Jim Thompson, E’69
When Jim Thompson did his co-op at Raytheon in the late 1960s, he was working for a company with “one of the best computer systems in the world,” he recalls.
During his co-op and for a few years after graduation, Thompson helped design the heating and cooling equipment for the Patriot missile system, as well as radar facilities designed to help defend the country from nuclear missile attack.
In Thompson’s view, the fact that co-ops give Northeastern students the chance to work at some of the world’s most technologically advanced companies is key for two reasons. For Thompson, working at Raytheon was an “absolutely formative” experience. “It gave me the basis and direction that carried me through most of the rest of my career.” For Northeastern, co-ops mean that students can bring cutting-edge technologies back to the University.
“With literally thousands of students out in the industry, it’s such a unique opportunity to bring the latest knowledge back to the classroom and challenge the University and the professors,” he says.
After earning a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from MIT, Thompson moved to California to work for Raychem, an innovative company that developed and manufactured many unique products, including heat tracing systems. Tyco acquired Raychem in 1999, and heat tracing systems grew into a major business called Tyco Thermal Controls. Thompson had been its president for 10 years until his recent retirement.
Throughout his career, Thompson’s respect for the benefits of co-op has only grown.
“I managed a business with 2,500 people, hired hundreds of engineers, and traveled to most countries in the world. In my experience, there is no program like NU’s co-op. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to figure out who you are and what you want, before you get locked into a career path,” he says.
Thompson’s extensive work experience abroad has given him a specific appreciation for the expanding international co-op program. “Global co-op is the right direction for NU. Our business had sales, engineering, and manufacturing all over the world; you were dealing with other countries, and very different cultures and values. Training people to be successful in these environments is incredibly important.”