What were you doing before LGO?
“Before LGO, I was working in international relief and development, advising on the technical design of water and sanitation projects, supporting disaster relief efforts, facilitating knowledge sharing among country offices, and building field staff capacity.”
Why did you decide on LGO?
“Over the course of 7+ years in the field, I had carried both managerial and technical responsibilities, and I wanted to grow in both areas. I loved the intentionality with which LGO integrated these two competencies, and I was drawn to the practical, hands-on, collaborative nature of the program.”
What are you looking forward to doing while at MIT?
“While at MIT, I’m excited to connect with like-minded leaders and innovators via the Humanitarian Supply Chain Lab, D-Lab, or Water Club. I’m also looking forward to taking unique classes offered by some pretty impressive faculty.”
What were you doing before LGO?
“Prior to LGO, I worked in consulting for ~4 years at Boston Consulting Group in both the Chicago and Berlin offices. I worked in a variety of industries including Retail and Industrial Goods, focusing primarily on projects related to supply chain and advanced analytics.”
Why did you decide on LGO?
“I was originally drawn to LGO based on my interest in solving complex operational problems that companies were facing and translating the results into actionable business recommendations. LGO offered a unique opportunity to develop my knowledge base and skill set in both engineering and business at an institution that was world-renowned in both disciplines. However, the non-academic aspect of LGO was equally as appealing to me. Once I visited campus and saw the tight-knit community that the class of ~50 students had developed, I was convinced that LGO was the right place for me.”
What are you looking forward to doing while at MIT?
“I’m most looking forward to getting to know my other classmates and becoming friends with all of the talented and interesting people that are part of LGO, Sloan, and the broader MIT community. In addition, I’m looking forward to learning from professors who are leaders in their respective fields and are at the forefront of cutting edge research. MIT has so many exciting opportunities, and I can’t wait to take advantage of them over these next two years.”
LGO: Year 1
2019 Harrison Smith awardee, LGO ‘20 Nalaka Kahawatte, reflects on his time at LGO before starting his second year!
By Nalaka Kahawatte, LGO 2020
Hi Everyone! Nalaka here from LGO Class of 2020.
Growing up in Sri Lanka, I always dreamed about designing and building flying machines: airplanes, rockets, etc. I wanted to someday work for an aerospace company and I feel very fortunate that California State University, Chico gave me a scholarship that made it possible for me to come to the United States and study Mechatronics. Afterwards, I got the opportunity to learn more about factory automation at RobbJack Corporation and while working there, I completed a Masters in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at University of California, Davis.
Before LGO, I contributed to the NMA and 787 programs as a Lead Engineer and 737MAX as a Controls Engineer, and served as an Acting Engineering Manager at The Boeing Company. It was really exciting and rewarding to work with a team of computational fluid dynamics, thermal analysis and ice protection experts who supported multiple development programs: 777X, KC-46 Pegasus Multirole tanker, VC-25B presidential aircraft, etc.
LGO has been an incredible experience so far! During the first summer, even though it was academically intense, I got the chance to bond with my fellow LGO classmates. It is awesome to be surrounded by such an accomplished, passionate, brilliant, and yet down-to-earth, group of people. They have constantly challenged my perspective and inspired me to get out of my comfort zone and grow as a leader. During the MBA Core, I also had the chance to bond with all my Sloan classmates as the Chant Leader for my Ocean (CARIIIIBBEANS!!), which was a lot of fun.
My main engineering focus area is Supply Chain (within Civil Engineering) and, from the business-side, I love diving deep into the areas of Competitive Strategy, Economics, and Lean Operations. I am wrapping up my internship with the partner company Maschinenfabrik Reinhausen (MR) in Regensburg, Germany, where I focused primarily on business models for electrical power transformer monitoring tools.
Living and working in Germany as part of my internship has been a transformative experience. I loved working with the brilliant Venture Architects team at MR and learning the German language (which is not as easy as I thought, by the way), culture, and history. Every weekend, my family and I explored different beautiful areas in Bavaria and neighboring countries like Austria, Switzerland and Czech Republic.
Balancing LGO with Family Life:
My lovely wife is Taniya and we have an amazing two-year old, Ayla. We love spending time with Ayla and she brings us so much joy into our lives. She’s full of energy and she loves exploring. She also loves numbers, the alphabet, jigsaw puzzles and…elevators! Everywhere we go (malls, museums, etc.), we end up spending at least 15 minutes going up and down the elevator while she keeps yelling out the numbers of each floor.
