Tasty cheese curds and the engineering fountain were big selling points for Ronald Daley when he toured the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus in 2008.
As a high school junior in Chicago, Daley was only vaguely aware of Wisconsin until one of his mentors noted its great engineering program and lively sports scene. But when he came for a tour, he instantly fell in love with the campus. He was also impressed by the school spirit he sensed, both in the students he met and the alumni who seemed invested in the success of future generations.
He enrolled in fall 2010, has been a Badgers fan ever since, and credits his bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering with his professional success thus far.
“It was the classes I took, the mentoring from Professor Laura Albert, the Badger Bracketology project she led outside of class, and my membership in the National Society of Black Engineers that developed me into the kind of engineer I am today,” Daley says.
As one of four children of Jamaican immigrants who came to the United States in 1980, he loved math and science in high school and already knew as a freshman that he wanted to pursue an engineering degree in college. But it took exposure to the whole range of engineering disciplines to find his true passion.
Initially drawn toward mechanical and electrical engineering, he held a summer internship at GE Healthcare between his sophomore and junior year. That’s when he first knew that industrial engineering was the best fit for him.
“For part of my internship, I worked with industrial engineers on improving the manufacturing process for a GE Healthcare product,” Daley remembers. “This involved regular interactions with the operators who actually built the product, and I found that much more interesting and rewarding than designing it.”
Continuous process improvement still ranks high on his weekly to-do list. At the College of Engineering’s career fair, Daley interviewed with Accenture, a Chicago-based consulting company, for a role in the digital division, and has worked there since 2015 as a business and technology analyst.
He uses the skills he learned in college virtually every day in his current position. That includes not only data analytics knowledge from Professors Laura Albert, Kaibo Liu and Shiyu Zhou, but also his ability to be flexible and work well as part of a group. He came to appreciate the importance of teamwork in ISyE 450, the senior design class in which Madison-area clients provide real-world projects that groups of students analyze together.
“Leveraging the strength of each person in a team to accomplish a shared goal is what I do all the time in testing the data analytics platform we have developed for our business clients,” Daley explains. “I typically supervise a team of analysts who verify the platform’s functionality and make sure all of its features work as intended.”
Informed by his own experience, his advice to current students is this: Be persistent on your journey of continuous improvement. Life will be challenging and trying, but never give up on yourself and on the pursuit of happiness.
For Daley, this is one of the biggest lessons he learned from his involvement and leadership roles with the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and the National Society of Black Engineers, which provided family-like support while he pursued his degree. He believes joining organizations like these is especially important when few directly observable role models for minority students exist on campus.
Today, he is that kind of role model for others: He helps a nephew who is interested in computer engineering learn programming languages, and leads his company’s inclusion and diversity recruiting efforts at UW-Madison, a role that allows him to return to campus several times a year. It also earned him recognition as one of Accenture’s outstanding employees in 2017.
Though his career keeps him plenty busy, Daley still finds time to pursue a few hobbies: bowling, traveling the country, playing guitar, brewing beer—which, of course, started in Madison—and rooting for the Badgers football team.
Just for the record, however, his Wisconsin allegiance will only go so far: “Being from Chicago, it’s against the law to be a Packers fan,” he says.
Author: Silke Schmidt