In episode 13 of Futureproof Focus, Dr. Sharon B. DeVivo, president and chief executive officer of Vaughn College and host of the podcast, had an engaging conversation with Okera Bullen ’22 about his career as a supply chain manager at Nexans, a global cable products and solutions company. Read on to learn how a degree in mechanical engineering can lead to a job in supply chain management (SCM) which covers a variety of industries along with a multitude of opportunities to advance and grow.

Finding solutions

For as long as he could remember, Okera Bullen always enjoyed solving problems with innovative, low-risk solutions. It therefore came as no surprise that he decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Vaughn. Or was it? “I always visualized myself working in the aviation field,” Bullen explained, “but it was my passion for problem solving that sparked my interest in mechanical engineering.” Okera mentions that thinking things through and finding the best possible solution is how his brain works. He said he chose Vaughn College for its small campus environment, outstanding faculty and close proximity to home.

Making a difference in the world

“Early in my professional life, I worked in the international public sector,” Bullen explained. “I wanted to make a difference in doing things for the planet.” After graduating from Vaughn, Bullen started out with the goal to work in the aviation and aerospace industry, but his path soon changed. “I had an interesting career segue,” he said. “I ‘fell into’ the supply chain and procurement field. After working in the international public sector for many years, I was looking for a growth opportunity where I could make an impact on people’s lives. The supply chain management position at Nexans—although challenging—drew a direct line to the work I was already doing. It was an easy decision for me.”

His role at Nexans

Bullen describes Nexans as a ‘pure electrification player’ in the offshore wind industry. This company has more than 100 years in the cable manufacturing sector. For the past several decades, Nexans has been a leading manufacturer and engineering, procurement, construction and installation (EPCI) contractor in the offshore wind space and electrification space, where it has produced export cables that connect wind farms to land. He went on to say that he works with interconnectors—which are huge, high-voltage cables which transmit electricity for hundreds of miles. There are in fact a few wind farms in the Northeast—right off the coast of Long Island— under development. Nexans has been contracted to engineer, design, manufacture, transport and install export cables to connect those wind farms into different parts of Brooklyn and Long Island.

With a passion for making a difference in the world, Bullen said working at Nexans as a tender and project purchasing manager is in line with his lifelong dedication of helping the planet. “I want to have some impact—in some small way—to move the needle toward renewal resources and sustainable energy to leave the planet in a better place than I found it,” he said humbly.

Vaughn’s new supply chain management certificate

Dr. ­DeVivo was excited to share information about Vaughn’s new supply chain management certificate program, which builds upon existing bachelor’s degrees in airport management and airline management, thus providing a seamless pathway for students who wish to specialize in supply chain management.

When asked about the choice of supply chain management as a great career direction for today’s students, Bullen replied: “Supply chain professionals do much more than support the safe travel and delivery of goods. It’s all about setting the strategies for how the goods are flowing across the chain, to prevent breaks or issues.” As for Bullen, his roles in sourcing, procurement, logistics and inventory management are helping to improve sustainability and energy efficiency. “The job is challenging, but we are all making a difference. Supply chain professionals come with a skillset that is transferable to various sectors. The problem-solving skills you learn in one job can easily transfer to other industries. We work in the background so things can move seamlessly.”

Advice to students

When asked by Dr. DeVivo for advice to students who are considering careers in supply chain management, Bullen was pleased to say: “Vaughn offers great resources for students. It’s not all about the coursework. The professors are working professionals with real-world experience. They are an invaluable resource that you can learn from. My professors were always there to guide me.”

Are you interested in a career in supply chain management? Learn more about Vaughn’s supply chain management certificate program. Apply today!

In episode 10 of Futureproof Focus, Dr. Sharon B. De Vivo, President and Chief Executive Officer of Vaughn College and host of the podcast, sat down with Phil Rugile, Executive Director at the Institute for Workforce Advancement (IWA) and OSW Supply Chain on Long Island. In this exciting conversation, Rugile talked about how his work with Vaughn and local high schools is providing students with critical courses in what are known as “composites” to help build the workforce and supply chain for the Northeastern Offshore Wind Project on Long Island. The new workforce training facility in Brentwood, which will be the first of its kind to expand educational and career opportunities for Suffolk County residents was also highlighted.

What are composites?

For those who are not familiar with the term “composite materials,” Rugile describes them as anything that is not wood or pure metal. For example, the combining of two materials forms a composite. “The composite is stronger together than the two materials are alone,” Rugile explained. “They are more efficient and lighter, making them perfect for offshore wind projects as well as airplane and automotive parts and other manufacturing needs.”

How composites are creating career pathways

As an ambassador for renewable energy and offshore wind, Rugile holds multiple roles at the IWA and has spearheaded the mission to create career pathways by expanding research in the use of composites and advanced engineering practices. By partnering with Vaughn—along with the Cradle of Aviation and OSW—IWA is able to offer courses to high school students in composite manufacturing that can lead to exciting career opportunities. “There’s a gap between the kinds of careers kids are exposed to, compared to the careers and opportunities that actually exist in composite manufacturing,” said Rugile. “By bridging this gap, we are able to bring students into the program and show them what careers these skills can lead to.”

Here are the steps he takes:

  • Introduce students to the program to gain their interest and create a career pathway
  • Show students the next steps to a career in renewable energy through Vaughn College’s degree and certification programs
  • Educate high school teachers about these career opportunities

Diversity in the offshore wind industry

DeVivo asked about the importance of diversifying the workforce in the offshore wind industry. Rugile replied: “This industry is driven by state requirements to be much more inclusive and to create a pool of industry resources that are very diverse. New York State is mandating that there is a plan to engage communities, such as minority-owned and women-owned businesses.” It is important to note that diversifying the workforce boosts career opportunities for adults—as well as students. “Because composites are becoming more prevalent, we are discovering new educational opportunities that never existed before,” said Rugile. “We are now training union workers on how to use composites. It’s a hands-on version of the program that is very successful.”

Brentwood training facility

In March 2022, the Suffolk County Legislature approved a plan to purchase state-owned property in Brentwood, Long Island for $1.46 million to build a workforce training facility. The purpose of this facility, slated to open sometime in 2024, is to strengthen the career pipeline for students and the local economy. Rugile explained that the facility was originally planned to serve as a haven for kids after school. “About five years ago, Brentwood had the worst gang problem in the entire state of New York. Today, the reimagined space has three critical elements that are sure to open doors of opportunity for a new generation.” They include:

  • A community center to provide a safe space for youth to go after school and explore their interests and talents in a meaningful way
  • A workforce training center where people of all ages can develop skills in composites, machining, construction, engineering, safety and more so they can succeed in these fields
  • The National Offshore Wind Training Center, the facility that will provide students with an introduction to the field and provide a pathway to obtain their Global Wind Organization Certification

Offshore Wind Project support

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERD) is working to bring at least 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2035, enough to power six million homes. This is part of the state’s goal to reach 70% of electricity coming from renewable sources by 2030. Long Island is a focus area of this initiative. Offshore wind farms are in development through large developers and energy companies, which are being supported by infrastructure upgrades and training programs, like Rugile’s. New projects of this magnitude take time, but will come to fruition according to Rugile.

Explore careers in offshore wind and renewable energy sources

Offshore wind is coming to Long Island in a big way, which will create a myriad of career opportunities. To learn how you can start your training and become part of the renewable energy movement, check out: OSW Long Island. Watch episode 10 of our podcast in its entirety and check out our . You can also learn about Vaughn’s engineering programs and check out Vaughn’s certificate in composite manufacturing.