Coming to LGO with a 10-month old baby, I was nervous at first. But the incredible support from my amazing wife makes it all possible. During the semester, I start my day early and get to school around 6AM. That gives me plenty of time to focus on the preparation for classes that day. Between and after class, I spend time on homework and call it a day around 6pm. I try to maintain the same schedule on Fridays even though we don’t have classes. My LGO and MBA teammates have been very accommodating, and we do not schedule any meetings outside of these hours.
This structure has helped me not worry about schoolwork and be fully present when I am at home during the evenings and weekends. You will also learn a lot of Lean tools that can be used to increase productivity not only in Business Operations but also in your personal life.
We lived on-campus for the first semester and it was a very pleasant experience. Westgate complex has a large play area that my daughter and I loved spending almost every evening in. It is also nice that the main recreational facilities (Zesiger Sports and Fitness Center, soccer fields, track, etc.) are nearby and we are excited to take Ayla to swim lessons offered by MIT Recreation during the weekends. There is also an added benefit of on-campus housing when it comes to internship logistics: no penalty for moving out if you choose to do a February-start internship outside of Boston. We will be moving back to Westgate after the internship.
Best Advice I Received:
The Boeing Company has an incredible network of LGO alumni and many of them provided valuable advice and insights throughout the process of applying. (Shout out to Laura Bogusch, Adam Marshall, Tom Sanderson, Brandon Gorang and Guillermo Pamanes!). One common piece of advice from all of them was: “It will be the best and most transformative two years of your life, so soak it all in and make the most of every minute, hour, and day!”
It can be nerve-wracking to go back to school full time for two degrees plus an internship in two years, especially if you have to uproot your family and move to Boston. At times, it may seem overwhelming logistically. It was for me.
But know that it will be the best investment you can make in yourself and your family. Take one step at a time and also know that you have an incredible support system here at MIT who will be there for you each step of the way.
I am super excited to go back to The Boeing Company after graduation to help design and build innovative products that Connect, Protect, Explore, and Inspire the world!
If you have any questions about the LGO program, please feel free to reach out anytime: email@example.com.
A PhD or a SM/MBA?
Every year LGO looks for the best and brightest engineers, scientists, and innovators to come in and become change makers in their field. Many times our prospective students and admits are weighing different options before saying YES to LGO. Read more from LGO 2021, Angela Murray, on her decision-making process between a PhD and the SM/MBA with LGO.
By Angela Murray, LGO 2021
Hello there! My name is Angela Murray and I am a new MIT Aero/Astro student in the LGO Class of 2021. Prior to LGO, I was working in the commercial avionics industry in LA as a software engineering manager. I really enjoyed working in industry but after 7 years I had reached a point where I wanted to take on a completely new kind of challenge and wanted to realign with my passions by pivoting to the space sector. When I started looking at graduate programs, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to deepen my technical knowledge by entering a PhD program or if I wanted to continue down the management path I had more recently embarked on. I began my research with MBA programs since that was less intimidating than the 5-6 year commitment of a PhD. I was intrigued by some of the top business programs but I feared I would not feel comfortable completely walking away from the technical side, so I began to re-entertain a long-ago plan to get a PhD in Astrodynamics. I delved further into research, talking to former professors, connecting with engineers in mission design at NASA’s JPL facility, and setting up calls with former classmates working at commercial satellite companies in both technical roles and business roles.
About a month into my exploration, I learned about the Leader for Global Operations (LGO) program by chance from a friend who had just visited Boston. I was really intrigued by the idea of working toward a masters in aeronautical/astronautical engineering and an MBA in parallel, especially from a university as prestigious as MIT. I began the application process for both LGO and PhD programs, asking for letters of recommendation, and working on essays and statements of purpose. At the time, I felt confident I wouldn’t get into any programs, but I was hopeful enough to try anyway. Fast forward a few months, I was lucky enough to get an interview at LGO, where I met some of my current classmates and friends and an interview for a PhD program, where I was really fascinated by the research being done in Geodesy. Not too long after, I was ecstatic to be offered admissions from both LGO and the research lab I was interested in. The next several months were torturous for me as I tried to decide which program offer to accept (although I was very aware of the fortunate position I sat in). Shortly before the admissions deadline for LGO, I attended the LGO adMIT weekend in Boston for admitted students. I was incredibly impressed by the community of accomplished people that I met and I believed that I was truly surrounded by tomorrow’s leaders. I was so compelled to be a part of this community that this is ultimately what solidified my decision to accept LGO.
