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.

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