Sibley Senior develops critical skills at Cornell


As a child, you could find J.J. de Oliveira ’20 jotting down his ideas on a piece of scrap paper. He always knew he wanted to be “an inventor” when he was older which blossomed into the desire to be a mechanical engineer.

In the Sibley School, de Oliveira tried everything from robotics to automotive to aerospace engineering. He was confident that whichever field he entered after graduation, he would be prepared with the tools and flexibility with his mechanical engineering degree.

De Oliveira was drawn to Cornell by the balance of a competitive engineering program with a large and diverse campus. “Being surrounded by people with different backgrounds, interests, and beliefs than me was important in my college decision,” said de Oliveira.  “And ultimately Cornell having the best engineering program in the Ivy league struck that perfect balance for me.”

The Sibley School provided de Oliveira with a flexible degree program that allowed him to be cross-functional and offered a number of different opportunities after graduation. During his job search, de Oliveira looked at positions in a range of areas including process engineering, packaging engineering, biomedical engineering, software engineering, and even wine sales. He attributes this to the adaptable skills he learned at Cornell.

“That really confirmed for me that one of the most important aspects of Cornell to me was being a well-rounded engineer capable of constantly evolving and pushing myself outside of my past experiences.”

While de Oliveira spent endless hours developing his technical skills, the soft skills he learned at Cornell are some of the most impactful. As he transitions to a software engineering position after graduation, traits such as working under tight time constraints, the ability to self-teach, persistence, negotiation, and leadership will be the biggest contributing factors to his success.

“Some of these traits were developed as a product of my environment at Cornell by the nature of the busy competitive program,” says de Oliveira. “But some such as leadership were also intentionally cultivated through NBA 5150, a leadership class through the MBA program and participation in the Engaged Cornell Leadership certificate as well as taking leadership roles around campus and in my organizations.”

De Oliveira will be joining the software team at Ridgeline, a startup founded by David Duffield, Cornell alum and founder of software companies such as Workday and PeopleSoft. Ridgeline is creating enterprise software to simplify complex business processes – transforming the way firms serve their investors. De Oliveira is most excited about the idea of merging two of his interests; technology and business and the company’s commitment to their employees.

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