It has been an exciting first few weeks of the summer semester packed with classes, workshops, social events, networking activities, and plant tours. Being on campus and connecting with my talented classmates has been a humbling experience but has reassured me that I made the right choice. Transitioning back to academia after 7 years in the work world has certainly been a challenge but being surrounded by this community has been tremendously motivating. One thing we all have in common is our love to learn. Despite being in the same classroom for nearly 7-8 hours some days, you can find almost the whole class in the LGO lounge down the hall after class, working on group projects, asking for help on problem sets, planning social events, and procrastinating case write ups by any means available. Our class of 45 already feels like a family.
My advice to any prospective students going through the graduate school research process is talk to as many current students and alumni as you possibly can. Talking to former, current, and other prospective students was the absolute best way to get a feel for life on campus and it is these people that really make your experience.
Five Reasons Why I Am Fascinated with LGO
By Emi Marino Lopez, LGO Class of 2019
During these past few weeks, I came to realize two years (and two degrees) happen in the blink of an eye. So let me tell you what you should keep your eyes wide open for, if you decide to embark on the LGO journey. To that end, I curated a list of the top #5 things I will miss about LGO.
#5 – The MIT Ecosystem
Former MIT president Jerome Wiesner (1971-1980) coined this colorful description of the MIT educational experience: “Getting an education at MIT is like taking a drink from a fire hose”. He couldn’t have depicted the experience better. At MIT you should expect to have your plate full 24/7. Conferences, hack-a-thons, seminars and talks by renowned industry leaders and scientists, impressive thesis defenses, and much more happens on daily basis at the MIT campus. It is an environment that truly inspires you to get involved and take an active role in what you are passionate about. And LGO is special in the sense that it gives you a place in two departments (engineering and business), becoming part of the linkage between different systems and enabling you to operate at the intersection of them.
#4 – Tours and treks (and just traveling)
The LGO program exposes you to 3-week whirlwind trip across the United States (also known as Domestic Plant Trek), where you visit partner companies, get to do countless plant tours, and meet leaders from a wide range of industries. On top of the domestic trek, we participate on other local international trips; my class visited Brasil and Argentina in 2018, and China in 2019. Aside from the incredible learning opportunity, these trips are a perfect excuse to explore different cultures and have fun with friends.
Group picture in the 2019 International Plant Trek in China
#3 – Sitting in class
Without a doubt, these two years have been the greatest and most captivating intellectual experience of my life. Be ready to learn cutting-edge topics from world renowned professors. I must add that the LGO curriculum is flexible enough that it allows you to tailor your academic experience, gearing your business and engineering classes towards your interests. If I must pick, action learning and engineering design classes are amongst my favorites. In this type of classes, you get to work on real world problems, which truly embraces MIT’s motto: “Mens et Manus”. The past Spring semester, I took Operations Lab, and my team worked with Peruvian fishing company re-designing their system to transport anchovies from the fishing vessel to the processing plant.
Artificial Intelligence class with the legendary Patrick Winston
#2 – Hanging in the student lounge
I will definitely miss spending time at the student lounge. It is the place to have lunch, caffeinate before class, chill or work in between classes, and socialize with your classmates and the wonderful LGO staff. After the Hayden Library, the lounge is my favorite spot on campus. I hope to continue visiting it as an alumnus.
#1- The people
I’m well aware this is a cliché… but honestly, I cannot think of any other thing that I will miss more about LGO. This is real to the level that we (Class of 2019) are already planning our first-year reunion.
I came to the program expecting the innovative and inspiring MIT ecosystem, the fascinating classes, the incredible trips. However, I did not expect to be part of such a close-knit community that I am pleased to call family. I met a cohort of impressive, highly-accomplished while humble and collaborative individuals that became friends after three months. I am truly grateful to have made the decision to come to LGO. I will be forever thankful for the special bond I built with my classmates, and the strong LGO Alumni Network I am now a part of.
