Alum Joan Tully inspires students with her storied career at ExxonMobil

Joan Tully

During the recent installment of the Dean’s Roundtable series, Joan Tully remarked that she was excited to be back at NYU's engineering school — even though it was in an entirely different borough now: Tully was part of the last graduating class to emerge from the University Heights campus, back in 1974. Vice Dean Kurt Becker welcomed Tully to NYU Tandon in Brooklyn, and the undergraduate students curious to hear of Tully’s journey from her graduate program in Operations Research to her 33-year career with ExxonMobil. Currently, Tully is an adjunct faculty member in mathematics at Saint Peter’s University, her undergraduate alma mater, and chairs the Computer and Technology Club of ExxonMobil retirees in New Jersey.

At ExxonMobil, Tully managed financial and operations models, secured ExxonMobil’s first telecom network connections to the Internet, and helped recruit talented students to bring their expertise to the company. Even in Tully’s first year at ExxonMobil, her jobs ranged from designing and coding computer programs, creating and implementing forecasting and optimization models, to researching and recommending techniques for dealing with foreign exchange fluctuations. “Although I hadn’t studied those particular problems in graduate school, I felt that the education I had at NYU gave me the background on successfully implementing these techniques,” she said. Tully credited her training in theoretical and practical problem-solving at NYU, as well as her courses in business and organizational psychology — encouraged by the school’s interdisciplinary focus — as foundational to her technical and managerial skills.

Tully credited her training in theoretical and practical problem-solving at NYU, as well as her courses in business and organizational psychology as foundational to her technical and managerial skills.

In her more recent position as the global information technology manager within the research and engineering organization in ExxonMobil’s downstream and chemical business, Tully balanced innovative research into game-changing technology with the day-to-day operations that focused on incremental improvements to production, safety, and environmental impact. “I was charged with ensuring we had the right investments at the right time across the globe. As the world has globalized, we now had research and engineering organizations in North America, Europe, and Asia and we had to make sure that they all worked seamlessly,” Tully explained.

Students were interested in learning more about Tully's ability to adapt and excel in diverse positions at ExxonMobil. She shared with them the importance of reinvention within their careers and being open to change, noting how she and the industry transformed alongside the rapidly evolving technology. “There’s always a need to look at something new,” Tully said. “To be able to continuously learn and apply is very important.” Tully also encouraged students to develop strong technical backgrounds in their fields and to consistently seek feedback and question how their work adds value to a company.

Commenting on the many young women engineers attending the Roundtable event, Tully was thrilled to see the increase of women in STEM at NYU Tandon. Out of about 100 students in her graduate program, only two were women — including Tully. “I’m really heartened to see more women engineers now,” she said.

Camila Ryder
Graduate School of Arts and Science
Master of Arts in English Literature, Class of 2018