Interview with Brian McNeill

-Written by Jacob Klonsky, ISE'22

For my AIS interview this summer, I had the privilege of interviewing Brian McNeill, Rutgers class of 1982. Brian majored in industrial engineering and later went to the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School to get an MBA. Out of undergrad, he quickly advanced up the ranks of Ingersoll Rand, becoming one of the youngest executives in the company when he worked there. Transitioning to this success, Brian switched between a few executive roles before becoming President & CEO of Southco and then Touchpoint, Inc. While maintaining his leadership position, Brian has also served on several boards of directors, such as being chairman of the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. With Brian’s level of experience and prestige of positions, I was both excited and intimidated about our interview. Through the interview, I was hoping to learn more about what key learnings helped him be so successful and get a better understanding of what it’s like to be in a major leadership role. Brian did a fantastic job of clearly answering these questions in our interview and really broke through the feeling of intimidation I felt initially. He talked about how he had always had an interest in leadership and how he pursued that interest by improving his roles from application engineering to sales engineering to product management and then eventually executive positions. Covering his journey through these roles, Brian put together for me the lessons that helped him travel this path towards his position as a CEO, lessons that he still practices today. The lesson that really stuck out to me the most was his guidance to never stop learning. Instead of having all the right answers, Brian says that it’s more important to have all the right questions so that you can lead your team through the right steps and towards the right answers. 

My interview with Brian was quite eye-opening, it really changed my fundamental idea of what it means to be a good leader as I always thought that the best leaders just know everything and thus can direct others easily. Since I am now a rising junior studying industrial and systems engineering, I am beginning to feel a lot more pressured to have the answers. With this in mind, it was great to realize that this is never expected of someone, and learning is a part of any job or process. And while Brian had a solid idea of what he wished to do post-undergrad his words to me also affirmed that it’s still fine to be unsure of what you want to do since as you continually learn you can narrow that down and gather skills in the process. Meeting with Brian has helped me orient myself for the coming years of school before my spring 2022 graduation and pushed me to continually learn with renewed confidence. These lessons that I have learned from him I plan to take with me beyond school and I am very grateful I had the opportunity to meet with Brian and learn from him.