MechSE senior bound for PepsiCo after diverse college career
Soon-to-be alumna Madeleine Gandawidjaja (BSME ’20) was recently featured in the News-Gazette as the only current senior on the Illinois women’s tennis team, having walked on during her junior year.
Gandawidjaja followed in the footsteps of her relatives to become an engineer, coming to Illinois under Engineering Undeclared. She enjoyed the opportunity to learn about each major, looking for the best place to put her problem-solving skills to use.
“I chose mechanical engineering because it was a versatile and broad field that would teach me practical, analytical, and hands-on skills,” Gandawidjaja said. “I grew up watching my dad taking things apart and fixing them as a hobby, from watches to bikes to sewing machines, and I liked the idea of being able to do the same.”
During her freshman year, Gandawidjaja quickly became involved with the Society of Women Engineers, starting with its Team Tech program. Her team placed first at the Team Tech competition that year. The following year she co-directed the Team Tech committee, helping the team achieve a third-place finish at the 2018 Annual Conference of the Society of Women Engineers (WE18).
“It was exciting getting to go to the regional and national conferences, where I learned and developed skills in seminars and workshops,” Gandawidjaja said. “I was able to meet a lot of engineers in other disciplines.”
Her college career also included more than a year working in Caterpillar’s Parallel Co-op program, which allowed her to pursue interests in manufacturing and production. She was heavily involved with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and took on a leadership role in Women in Engineering, serving as a mentor for incoming mechanical engineering students during her junior year. Prior to joining the women’s tennis team, she played Club Tennis and placed 6th at the national tournament in Florida as a sophomore.
While balancing tennis and curriculars was a challenge, Gandawidjaja’s coaches were understanding and supportive of her and her teammates’ commitments as students. Ultimately, her time with the team helped her renew her love for tennis. “In college, watching the women’s team and also playing on the team, that allowed me to go back to my roots of how much I enjoyed the sport,” she said in her News-Gazette interview.
Following graduation this week, Gandawidjaja will begin working as a Supply Chain Associate for PepsiCo, joining the management team at one of its Quaker Oats plants. “I look forward to working with experienced people in a dynamic and challenging environment,” she said. “I am excited to further develop my leadership skills, work with production, and apply my knowledge from mechanical engineering and business administration.”
Reflecting back on her time in undergrad, Gandawidjaja noted that every student follows their own path, at their own pace. “It can be hard to be content when you go to a school with incredibly hardworking and successful students,” Gandawidjaja said of the diverse environment at Illinois. “However, our experiences are our own and what we can take away from them is what influences what comes next.”