Michael Maloney ’16.
When Michael Maloney wanted to understand why so many cases of Pepsi were damaged between warehouse and store, he talked with the workers who assembled and loaded the pallets onto trucks. When he wanted to see jars of Beech-Nut baby food move off the line faster, he did this:
“I dragged my desk from the administrative office side of the building to the center of the packaging factory side,” recalls Maloney, who earned a Saint Rose business degree with a marketing concentration in 2016. “I asked my new team why the line kept stopping and found out the labeler kept spitting excess glue all over the place; labels weren’t sticking consistently to the jars. The labeler operators had reported it, but the fixes were inadequate, and no one listened to them.”
The Capital Region native worked at factories, warehouses, and retail stores throughout his time at Saint Rose, and went on to complete an MBA at Pennsylvania State University and earn a list of certifications (PMP, CPIM, L6σ Green and Black belts). He did it while moving up at FedEx Ground, Beech-Nut Nutrition, PepsiCo and, eventually, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.
A year ago, Maloney joined Moderna Therapeutics, where he is now associate director of sales and operations planning. Working out of the biotech giant’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he leads planning to align global demand with supply in the future.
Now 35, he is far removed from forklifts and loading docks. But Maloney says his goals haven’t changed significantly since he saw the financial ramifications of a faulty bottle labeler, or of capsizing pallets of Pepsi stacked beneath far heavier gallon bottles of iced tea.
“When I lead organizational change management and continuous improvement activities, I still think of my teams at Beech-Nut, FedEx, and Pepsi,” he says. “Not everyone in business leadership knows what it’s like to actually build the pallet, load the truck, clean the equipment – and how to earn the mutual respect of frontline manufacturing operators that do it every day. It’s really important. It leads to better decision making.”
His story of keen instincts, he cautions, comes with its share of lessons learned.
After graduating from South Colonie Central High School, Maloney worked for FedEx Ground and Pepsi, picking orders, checking pallets, and loading trucks, often around the clock. The taxing work, and his respect for the people doing it, marked the unwitting start of his career in operations.
But he also enrolled at Saint Rose, where his mother Divina Mendoza ’82 had studied education. And he managed rent, bills, a car, homework, and a long-distance relationship – or, tried to.
“I was 18 and tried to launch every major life improvement all at once. I moved into an apartment and learned just how much food, gas, and bills can be. I’d work two jobs; one from 6 to 10 p.m., and another from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m.,” he says. “My mother warned me: ‘You can’t work two jobs and go to college. I said ‘Watch me.’ I wound up with exhaustion and depression while my schoolwork suffered.”
Maloney’s girlfriend broke up with him. He struggled to get to class, which was not lost on his professors. Two years in, he was suspended for falling short of attendance requirements. The final indignity? Moving into his parents’ basement.
The next 18 months were humbling. Maloney packed the time with three entry-level jobs, got married, and had a daughter. He moved into supervisory roles that intensified his interest in operations.
“I like to win,” he says. “I liked showing how you could make a change that would save 5 cents per case of Pepsi or baby food, which leads to substantial cost savings in the consumer-packaged goods industry.”
His most formative job was at Beech-Nut Nutrition in nearby Amsterdam, which sent him to training programs he used to increase efficiency. Beech-Nut mentors also encouraged him to finish his degree. This time, he was ready.
“I had a whole different set of motivations and interest in learning how business worked, calculating revenues, and studying operations,” he recalls.
Maloney applied what he saw at work to his classes. He joined the annual Saint Rose service trip to Washington. D.C., and a flag football league with his brother David ‘19, who was also at Saint Rose. Still, he was older than most students, had two children, and worked full time.
Professor John Dion met with Maloney one-on-one because his schedule did not allow him to attend a capstone marketing class. Likewise, Professor Chris Lucarelli coached him through an independent study in supply chain and operational excellence he could not fit in during work hours.
“The program recognized that not everyone in college was coming from the same place,” Maloney says. “It was fantastic.”
He went on to earn an MBA in 2020 while working at Regeneron. Then, Maloney joined Moderna because he was impressed by how well the company responded to the pandemic.
Applying his expertise in supply chain to the life sciences is rewarding, he says, because it benefits people in such important ways. Moderna, which is seeing exploding growth, has now charged Maloney with overseeing sales and operations, a perfect fit given his background in operations, project management, and planning.
He lives in Rhode Island with his family, a quick commute to work. Maloney continues pursuing ambitious goals, among them, the Ironman Alaska triathlon, 140.6 miles of distance swimming, cycling, and running.
Looking back, Maloney recommends students and young professionals push themselves, while perhaps adopting goals that are more realistic than the ones he set early on.
“But also,” he says, “it’s never too late to make a change and surprise yourself with what you accomplish.”
By Jane Gottlieb