Kendall Work is no stranger to hard work. The USC Viterbi School of Engineering senior and soon-to-be Microsoft hardware program manager has spent the past four years laying down the bricks that paved his way to success.
Throughout his undergraduate career, Work pursued opportunities in and out of the classroom to build his skillset, expand his professional network and maximize his impact.
From enrolling as part of the Viterbi Scholars Institute (VSI) the summer before his freshman year to serving as a student leader on the board of USC’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) to spearheading educational initiatives at the USC Viterbi K-12 STEM Center, Work has been an exemplary case of how investment in self and community unlocks potential.
“I’ve had really strong involvements throughout college that have really helped me grow,” said Work. “I’m extremely appreciative of the community and support I’ve had at Viterbi since day one.”
Building the Skills
Work’s first definition of community was formed the summer before his freshman year at VSI, a high-achievement program that transitions first-year engineering students from underrepresented backgrounds into USC Viterbi through exposure to research, faculty and staff mentorship and academic counseling.
It was at VSI where he met some of his closest friends, one of whom encouraged him to apply for 3D4E, a 3D printing student organization at USC Viterbi.
“Completing my first 3D design project was so crucial because I learned so much about design manufacturing and the efficiency of teamwork when it comes to solving complex problems,” Work said.
He enjoyed the experience so much that he took on a 3D design minor. As he progressed through his challenging and stimulating degree, he felt grateful for the support that he’d found in his design team, a dedicated group of young engineers who shared his passions.
Expanding the Network
Around this time, Work met Katie Mills, co-director of the USC Viterbi K-12 STEM Center. Mills was looking to hire a student who was passionate about STEM education and had experience with robotics.
Work had spent much of his extracurricular time in high school participating in FIRST Robotics, both as a student and later as a coach for younger student competitions in his local community. Naturally, he was a perfect fit.
Throughout his time at the center, Work has mentored dozens of students in the joy of STEM projects ranging from programming genius robots to designing gravity-defying roller coasters.
Most notably, Work played an integral part in launching the center’s Building Opportunities with Teachers in Schools (BOTS) program that teaches elementary school teachers how to introduce computer science to students.
“The educators we work with are so passionate and the kids so brilliant, but we often saw that they didn’t have the guidance or access to integrate computer science education into their curriculum,” Work said. “With the resources that we have at the center, all that was left to do was bridge that gap.”
Work has also taught MATLAB programming to students in the Summer High School Immersion in Next-Generation Engineering (SHINE) program. Mills praises Work for his indispensable contributions.
“Kendall’s generous heart and wisdom make him uniquely brilliant,” the co-director said. “We at the center, along with many students, are grateful he continues to share his creativity and innate leadership qualities with us.”
Work knew that to invest in himself meant to invest in his community — the same community that he praises for helping him reach his potential. In his junior year, Work had a unique opportunity to serve as the pre-collegiate initiative (PCI) chair on the executive board of USC’s National Society of Black Engineers.
“NSBE is what really introduced me to inclusion in the engineering space, so it was important to me that I remained involved in college.”
As PCI chair, Work helped grow the USC NSBE Jr. program exponentially, from fewer than 10 students renting meeting space in a church basement to almost 40 students attending monthly meetings on the USC campus.
Middle school students worked with their teachers and USC Viterbi NSBE students to complete engineering-based projects.
Work highlights these efforts when reflecting on the impact he’s made.
“As engineers, we have to rely on everybody’s experiences, no matter where they come from, in order to solve problems, especially as they become more difficult to solve,” Work said.
“It’s why I’m so invested in diverse STEM education,” he added. “We need to do our part to make sure that younger students see people that look like us in engineering. The more students that we can inspire and support, the brighter our society’s future looks.”
After graduating from USC in May 2022, Work will start as a full-time hardware product manager at Microsoft.
“I love mechanical engineering, but I’ve always known I wanted to be in a more interdisciplinary role,” Work said. “The leadership and interpersonal skills I picked up during my time learning and serving at USC Viterbi have really prepared me for my next chapter at Microsoft. I’m so happy about the experiences I’ve had here.”
Published on February 3rd, 2022
Last updated on May 28th, 2022