Alumni Spotlight: Nancy Nguyen '17 is a Product Manager in a Drone Technology Startup

Boston native Nancy Nguyen, who earned a degree in chemistry at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire, was considering an offer for a lab chemist job at Massachusetts General Hospital when a professor urged her to consider Notre Dame's ESTEEM graduate program. After a visit with David Murphy, Executive Director of Student Entrepreneurship and the ESTEEM program, she agreed. 

“I had spent time in a lab,” says Nguyen, whose immigrant father put his daughters through school with his own small business. “I don’t want to spend rest of life there, looking at tiny particles. I want to make more impact. I want to be able to reach a larger audience in a shorter amount of time.”

Her capstone with Serim Research, involving interviews of health inspectors, city officials,  corporation officers, and retirement home managers, revealed that universities are a leading potential market for the firm’s app that tracks users’ sanitation records. She also interned at the city of South Bend. After she graduated, she took a consulting job at Booz Allen Hamilton, where clients included the Food and Drug Administration, Veterans Affairs, and Health and Human Services. Her ESTEEM experience gave her an edge in the consulting field, Nguyen says. 

“One thing ESTEEM really teaches you is Professional Polished Skill Sets 101,” she says. “On top of all the startup things you learn, you also learn to prepare for a meeting, how to operate in a professional work setting. They put you in front of people that were professionals. In ESTEEM, they really help you grow your confidence as a professional. You pitch capstone ideas in front of your class, you pitch in front of investors. They're constantly exposing you to top performers in startups or corporations. That grows you from just an entry-level grad to a seasoned professional before you go into the work setting.”

In May 2020, Nguyen returned to her entrepreneurial passion, taking a job as product manager at the 46-person startup Aerial Applications in Washington, D.C., that provides drone software to capture aerial footage and transforms images into 3D models. The company serves both commercial and government clients, including construction, real estate, insurance, and agricultural clients Her job involves gathering and evaluating customer feedback, prioritizing engineering workload, supporting customer success, and collaborating with marketing to produce content. 

It’s a far cry from the narrow choices of doctor, pharmacist, or researcher that chemistry majors typically pursue. “I love science and cutting-edge innovation,” Nguyen says. “ESTEEM was a starting point to help me open my eyes to all the endless opportunities there are. It gave me exposure to what I didn’t know was out there.”

Originally published by Gene Stowe at on January 22, 2021.