great leader. Already the employer of more than 100 Academy alumni, GE understands that MMA cadets become some of the company’s best assets. In fact, one division, GE Power, recently cast a wide net across the nation to fill seven open positions. After much vetting, interviews, and discussions, five of those seven jobs were offered to MMA graduates.

Marc Devereaux ’96 (MSEP) and ’98 (FENG) currently serves as a GE executive and north region general manager for GE Power Services Sales in Boston. He joined GE in 1999 and has held six positions in six different divisions of the company during that time. It is no surprise to him that MMA graduates are a solid choice for GE hiring managers. “GE wants high-energy, hardworking, and dedicated employees who demonstrate the ability to be future business leaders,” Devereaux explains. Skills, drive, and values are proven qualities in an MMA cadet.

But what attracts a young graduate to a large corporate entity like GE? For Devereaux, it was the opportunity to apply the leadership and technical skills learned at MMA and to explore a variety of roles and build a track record of experiences within the business units, whether supply chain, commercial sales, operations, or application engineering. “With the size and scale of GE, we have lots of opportunities to post for new challenges, which provides the chance to grow, have fun, and push boundaries,” he says. Thus far he has held positions in operations, sales, finance, and business development — and even had an international assignment. What’s more, Devereaux, a commander in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves, appreciates the value GE places on military service. He says, “The company recognizes the dedication and contributions that military members bring to GE, including problem-solving skills, leadership, the ability to deal with ambiguity, resilience, and the drive to compete and win.”

These traits, and those listed in the MMA Chafing Gear book that each youngie receives when he or she reports for Orientation, make up the DNA of every cadet — and ultimately every alumnus. These characteristics also happen to parallel the values of GE. Devereaux says, “Yes, it’s a differentiator.” Those who came before paved the way. “MMA alumni have proven to the global workforce that when you come from the Academy, you are prepared to do the work, are a high performer, want to solve the problems, and want to lead,” he says.

Life in a regiment inevitably prepares cadets for much of what comes their way post-college. “An MMA cadet endures an intense academic curriculum, compounded by the non-traditional challenges of a regimented college,” Devereaux says. “These two dynamics create a significant amount of pressure, which forces a cadet to adapt and develop strategies to be successful.” Time management, results-based leadership, and the critical ability to prioritize are key building blocks that cadets learn through the challenges of being part of the Regiment. They are also skills that are immediately transferable to the maritime industry, a utility, public service, or a corporation like GE.

Recalling his own cadet experience, Devereaux says, “The primary reason I chose MMA was because of the high job placement rate. This was very appealing to know the Academy’s reputation created a powerful business network that delivers a most competitive first job offer. But you need to earn it!” he says.

MMA prides itself on preparing future leaders, and it begins at Orientation and continues through the next four (plus) years. “Cadet life was a grind. It was quite a challenge to wake up by 6 a.m., prepare for an inspection-ready room and uniform, and finish morning colors all before 7:30 a.m.,” Devereaux says. However, as a cadet ascends through the ranks of the Regiment and understands the purpose of the structure, a cadet later appreciates the value of the Academy. “It’s the friendships I made while at MMA that are my fondest memories, as we were all going through the same intense program together. It’s your classmates that help push you to succeed.”

“A cadet will learn through failure, succeed through perseverance, and thrive through teamwork, and all the efforts pay off with an unwavering commitment to earn that MMA degree,” Devereaux says. “Cadets are tested to embrace challenge, adapt to the many expectations, and prioritize the areas that deliver the highest outcome. They then must anticipate the next requirement and develop effective solutions for the next difficult challenge.”

“Problem-solving skills, attention to details, being assertive, teamwork, the ability to follow, time management, and the drive to win are all part of the MMA culture that every cadet develops, and which resonates with employers,” Devereaux says. “It prepares them well for future success.”

GE is in the process of moving its headquarters from Fairfield, Conn., to Boston’s waterfront. While the new, open-concept offices will not be ready for occupancy until 2019*, executives have already moved into temporary offices in their new hometown. The move is exciting for the company as it looks to continue to advance its digital industrial focus. It also provides high expectations for Boston, with the promise of 600 new jobs. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey Bornstein explains that the primary reason for choosing Boston as home base for GE was cultural. For one thing, offices in Boston will be more enticing for young talent than those in the Connecticut suburbs. Also, there was a desire to be in a place that was vibrant and entrepreneurial — where employees could walk out the door and be enriched and inspired by their environment. In addition, Boston’s proximity to a number of colleges and universities, including MMA, allows GE to build deeper relationships with these institutions. Bornstein points out that there are upwards of 500,000 students in the region. That is a lot of talent and potential recruits to which any leading company wants access. He says, “We wanted to be in a more urban environment where we could actually participate in the ecosystem and be smarter and more aware as a result.”

As the next chapter of GE’s story unfolds in Boston, the Academy, its cadets, and its alumni will be not only watching, but also participating. “MMA graduates know how to work hard, play hard — it’s part of our DNA,” Devereaux says. “We want to be winners and celebrate success.” With 125 years of success to build on, GE and MMA will continue making history together.

*After this article was written GE announced they would push back construction, delaying the opening of the new structure until mid-2021.

This article was originally published in Spring/Summer issue of the Enterprise magazine.