My new family, LGO Class of 2019
If you are interested in LGO or just want to follow up with me, feel free to do so at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn daily, be inspired, and seize your day.
Ladies for Global Operation
By Caitlin Butala LGO 2020
My name is Caitlin Butala and I am one of the 17 women in the 2020 Class of MIT’s Leaders for Global Operations. As an engineer and a quant focused person, I root myself in data and want to start off by sharing some statistics. Just last year, the US Department of Commerce released a report on the status of women in STEM related fields, and of their many topics, they found that “Women filled 47 percent of all U.S. jobs in 2015 but held only 24 percent of STEM jobs. Likewise, women constitute slightly more than half of college educated workers but make up only 25 percent of college educated STEM workers.” When you get to executive level management those figures drop even more. The most shocking statistic I have learned so far at MIT was from the Sloan Women In Management (SWIM) and that is in 2016 Women made up only 4.1% of Fortune 500 CEOs…while 4.5% of Fortune 500 CEOs were named David. Clearly there is something wrong here. Looking at these stats in comparison to their level 30 years ago there is no argument that women have become a larger percentage of the STEM community, and I do not intend to diminish the meaningful advancements many strong women have made in getting the conversation started. I only intend to highlight that there is still much to accomplish, and I am proud to be part of a class igniting this change.
Being one of the only females in the room is not an unfamiliar occurrence for me. Several of my college classes had all men except for me, and in the first few years of my career, the departments I worked in never had more than one other woman. Because of those experiences, I have become passionate about exposing the excitement of STEM to women of all ages and advocating that women speak up and contribute to management discussions. That’s why much of my time outside of work and school has been dedicated to education, and specifically STEM education for girls. During college, I worked with my engineering department to host a women in engineering day for local Girl Scout troops to expose participants to different opportunities in engineering fields. Since graduating I became a board member at The Mercy Learning Center in Bridgeport Connecticut, a non-profit focused on women’s education.
I am an advocate for the development of more STEM content at all levels of education. Being a part of the LGO Class of 2020, it has been encouraging to see the women in LGO feel as passionate about this as I do.
Paige Youngerman, another one of the strong women of the LGO Class of 2020 has focused her volunteerism on highlighting opportunities in STEM to girls from a young age. As an officer in the United States Army, her unit partnered with local schools, holding workshops for girls, teaching them STEM fundamentals, and designing fun engineering projects like building Lego bridges and holding boat races. When she joined the LGO Class of 2020, she has continued to be involved with introducing STEM to the next generation. She participates in events talking to middle and high school girls in advanced science programs about future opportunities as an engineer. When asked why she does it, Paige said, “making sure women are encouraged to pursue STEM at a young age and making it fun is one of my passions!”
Bidusha Poudyal and Lea Dagle have both been involved with organizations that focus on teaching girls about opportunities in STEM from a young age. Bidusha was a mentor for girls in Girls Who Code in New York City, talking to young women about navigating their careers and introducing them to the fundamentals of coding. She also participated in the Columbia Girls in STEM program as a mentor and taught a class one day a week at a local all-girls high school where her team built a curriculum focused on STEM enrichment. Lea, in conjunction with fellow volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club started a group called GirlsLab! This organization leads sessions weekly, hosting events such as egg drops and roller coaster design labs in a hands on approach to STEM education.
These are just some of the examples of how the Women of LGO have been involved championing others to get involved with STEM. Here on campus the LGO ladies have taken on leadership roles throughout campus, heading up committees and clubs, hosting women’s preview days, and revolutionizing the mentor matching program for SWIM by building optimization algorithms to match 2nd year women at Sloan to 1styears so that these women can find their ideal mentor. This network extends beyond your two years at MIT. The WLGO is a group of women that have graduated from LGO that stay connected, sharing experiences and lessons learned across the network and host events during the LGO alumni conference.
You can see LGO’s commitment to driving more women to apply to the program, with the positive trends of women in the LGO Class going from 29% two years ago to 38% in the Class of 2021, but 38% is not enough, we need to do more to encourage young girls to pursue a STEM background, because having the fundamentals from grade school to high school, builds confidence to take on the tough problems we are facing in industry today and become leaders our field.
