Valeriya Orlova makes the jump from finance to engineering, with some help from Drexel University
Valeriya Orlova, a 2019 graduate of the online MS in Systems Engineering, loves a challenge.
Orlova moved with her family from Ukraine to the suburbs of Philadelphia in 2005, when she was 12 years old. Orlova didn’t speak a word of English when she arrived in the U.S., but she was a quick learner. She was proficient within three years, and soon found herself at Drexel University, pursuing an undergraduate degree in business administration and finance.
Orlova dreamed of becoming a lawyer, and took a job after college as a financial systems analyst at a top-ranking Philadelphia law firm. But she quickly became bored of finance and decided to look for new opportunities. Instead of leaning on her business background, she decided to try something totally new: systems engineering.
“I fell in love with systems and everything we were doing at the law firm, so I figured might as well pursue something different and challenging, because I got tired of finance,” Orlova said.
To help move into this new field, Orlova decided to head back to Drexel to pursue her online MS in Systems Engineering. A jump from finance to systems engineering is a big leap, especially for someone who’s never taken an engineering class. But remember, Orlova has always been a quick learner.
“In the beginning I was really hesitant, because I had no engineering background whatsoever. All I had was my work experience, which is obviously not enough. I looked at the prerequisites, and noticed that for a systems engineering degree you mostly need to have calculus and some economics knowledge, and I was like ‘Well, I have that. I’m pretty good at it, so let me give it a shot,’” she said.
Orlova did more than “give it a shot.” She aced her classes, which she credits to her interest in the subject. Her professors quickly picked up on her dedication and drive as well.
“I was thoroughly impressed with Valeriya, as she was a hard-working, diligent and conscientious student. She was such a pleasure to have in class as she was eager to learn and expressed interest in all of the subjects and topics. She always asked inquisitive, intelligent questions and it was obvious that she enjoyed the learning experience,” said Richard Grandrino, associate teaching professor in Drexel’s College of Engineering. “What is even more compelling about Valeriya was that she did not have a STEM background when she started our program. But it did not make a difference for Valeriya as she worked extremely hard to earn her degree and achieved A’s in most of the classes. Valeriya is living proof that students can achieve their goals if they so desire. I know Valeriya will be an excellent systems engineer and have a successful career.”
Orlova’s time at Drexel wasn’t easy, though, and she faced some tough personal hurdles along the way. During her first year in the program, her father passed away. In order to help her family financially, she ended up taking a new job with the Department of Defense, evaluating and procuring supplies for the military as a contract specialist. With all these changes, Orlova considered taking some time off from her program to adjust. But she decided to persevere, despite the challenges.
“In all honesty, I did have a thought about stopping, just because I was really depressed for the first two, three months…we lost my father. He was our protector, we lost someone we really loved,” Orlova said. “I really had thoughts about it, and then I was like, ‘You know what, I know my dad wouldn’t want me to stop. I know he would want me to keep on going.’ He always wanted me to be successful, he always wanted me to be someone and achieve only the greatest things. So, I didn’t hesitate, I didn’t take any terms off…I kept on going, kept on pushing myself harder.”
Now that she has her degree, Orlova is considering her options. She may try to stay in government, or she may look into private industry. But one way or another, she’s excited to get started in her new field, and she can’t believe how much her life and goals have changed over the last decade.
“It’s unbelievable, I never would have thought that I would be working for the government and that I would be an engineer,” Orlova said. “But here I am, ten years later, with a master’s in systems engineering from one of the most accredited schools in Philadelphia…I’m not stopping, I definitely want to do more. If I need to take more degrees, if I need to prove myself to an employer I’m working with, I would be totally down to do that. You never want to stop learning, you always want to keep on going.”
To learn more about the online MS in Systems Engineering, click here.