Goodnight Alumni Spotlight: Durant Mangum

Goodnight Scholars Alum Durant Mangum

From providing surgical assistance in Argentina, to teaching English in Spain, there isn’t a corner of the world that Goodnight Scholars Program alumnus Durant Mangum ’17 doesn’t plan to reach. His current stop in the world is Denmark, where Mangum is finishing up his master’s degree and recently landed a dream job in engineering project consulting.

Goodnight Scholars Program: Where has life taken you since graduating from NC State?

Durant Mangum ’17: After I graduated from NC State, I took an internship down in Córdoba, Argentina where I was in the surgical room every day for about two months. When I was there, we did a lot of outreach into the community about things such as diabetes and heart disease. The Goodnight Scholars Program helped to pay for the experience through an enrichment grant, so thank you Goodnight Scholars Program! After that internship, I went to Galicia, Spain and taught English for a year while I was simultaneously learning Spanish. Learning Spanish was the goal, and I decided teaching English was kind of a segue to that. Now, I actually speak Spanish fluently, so that’s a big plus. After I finished up in Galicia, I decided to pursue a master’s degree in industrial engineering and management and I’m currently doing that in Copenhagen, Denmark. Recently, I accepted a position as a project consultant for a company called Novo Nordisk Engineering here in Copenhagen, so I plan to be here for some time more!

What inspired you to pursue biomedical engineering for undergraduate and then continue to Industrial Engineering and Management for your master’s degree?

My biomedical engineering degree was an extremely technical degree, centered around product design and product development. I didn’t want to be restricted in my opportunities of what I wanted to do afterwards, so I decided to take a little bit more of a generalist approach for my master’s degree. I was also interested in understanding the operational side of business and how things run to be able to address business problems from an engineering-based perspective. I had seen the technical side of things, and I really wanted to see the operational and business side of things. So that was what really made me have a shift in focus after my undergraduate years.

In your current master’s degree program, what is your thesis about?

My thesis covers delivering performance and customer differentiation. Originally, we were very interested in trying to see if we could use better delivery performance as a growth platform for a business. And it eventually took the shape of being about optimization initiatives around complexity management. So towards the end, I became very interested in complexity management and product portfolio management.

In addition to earning your master’s degree, you also serve as a student assistant. What is that experience like?

In Denmark, it’s common to have a student position which is a combination of work and studies. You basically do half and half. So, I would usually work two and a half days of the week and then study for the other two and a half or so days. It was nice as I got both the academic perspective of things in theory, but then also the application of that theory in real life situations.

How did your education at NC State and the Goodnight Scholars Program prepare you for post graduation?

The Goodnight Scholars Program does a fantastic job of teaching you how to network and also preparing you for things like job interviews, and what to expect after you graduate from undergrad. There is such a focus on professional development. We had to attend a certain amount of social events, a certain amount of professional events, and a certain amount of academic events with the Goodnight Scholars Program, and I did take advantage of a lot of the professional side of things. The program also helped us identify what we wanted to pursue after graduation, and that is part of the reason why I decided to pursue a master’s degree. I really think the Goodnight Scholars Program did a really good job of helping us and facilitating those types of programs.

What is your fondest memory from your undergrad years at NC State?

It’s actually because of the Goodnight Scholars Program that I was able to do this, but my fondest memory from my undergrad years was studying abroad in Istanbul.  I studied abroad in Istanbul my sophomore year, and the reason why that is my fondest memory is because it was an opportunity for me. The study abroad experience in Istanbul gave me an opportunity to challenge a lot of my perspectives on the world. Where previously I was very dependent on other people’s perspective, this was a time when I formed my own opinions and moved forward as more of an individual with an individual outlook on life. So, I think that was a really defining moment for me.

What advice do you think is important for current NC State students and Goodnight Scholars to hear?

So my advice is to pursue your passions and take the risk to enrich your life, there’s no better time.

I would say don’t measure your success by others’ criteria. Really the only person that you should try to be better than is yourself yesterday. I think that one of the biggest things that I personally did was that I didn’t follow the traditional career route of jumping into the professional world. I personally defined my own success criteria, and went and achieved those things. For example, that could have been academic, in deciding that I didn’t want to be monolingual my whole life, and learning Spanish in six months. And I think that as a Goodnight Scholar, you are in a really unique position. We don’t have debt when we graduate college, and we can take these really life enriching opportunities that a lot of people can’t afford to after college, and that’s a really, really special position to be in. So my advice is to pursue your passions and take the risk to enrich your life, there’s no better time. 

How do you spend your free time?

For one thing, I’ve played soccer my whole life and so that’s something that I will do on the weekends or the weekdays just with friends. I also really enjoy traveling. Obviously COVID-19 has had a big effect on that, but I still have opportunities to go visit little Danish cities. Before COVID-19 happened, I would spend some time in Italy or France, or decide to go visit friends in Belgium or Amsterdam. So, traveling is something that I personally have always really enjoyed. On top of that, I think it’s really fun to cook and spend time with different cultures and different languages.