Friday, September 30, 2011

Applications are coming! (and my application story)

I discovered the LGO program at the end of last summer.  I had recently found and been looking at the MIT 1-year MEng in Manufacturing (, but then found Leaders for Global Operations.  LGO is like that program plus an MBA with a longer internship.  From my perspective, I wanted to apply for the engineering degree and the MBA would come as the bonus.  I used the engineering application and applied through ESD (Engineering Systems Division).  The program homepage became research central, to try and learn as much as I could.

You might be one of those people who leaves things to the last minute and so will find what I'm about to write crazy.  I know people have different styles, so take this with a grain of salt.  I started writing my essays in September.  I started writing my essays from the 2009 questions (the 2010 app hadn't been finalized yet!).  I had five full drafts written (one of each question) when the 2010 application came out and, to my dismay, one of the questions had changed!  So, first word of advice.  Don't do anything until you've got your year's application.

Now for less crazy, everyone applicable advice.  Especially if you start with enough time, have as many people read the essays as you can.  I had professors, work colleagues, friends and all kinds of people read it. I felt that the essays were really important because they would help explain my unusual story.  Some of you who already majored in Industrial Engineering or worked for partner companies might have a little less explaining to do.  So, back to writing.  At one point, each of my essays had gone through about three drafts and then one former professor just tore them down.  I was blown away; I was dismayed; I was a combination of confused and sad and completely indignant that someone could think that these paragraphs that I had already spent so much time on could be improved that much.

I took a lot of his advice but not all of it.  In the end it's you who's writing these essays, hopefully interviewing with the program, and who admissions has to see is a good fit for the program.  Your personality and drive need to be there.  Disclaimer: As far as I know I'm one of the people in 2013 who spent the most amount of time on their essays, so it is possible to be much less rigorous and get in.

Besides my application, I went to Ambassador Day (Nov 7th, 2011 this year!), and a Sloan on the Road event in Detroit, MI.  Ambassador Day is when you come to MIT and spend a day going to classes, meeting students and going out in the evening.  It's busy and it's a lot of fun.  Sloan on the Road events are mostly MBA focused, but especially if there are LGO alumni in your area, there will often be a quick Q&A with them as well.  Some Sloan on the Road events have already occurred, but here's the page to get more information about them.  They're usually held in the evening so you can go after work:  Disclaimer: these events are meant for you to learn more about the program and see how well you fit with other students and the school.  They have no bearing on your admission status.

Other than the essays, most of the application is the same as any other business school or even college application - tell us about yourself, include recommendations, and, since it's partly a business program, include a resume as well.

If you're wondering about your fit with LGO and even MIT here are some adjectives for you to mull over.

LGO students and the program:
Leaders ( the L in LGO matters a lot )

Never sleeps - not necessarily because of class work, something's just always going on
Networked - tons of connections of the Cambridge community and MIT alumni, also awesome wifi ;-)
Encouraging - lots of program and campus resources to help you do what you want to, whether that's start a business, start a club, etc.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Internships - Appearing on the edge of the horizon

Even though it's just a few weeks into the fall semester of our first year, we received an extra early reminder to think about internships when clothing company Zara (part of Inditex) asked to interview students early while their employees from Spain were in the US on business.  To back up a bit, here's a quick explanation of how internships play a role in the LGO program.

Every LGO student will spend six months, either from February to August (Off-cycle) or from June to November (On-cycle) working with one of our partner companies on a project that the company has proposed. This project will become the basis for the student's thesis.  Luckily, even though we will graduate with two degrees, MIT allows us to write just one thesis that will count for both.  So, even though Off-cycle internship interviews won't mostly begin until next month, Zara kicked things off last week.  It's gotten people to start thinking about when they want to go and what they want to do.

I am interested in doing Off-cycle for a number of reasons:

1) If you do an off-cycle internship, you have one remaining fall semester and one remaining spring.  On-cycle leaves you with two springs.  I like off-cycle because if you have more than two elective classes that looked interesting and were only offered in the fall, you will have that extra semester to get to take them.  The one fall everyone has (this one) is pretty full with the four required Sloan classes and so isn't very customizable.  There are at least two other classes only offered in the fall that I'd like to take, therefore, I'd like to be around campus for Sept-Nov 2012.

2) If you're here for the entirety of your second year, you can join and really commit to a Sloan club - you can follow a leadership role through.  This is actually true for On-cycle internships for LGO committees, so I'm more on the fence about this reason.  If I did off-cycle, I wouldn't be here to help out with the LGO Admitted Students Open House in March/April.  Maybe I could participate via Skype...

