Self-reflecting on an LGO Experience

 – Russell Forthuber (LGO ‘17)

Back in February 2017, I was contacted by David Hume (LGO
’16) regarding an opportunity to be a peer reviewer for a grant funding
opportunity hosted by the Department of Energy (DOE).  These grants provide funding to advance
applied sciences in the energy industry.
This specific grant focused on the marine hydrokinetic (MHK) industry;
the MHK industry includes marine renewables such as wave energy or tidal energy.  David passed along my contact information to
one of the organizers because of our identical background and shared interest
in the marine renewable energy sector.  He
and I were classmates at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, sailed on liquefied
natural gas tankers after graduation, and at LGO took the Ocean Engineering
Systems Management track.  While David
had a conflict of interest which unfortunately prevented him from being a
reviewer, we both qualified as credible peer reviewers in the topic area based
on our history.

There were several steps in this peer review process.  During March I performed an independent
critique of several research proposal applications.  Scores were assigned across a range of
criteria, and feedback on strengths and opportunities of the application were
also included.  In April I flew to the
National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, for two days
of meetings with other peer reviewers.
During these meetings, we had in-depth discussions of each application
and revised our original scores as appropriate based on the results of these discussions.  Finally, these recommendations and comments
were passed to a Federal Review committee for evaluation and funding decisions.

When I showed up to the meetings the first morning I was a
bit nervous because I felt like the outsider in a seemingly well-connected and
experienced group.  However, I quickly
found mutual ground with the other reviewers through various communications and
influence strategies I’ve learned at Sloan.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that my background of systems design
engineering and the dual degree education at MIT enabled me to make comments
germane and insightful to the discussions.
Both the engineering and business skills I’ve learned through the LGO
program were essential to successfully bridge the gap between the more senior
reviewers and myself.  

At the end of the first day I realized that by asking the
right questions, driving discussions when necessary, and bringing up important
points which others had not considered, I was just as capable as the other,
more senior reviewers in the group.  Indeed,
the feedback I received after the second day was that my perspectives helped
identify high value applications and that I would be kept in mind for future
DOE merit reviews.

Self-reflecting on this DOE peer review has
helped me realize how much of a transformative experience LGO has been to me.  After two years of studying the LGO playbook,
my classmates and I can now effectively employ the leadership frameworks,
presentation skills, operations expertise, business acumen, and engineering
capabilities which we sought when stepping onto campus two years ago.  With this chapter of my life coming to a
close I’d like to thank the staff and my classmates at LGO, MIT Sloan, and MIT
Engineering for such an incredible two years!
Now I’m off to Europe for two months of mountain biking and whitewater
kayaking before starting at Nike in supply chain manage