Co-op takes senior beyond his starstruck dreams

Matthew Strax-Haber, a senior at Northeastern University. Photo by Christopher Huang.

A Northeastern student who came to Boston dreaming of a career with NASA discovered a new passion when a variety of work experiences with companies in the United States, China and the United Arab Emirates gave him an unexpected appreciation for developing efficient solutions and strategies for business and government.

Matthew Strax-Haber, a senior business and computer science dual major, did achieve his goal of working at NASA, on a research computer-engineering co-op at the agency’s Langley facility in Virginia. Though it was rewarding and challenging, he found that he preferred using his computer know-how and problem-solving skills to find new ways of innovating in businesses and government, a discovery that was reinforced on his subsequent co-op jobs.

For example, he spent this past summer in Dubai working as a consulting intern for McKinsey & Company, one of the world’s top management consulting firms.

“When I got there, the focused environment and great mentorship provided an amazing learning experience,” Strax-Haber said of the highly competitive job overseas.

Against the odds, Strax-Haber was part of the tiny number of interns hired outside a tight circle of the Ivy League and other elite universities, something he credits to his experiences on co-op, help from career counselors at Northeastern and coaching from fraternity brothers in Beta Theta Pi

“What Northeastern provides more than anything is an opportunity to get out in the real world and apply what you learn,” said Strax-Haber.

In addition to his summer in Dubai, Strax-Haber spent time in China on a Dialogue of Civilizationsprogram and later worked in legal compliance and investor relations as an intern for YGSoft.

“China was a totally new experience for me,” Strax-Haber said, saying his time in Asia pushed him to further develop his Chinese language skills, which he was using to translate corporate documents from Chinese to English.

In recognition of his global business work, last month Strax-Haber was named one of Northeastern’s first Presidential Global Entrepreneurs.

Before his experiences abroad, Strax-Haber worked co-op jobs in San Diego, where he was a software engineer for Intuit, and in Boston at IBM, where he got a first-hand look at how a major multinational corporation works to best serve its customers’ needs.

His experiential-learning opportunities “really taught me that I wanted to do something in government or business where I could really help people,” Strax-Haber said.