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Delaware / Manufacturing / Mentorship / POC in Tech / Science

From intern to executive: This Agilent VP is helping the next generation make it in STEM

As the manufacturing company expands in Delaware, Greg MacKenney comes full circle with a commitment to the region's HBCUs.

Greg MacKenney, VP and general manager of supplies division at Agilent. (Courtesy photo)

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Not many people these days can say that they’ve been with the same company for 24 years. Greg MacKenney is one of those who can.

The STEM manufacturing company he works for, Agilent Technologies — a spinout of Hewlett-Packard (HP) — is expanding in Delaware, having launched two major investments in the state over the last two years. That means more opportunities for more Delawareans to hit a similar milestone someday.

In 2022, it was big news when the company announced that it was expanding and upgrading its Little Falls office and lab campus, with plans to invest $7 million in the project. Just a year later, in June, it made another, bigger announcement: a plan to invest nearly $22 million in its lab-based manufacturing site in Newport. About 110 of Agilent’s 950 Delaware employees are located there — an employee count that will increase as a result of the investments.

MacKenney is VP and general manager of supplies division at Agilent’s Little Falls location. When he started in the late ’90s, he’d been recruited by HP at Morgan State University, an HBCU in Baltimore, as an intern. After graduating from Morgan State with a degree in electrical engineering, MacKenney was selected as one of the interns for the HP Cornell Program, leading him to earn a master’s degree at Cornell University.

When he graduated from Cornell, Agilent was just being spun out from HP. The company was ready to hire him, but he had a decision to make.

“Do I go with Hewlett Packard or do I go with Agilent?” MacKenney said. “Much of my internship experience was with the part of the company that was going to be Agilent, so I went upon graduation to work on the Agilent side as a manufacturing development engineer, here on the Delaware site.”

Today, as VP and GM, MacKenney is responsible for driving the business around the company’s instrument supplies. His team includes marketers and scientists working closely with Agilent’s research and development and order fulfillment organizations.

Here’s how he, and the company, have grown in Delaware.

Agilent’s work in Delaware

Agilent is a global company with locations in nearly 30 countries and in 21 US cities, mostly in the west, with its US headquarters in Santa Clara, California. It manufactures and provides instruments, software and related products and services for laboratories, including in pharmaceutical, academic and government.

The company has been right at home in Delaware, with its strong chemistry and pharmaceutical manufacturing history, since it spun off in 1999.

“We have a great workforce in Delaware, specifically for this chemical manufacturing expansion,” Graham Margetts, manufacturing site manager for Newport, told Technical.ly. “Delaware has a number of great schools — Del Tech, Delaware State University and the University of Delaware all provide the sort of students and training that we require. We put an awful lot of effort into training and upskilling our team.”

The tech that’s driving the growth in Newport is called high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC).

“That’s a technology very widely applicable in the scientific and pharmaceutical industry where you are looking to separate out mixtures in liquids or material dissolved in liquids,” Margetts said. “For instance, if you want to know all the components in a coffee, you can use HPLC separate and identify the components. Coffee is rather a simple application, but you can see it used for pharmaceutical applications, food safety and environmental applications.”

Just as HP did in the ’90s when MacKenney was a student at Morgan State, Agilent maintains relationships with universities, including HBCU Delaware State University. In 2022, Agilent donated $1 million for lab instruments and scholarships for students entering STEM fields, as well as a commitment to donate $3.5 million in research instrumentation technology.

Part of that commitment includes a mentorship program.

Agilent scholars

A group waves at a camera overhead during a June 2023 meeting between Agilent execs and Delaware State University.

A June 2023 meeting between Agilent execs and Delaware State University. (Courtesy photo)

MacKenney is actively involved with working with HBCUs, including his alma mater, which received a donation for its mental health program.

“We continually look at ways in which we can support HBCUs, but we do have a unique relationship that we just started with Delaware State,” MacKenney said. In June, along with Agilent CEO Mike McMullen and Chief Commercial Officer and President of Agilent CrossLab Padraig McDonnell, he met with Delaware State President Tony Allen. “We talked about the vision for the partnership, and really looked at understanding where we wanted to go with this partnership, because the expectation is this is going to be a mult- year journey.”

MacKenney, McMullen and McDonnell also got to engage directly with Agilent Scholars — recipients of Agilent scholarships — and hear firsthand from the students how the award impacted them. They also got a firsthand look at the donated instrumentation.

Equally important, Agilent is launching a mentoring program that pairs Agilent Scholars with Agilent employees, and has started recruiting Delaware State interns.

“When I came in as an engineer, I was assigned a technical mentor,” MacKenney said. “Within any corporation or company, you have a path: Do you want to continue to be an individual contributor, or do you want to be a people manager where you have people reporting to you? A few years on my career journey into the company, I had to make that decision when I had an opportunity to try out management. Needless to say, I’ve been in management ever since, probably over 18 years.

“But through those different manager roles, I’ve always had someone that I looked to for mentorship guidance, which eventually changed to sponsorship and advocacy,” he said. “This is not something you’re necessarily going to get in university. It’s important to understand what you will need to be successful in navigating your career.”

Companies: Agilent Technologies
Series: How I Got Here

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