3) Two semesters of school, two "semesters" of internship and then another two semesters of school.  MIT classes can consume a lot of your time and brain power.  Having six months in the middle doing something with a completely different structure (focusing completely on one thing), gets you re-charged to tackle six of seven different commitments.

4) Other silly reasons: I like Boston weather from September to November  more than the weather from February to May.  Also, my birthday is in December and it would be nice to be "at home" then, after living in Michigan and not seeing my family for my birthday for three years.

5) Finally, for better or worse, you have more time to write your thesis!  Could be good but could be painful if work expands to fill the time allowed for it.

Everyone's got their own reasons for choosing what time they choose (including what companies are offering internships when), but right now this sounds good to me.

Monday, September 26, 2011


One thing I felt like I was missing in my undergraduate experience at MIT was mentorship and a smaller sense of belonging.  I felt very attached to the school as a whole and to my dorm, but within my department, I didn't feel like I was given much direction.

I know as future leaders, we should have to be able to lead ourselves first and should be able to give ourselves direction, but I didn't even feel always like I had someone to check my direction with - to bounce ideas off of and see if I was on to something.

Therefore, besides the many obvious benefits of LGO, I have been extremely pleased to have a community of staff, faculty and alumni that is very accessible and who care about my success.  What I'd like to write about today is an optional aspect of the program that was started a few years ago and that's alumni mentorship.

We have a great resource in Jan Klein, who has taught the LGO leadership course for years and years.  Due to her tenure with the program, she knows many many alumni well.  At a student's request, she will pair you with an alum mentor based on anything you might request - industry, gender, age, background, engineering major, etc.  My mentor is Melinda Manente, LGO '95 (back then is was Leaders for Manufacturing, so she's actually LFM '95).  She is local and has worked for Intel for the past 16 years.

This past Wednesday, she was part of an alumni career panel available to all students and then we went out for dinner afterwards to talk a little more one on one.  Having not done the formal mentor thing before, I had a few ideas for my first talk, but things went pretty organically.  We talked about my interests, her own career and family development, what she looks for from the perspective of a manager and how my background and preferences might fit with various companies.  We talked about questions I might ask to gauge a company culture, and then started coming up with a plan to help me get those internships or ultimately, full-time jobs.  My action plan from the meeting was to work on mock-interviews.

From discussion with Melinda and a one-on-one with Bill Hanson, another long-time LGO staff member, I'm getting closer to understanding what would be good in the long run.

I'd like to work for a company that makes a product that is on a human scale.  I want to be able to look at a production step and be able to see or measure that something's wrong.  I think this is why aerospace is less appealing (so big!), but also why, even though my work experience includes medical devices, pharma is not as exciting as I think it should be.  I would have a much harder time assessing what's wrong or making changes or manipulating things when the product is a vat of microbes or even a computer chip.  The spatial orientation and awareness that drew me to architecture is what makes these fields less exciting.

Finally, I don't want to work for a company whose products hurt people.  As much as I think America being safe is a good thing, I think that that coming at the expense of others dying is really hard to stomach and so I can't work for defense in good conscience.  There are so many good opportunities that will come out of this program so I'm not worried about finding something that will work.

It feels a little bit odd to, as Professor Spear often encouraged us, "put my stake in the ground" but this should provide some good initial direction and help me focus my efforts.  The more I think about what will get me excited, the better results I'll have in the long run.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Overdue - More cool stuff from the summer

One thing I was remiss in mentioning that I did over break at the end of the summer was go to Boston's GreenFest 2011, which was held on City Hall Plaza.  Earlier in the day it had poured rain and so many of the tents and smaller exhibits were partly dismantled, but one exhibit remained intact and stood out from the rest.  This was a set of high MPG cars that their owner/creators had driven in for the occasion.  All of these vehicles had motorcycle license plates since they were non-standard cars, and they each got over 80 MPG.

RooPod was the vehicle that I looked at the most and it's owner/creator Roo Trimble was very nice in explaining the thinking that had gone into the vehicle.  His day job is architectural metalwork and so not only was this car cool from an eco perspective, but it looked very polished and well done.  My one concern was safety, but he replied that it was safer than a motorcycle.  Can't have everything at once I guess.  His goal is to get sponsorship to further trick out this vehicle, to develop a second version of the car or to possibly expand production.  Here is his website explaining more about the RooPod including technical specs, etc.

Roo has been putting in tons of his own time and money to see this vehicle become a reality.  It's been an incremental process, but he's really passionate about the vehicle and knows tons about all the individual components that had to be customized and come together to make it comfortable, functional and street legal.  We had a fun chat in August and I wish him success in pushing this project forward.

