Alice Waugh, LGO Communications Director
When weighing post-graduation job options, students should look closely at the company's culture and career growth potential and not just at one particular job, MIT LGO alumni said at a panel during Midstream Review.
"Make sure it's a good fit culturally and see if the people really resonate with you. You may end up at a very different place than where you started off," said Denise Johnson, LGO '97, General Manager for Specialty Products in Caterpillar's Remanufacturing and Components Division. She was one of four alumni now working for MIT LGO partner companies who took questions from current students at the October 4 panel.
"Look not just at the first role you'll have, but the second or third role," said Brian Feller, LGO '08. "Look for companies where you can be mobile and move to other roles." Feller is Executive Assistant to the Vice Chairman and President of Global Operations and End User Computing Solutions at Dell, Inc.
At the same time, students should be realistic about the pace of their progress. For example, at a 160,000-employee company like Boeing, "you're not going to be CEO tomorrow," said Craig Abler, LGO '06, Boeing's Senior Manager of Supplier Management Operations — Israel.
Alumni also encouraged students to consider front-line positions because it builds credibility. "If you think the company is a good fit for you and you like the culture, I would argue that line roles are always better, even if it's a repeat of a role you had in the past," Abler said.
Although LGOs are very well prepared for their post-graduation roles, on-the-job leadership is something that can't be taught, Johnson noted. "You can learn about leadership academics, but until you actually lead people, you haven't experienced that," she said. "You have to do it to really learn it."
Interpersonal skills and "influencing skills" are among the attributes alumni said they look for when considering LGO grads for openings. "It's influencing people on how to do the work you think they should be doing, or to share information to help you learn to do your job better," Feller said.
Moving up the corporate ladder requires not just leading people, but teaching those people to be leaders themselves, the alumni said. "You don't want to do everything yourself, because you're not getting promoted until your backfill is ready,” said Robin Vacha, plant manager at UTC-Kidde-Fenwal. “Your foundational success comes when people below you want you to be successful."
Although it's not easy, dealing directly with the problem of subpar team members is key, Johnson said. "You have to be very frank with the person and make them aware of it," she said. "In general, managers are very bad at that, because you have to spend a lot of time thinking about it and talking to them. It's tempting to shuttle them aside or give them a less important assignment to mitigate risk, but that's the worst thing you can do as a leader."
"My advice? Each day, tackle all the people problems first," Vacha said. "You may miss a delivery here and there, but you're putting the organization on a good footing for the long term."
Asked about maintaining a healthy work/life balance, "it's 100 percent completely within your control," Abler answered. "Every day, you choose what activities you're going to fill your day with."
Nonetheless, ambitious career aspirations require a greater time commitment, Johnson observed. "You have to be realistic...If you think you're going to have a 40-hour work week and be a senior leader, you'll probably have to change your mindset," she said.
"It's a choice: do you live to work or work to live?" said Feller, who has three children and coaches baseball. "Do you find the culture of the company conducive to working from home or working different hours?"
The network of fellow LGO alumni is very important, the panel said—not necessarily in terms of direct hiring, but "really as a sounding board for making tough [career] decisions, because they're my friends," Vacha said.
"The friendships you have now are friendships you'll have the rest of your life," Johnson said. "Make sure you enjoy it."
Keep checking the LGO website for more stories on MIT LGO and its alumni during the program's yearlong 25th anniversary celebration, which will culminate in a two-day event on campus on May 2-3, 2013.