Whitman at Work: Online MBA Program Helped Alum to be a “Transformational Leader”

Scott Pickens

As a packaging engineer for Northrop Grumman, Scott Pickens ’18 MBA always knew he wanted to further his education, but he wasn’t sure if his graduate work should be in applied science or business.

During his deliberation, Northrop Grumman placed him in its Global Supply Chain Rotation Program, the company’s development opportunity program. That experience showed Pickens he needed better understanding of business principles. Since completing the MBA online program in logistics, materials and supply chain management three years ago, Pickens has been promoted three times.

“The customers we support spend a lot of time and effort in designing and developing their products. The most fulfilling part of it all is the trust our customers have in us to ensure their products make it to the finish line successfully and unscathed,” says Pickens, who works for the aerospace and defense technology company’s Strategic Space Systems Division in Redondo Beach, California. 

With titles of manager of supply chain II and manager of material distribution III, he is responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations of packaging engineering, transportation, fleet management, warehousing, kitting, receiving and distribution.

The best lesson Whitman taught him was how to be a transformational leader, he says.

“I use this in my daily interactions with my direct reports to identify essential change, create unique ideas to guide proposed changes through inspiration and promote execution of holistic change throughout the company,” says Pickens, also a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Packaging in 2006, where he received a bachelor’s degree in packaging science. 

“I often tell others to treat assignments as an entrepreneur would, by approaching their statement of work with tenacity and manifesting buoyant resiliency during adverse situations,” he says.

Pickens is a member of Northrop Grumman’s African American Task Group, which reinforces the company’s commitment to an inclusive workforce by developing diverse professionals across business areas. Its members focus on professional leadership development, community outreach, networking/mentorship, recruitment and retention of the African American community and other diverse communities across the company.

“Diversity in the workforce keeps the company at the forefront of advancement in technology in an industry that is extremely competitive,” he says. “This in turn helps protect our warfighters and allies, further preserving and safeguarding our nation’s freedom.”

According to Pickens, diversity is good for people, for business, for our country. He concentrates on promoting diversity and inclusion in his daily interactions with employees, on a personal and business level.

His year in Northrop Grumman’s Global Supply Chain Rotation Program exposed Pickens to procurement, subcontracts and program management. When the program finished, he knew what his graduate school education ambition would be. “My goal was to be both technologically sound and well-versed in business,” he says. “The online MBA program allowed us students to become expert project managers of our own unique and diverse schedules. Being digitally connected to lectures and classmates across the globe allowed for flexibility with peer-to-peer interaction, communication and assignment execution.”

Having lectures posted well in advance allowed him to plan his studies around his work and access course material at any time of day. “I would often find myself reviewing course materials at lunch, and even once I attended a live session in the hospital right after my son was born,” he says.

Pickens counts among the advantages of the Whitman School its history, ranking, curriculum and alumni network. “The unprecedented family-oriented and welcoming environment promoted within Whitman and throughout Syracuse University eased my mind, and I knew there was nothing better than being part of the Whitman experience,” he says.

Whenever Syracuse University plays his other alma mater, Michigan State, as the men’s basketball teams did in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, he admits he doesn’t choose sides. “I celebrate whichever one is victorious; it is a win-win for me,” Pickens says. (The Orange upset the higher-seeded Spartans 55-53 three years ago.)  “Both have played a major part in where I am today personally and professionally and will always be extremely dear to my heart. It will always be Go Green and Go Orange, forever.”