Owner Roo trimble, drying off from the rain, talks about his vehicle the RooPod (3 wheels, and the door is the roof!)
Besides the RooPod, there were two other custom high MPG vehicles in attendance, the Moonbeam and another car whose owner didn't leave much information about.  It had more of a throwback look and a fiberglass top.

Moonbeam - looks like a space-y cousin of a Volkswagen beetle
The fiberglass high MPG car, I was thinking if Moonbeam was 60s inspired then this would be 70s and RooPod would be some kind of 80s/Modern combo

Friday, September 16, 2011

Club lecture - BioChem, Patents and Hair Care

Over lunch today I went to a talk Dr. Robert Langer gave to the Sloan Healthcare club.  Dr. Langer is an MIT Institute Professor (the highest title for a professor at MIT reflecting both depth of research an accomplishment at the institute as well as exceptional teaching and commitment to students).  There are fewer Institute Professors at MIT even than Nobel Laureates so this was definitely a treat.  He has a research group named after him, the Langer Lab, and many of his graduate students have used their work to start up companies from advances they've made in the field of chemical engineering.

His talk today reviewed a number of these theses-turned-companies and explained more about his strategy of filing for blocking patents (those worded vaguely so they must be acknowledged for development of many different products rather than just one).  His name is on over 800 patents and many of these have been licensed by large companies.  His list of accomplishments and contributions is amazing (he is the most cited engineer in history!).  Many of the products he and his students have developed have been in relation to drug delivery but my summary of his work would take too long.  For more information on Langer and his lab, go here.

The final item he discussed today was a product I've seen not at doctor's offices or medical journals, but on the shelves of personal care and cosmetics store Sephora.  His team has applied their research to develop a molecule more hydrophobic (water averse) than silicone, for use in anti-frizz hair care products to counteract humidity.  Silicone is what all other hair care manufacturers use but it can weigh down hair.  The Langer molecule has equivalent effects without the build-up and their line is called Living Proof.  I had vaguely heard before that the brand had MIT connections, but did not understand the depth of pedigree until today.  The reviews on Sephora, for those of you who are curious, give the line about 4/5 stars.

So, for lunch today I had the privilege of listening to an engaging talk by a MIT professor who has accomplished much and affected many people's lives - both patients, his students, and people with bad hair days.  It was one of those moments when I appreciate how accessible people are at MIT and what fantastic things have come out of this plot of land in Cambridge.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

It's September and we've been oriented again

While it was wonderful, break has ended and we've been inundated with Sloan and regular MIT graduate orientation events since the end of August.  It's been fun and nice to meet new people, though nothing will be as zany and awesome as MIT undergrad orientation, but it's already confirmed before fall has even begun that the MIT's firehose, not just of classes but clubs, committees, C-functions, etc. will be turned on full bore this coming semester.  I'm someone who likes sleep.  It will be interesting to see how those interests play out.

During Sloan orientation we were assigned to oceans and new teams (only one LGO per team this time - we're all split up).  I'm in the Pacific (F) Ocean (cohort) and have a team of seven people.  We are the Puffins.  All the teams within an ocean are named after seabirds.  We have two people from Massachusetts originally, two from Florida originally, one originally from France, one from India and one from Korea.  Funny how there's a greater diversity in countries than there is in states for our team with regards to where we grew up.  We've got our email list, Dropbox account and Google calendar all set up and ready to go so hopefully we can be effective from the very start.

Sloan orientation had more class type events than I expected, lots of catered food (about half of the orientation events were in the Marriott hotel right nearby) and then a fun day off campus at a place called the Warren Center doing team building activities.  I think it helped a lot to get our team loosened up and more comfortable with each other.  We've met up at subsequent orientation events, too.

Today was Registration Day, but we had a class.  I've never had that happen before at MIT but Sloan continues to play it's 'we'll do things our own way no matter how the rest of the institute does it' role, so I shouldn't be all that surprised.  Engineering classes and a relatively standard schedule start tomorrow.  I need to be on campus starting at 8:30 again.  Given the classes I wanted to take there was no way to avoid it.

In addition to the Sloan Core (four classes), I'm taking Logistics Systems (15.770/ESD.260) and Mechanical Assemblies: Their Design and Role in Product Development (2.875).  I've also been assigned to the Sloan Marketing elective this fall, but might choose to drop it and take it another semester.  It's offered every term and we just need to take it before we graduate.  I also then have to do work for committees (which I need to do more of) and general fun/outreach/interaction stuff.  As I said before, I'm wondering how this will mix with my need for sleep :-)
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