June 15, 2016
Megan Cucci ’96 has strong ties to two of the most notable institutions in New York State—Syracuse University and Kodak.
During her time as a chemical engineering undergrad in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, Cucci completed her co-op with Kodak. The opportunity laid the groundwork for a full-time position in Kodak’s Research Labs supporting motion picture film following graduation.
A few years later, she met her husband Peter Cucci ’92 who also happened to be a graduate of the College of Engineering and Computer Science. The couple has two daughters, 8 and 5, and spends time travelling the country competing in sailboat races.
Today, Cucci is Kodak’s Director of Product Management for Micro 3D Printing, having built a successful career exclusively within the well-known company.
Best known for being an analog camera company, Kodak was forced to undergo tremendous change when digital photography became the norm, which eventually led the company to declare bankruptcy in 2012. But since then, Kodak has found that new opportunities can arise for old technologies and methods even when they become displaced by the new.
Cucci’s career experience provides insight into how some businesses realign themselves to weather the disruption of their industry.
When most people think Kodak, they think cameras. Why hire chemical engineers?
“Some of my first roles at Kodak were in traditional film, which is actually a chemical engineer’s dream. You have multiple layers with different material properties. The product you’re trying to deliver has certain performance requirements and you’re trying to manufacture it under robust process conditions. There was a lot of room for experimentation to optimize the product formulation. It has chemical engineer written all over it, but you wouldn’t think of it when you’re in school.”
How has Kodak transformed as a company in the time you’ve been there?
“The bankruptcy made us focus on our competencies and core skills. Our focus has gone back to our knowledge and understanding of materials and depositing them onto substrates.”
“We are a technology company focused on imaging. We provide solutions to the graphics, commercial, and packaging businesses. We still produce film. There has been a resurgence in motion picture film from Hollywood so we’ve kept it alive and we’re the only company who still manufactures it. We also announced a modern Super 8 cameras for the consumer market.”
“A lot of what we’re doing now is strengthening the company by applying our best competencies. That could mean direct printing or coating applications, to service the commercial market. We look for ways to apply our capabilities to optimize our processes and take what we know into new applications like in touch screens, sensors, and other printed electronic markets.”
“In my division, we are 3D printing microstructures. We make our touch screens through additive printing— so small that you can’t see it.”
Did you know you were going to do this kind of work when you were a student at SU?
“I think the worst question that was ever asked was ‘what job are you going to retire from?’ It’s not about knowing that as much as knowing what you like to do. As I navigated through my career, I found I liked commercialization. Bringing a concept from the early ideation stages and then defining it into a product. How you design it, manufacture it, market it, sell it—what is the overall product strategy?”
What advice do you have your students and recent grads?
“Understand two things—your company’s business space and how your role impacts the bigger picture.”
“Know how the product you are developing is going to be used, implemented, and sold. Understand how it’s going to make money, who pays for what, and how big could the opportunity be. That’s important regardless of your role. If you’re an engineer and you don’t want to get into business, you have to at least understand that decisions are made based on business. Engineers have to be able to sell their ideas and solutions with this in mind.”
How has Syracuse University contributed to your success?
“Syracuse gives you the opportunity to be very engaged and effective in engineering. I could be involved in student chapters and everything engineering-related, of course, but it allowed me to take other classes in other schools as well. I got to experience things I wouldn’t have if I didn’t come to Syracuse.”
“There are all of these different disciplines and majors. I don’t think you necessarily appreciate that while you’re here. I’m still good friends with the people I met my freshmen year and they weren’t all engineers.”
“There is a lot of value behind Syracuse. It prepares you and gives you a big step forward in life.”