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Jessica DeGroote Nelson

Executive MBA, Class of 2013

Director of Engineering
Optimax Systems, Inc.

OptimaxComing from an academic background, Dr. Jessica DeGroote Nelson was well versed in the world of research and development and the grant funding that often supports it. But it wasn’t until she started at Optimax Systems, Inc., that she began to understand how such research can be applied profitably.

Nelson earned all of her degrees in optics, from bachelors through PhD, at the University of Rochester. She joined Optimax in 2007 as a scientist and moved up to R&D Manager after a year and a half. Her department receives significant funding through Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants obtained from NASA and the Department of Defense. “Both of these entities provide money for projects they are planning ten-to-fifteen years out,” she notes.  

The research done in her department involves new manufacturing processes and innovative optical shapes. She oversees 30 people, a mix of scientists, engineers and skilled technicians. “Right now, we’re investigating how to manufacture optical ceramic materials into exotic, freeform and aspherical lens shapes,” explains Nelson. “The research is always interesting and challenging.”

Nelson just completed her MBA at Simon this year in an effort to better understand the business side of Optimax and to comprehend the impact of R&D on business planning. “I learned to approach problems differently, to see the larger picture, and to become more knowledgeable about the financial and strategic aspects of business. It’s important to realize what a small business goes through, especially since most of us here wear more than one hat.”

Among her favorite professors were Ron Schmidt and Larry Matteson. She enjoyed her coursework in game theory, which challenged her to think strategically. “The MBA program was very demanding while holding a job,” Nelson claims. “I very much enjoyed the emphasis on teamwork. The diversity of the students I worked with broadened my perspective and made me appreciate how often we can excel only as a team, not as individuals.”

Jessica DeGroote Nelson DeGroote

 “I learned to approach problems differently, to see the larger picture, and to become more knowledgeable about the financial and strategic aspects of business. It’s important to realize what a small business goes through."

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