Alumni Spotlight: Matthew Neal

September 10th, 2015 by Dana McKoy

Cape Fear Community College (CFCC) graduate Matthew Neal has perfected multitasking. At CFCC, he juggled three associates degrees- mechanical engineering technology, drafting and design and architectural technology. Now, he balances his Business Systems Manager position at Fenner Drives, a company that creates state-of-the-art power transmission and durable solutions for factories and businesses, with a happy marriage and two sets of twin boys.  Needless to say, Matthew Neal does it all.

His résumé is enough to amaze masses. He worked at Corning for four years, later taking a job in Hillsborough with MedTech, a medical research and instrumentation design company. There, he created instruments to test DNA micro arrays and Lyme’s disease. He then transferred to XPO Automation, where he tested and designed pick-and-place robots. Some of his clients included IBM and Xerox.

Currently at Fenner Drives, Neal manages all business systems that fuel the company. He has held multiple positions at Fenner Drives from Project Engineer to Business Systems Manager, completing a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Mount Olive along the way. A common trend in Neal’s success throughout each job is his ability to solve problems analytically, a skill that he attributes back to CFCC.

“You don’t have to be a master of everything, but you do have to have a general knowledge of things – the ability to have that general knowledge can really take you places.”

The foundation of his wide-spanning knowledge was laid at CFCC. As a student, he not only completed three programs, but worked on building one of two submarines, one of which raced and beat those built by MIT. This sort of hands-on experience was exactly what Neal wanted in an education and motivated him to choose CFCC over larger universities. Even years following his graduation, his relationship with CFCC continues, as he hires CFCC trainers for customized training programs that teach everything from leadership to financial responsibility.

However, when asked what aspect of Cape Fear most contributed to his high-performance in the engineering field, he cited CFCC’s experienced instructors. He maintains contact with many of his professors, even working alongside a few after his graduation.

“I’d say professors have a lot of industrial experience, on top of excellent teaching skills. Usually a professor has not only a traditional college education, but has actually worked in industry for 10+ years. They bring students a wealth of knowledge on top of academic training.”

Matt Neal encourages students to soak up these professors’ knowledge and take full advantage of the small class sizes available at CFCC. He stresses asking questions, learning how to research and taking initiative for your education. These skills best transfer into the workforce.

Neal’s initiative and love of research are traits that have carried him to the career success he is experiencing today. And he does not plan on slowing down. In the near future, Neal plans to further his education and continue growing professionally with Fenner Drives, coordinating among facilities in Wilmington, Pennsylvania and the United Kingdom.

However, his most profound goal is personal and what he strives to achieve on a daily basis: “From the alumni standpoint – Don’t get comfortable in today, because the world is changing so fast, so if you are not willing to make changes, you are going to get left behind. So that’s where I focus. Every day I at least try to learn one to two new nuggets of information or something relevant. I try to improve professionally – and personally – every day.”