MIT MS/MBA Graduation! Dare to Dream!
by David Goldberg, LGO Class of 2019
✅Done and Done!✅ Two degrees in two years, I can’t believe it’s over!
Growing up in South Africa, my only exposure to MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) was through books and film, attending was beyond a dream. Last Friday I graduated with an amazing cohort of classmates and friends! Extremely proud, I also know that I have been immensely lucky.
A few thoughts for those who would dare to dream (and those who have yet to):
- Think! Believe! Dream! - Maybe it was the distance, both literal and metaphorical, but it took a long time and moving countries for me to believe MIT could happen for me.
- I made it, you can too! - It may take some hard work and a lot of luck but you have to dream and try!
- Not everybody makes it - That’s okay! You learn and grow so much from trying, it is truly worth it!
- Follow your passion! - There are other paths and that is alright. You don’t have to go to MIT. You don’t have to go back to school. You do you!
It has been an honour and a privilege! #Graduated
The LGO Internship Journey
The Leaders for Global Operations Program combines both the Sloan School of Management and the School of Engineering. But it also uniquely incorporates industry partners into the program. Our second year student Yucen walks us through how the special relationship with the LGO partner companies works and how each student benefits from the knowledge shared with them.
Yucen Xie - LGO 2019
Hi all! I’m Yucen! A little bit about me: my career passion is to blend technological innovations with a principled management skillset to affect positive change in society. After going through a technically rigorous chemical engineering curriculum in undergrad, I worked in upstream oil and gas for three years as a project engineer. I had a lot of fun collaborating with design teams in the morning, then managing construction projects in the afternoon. It was a great blend of technical with management. I wanted to continue that path of developing my technical and leadership skillsets, and LGO provided me with the perfect opportunity to do so.
There were many reasons why LGO was the best fit for me. I thoroughly love the community here - we get to be in one of the most intellectually-gifted communities in the world, full of diverse, innovative, brilliant, yet humble people. I was highly motivated to grow as a person and leader in this environment. The LGO cohort is about 45 – 50 students, all with high ambitions, all working through a rigorous curriculum and sharing a seminal two-year experience. On top of that, we get to be fully integrated into the Sloan class and well as our engineering department. We have action learning labs with emphasis on “learning by doing,” and we have access to approachable, world-class faculty. It’s truly the best of both worlds (engineering and business). Before I joined, upperclassmen told me the hardest thing about LGO is knowing when to say no. A year in, and I couldn’t agree more. There’s literally an exciting project, a cool event, or a world-changing speaker engagement happening every day (and often all at the same time!). You will be very intellectually captivated.
One of the aspects that sets LGO apart from other dual degree programs are our industry partners. The LGO Industry Partners – or “partner companies,” are a group of 29 companies that have strong, formal relationships with the LGO program. These partner companies contribute to the program by offering – among many things – strong alumni networks, fellowship funding, plant tours, and providing input on latest industry trends in operations and technology. They are an integral part of the LGO program. You can find more information here: https://lgo.mit.edu/careers/industry-partners/
All students are guaranteed an internship at a partner company. The internship process is collaborative and considers students’ interest (through committee surveys) and partner company needs for that year. Certain students are “pre-matched” into more-customized internships that deliver sufficient technical content as it relates to the engineering department. Most students interview for different opportunities among the different partner companies. You can interview with as many companies as you’re interested in. Then, there is a matching process based on mutual rankings between the companies and students to pair each role to each student.
The internships are an opportunity for students to conduct research in an industrial application. We publish a thesis based on our six-months internship work. Faculty advisors from both the Sloan school and the engineering department advise on our thesis content. Overall, the internship is a good opportunity to apply the skills you learned, while giving you the chance to dive deeper than a traditional summer internship and produce potentially novel content. The internship opportunities are quite diverse, in terms of function and company. Did I mention that everyone is guaranteed an internship?
My internship is at Amgen, one of the worlds’ leading biotechnology companies based in Thousand Oaks, California. I am applying machine learning to generate predictive models for cell line selection. Ultimately, we want to increase efficiency (reduce resource utilization and cycle times) in this critical, resource-intensive process within the biologics development pipeline.
Beyond the machine learning coursework in LGO, which has provided me with a capable data analytics foundation, what’s been even more useful within the LGO curriculum is the emphasis on operations and organizational dynamics. The focus on analytics within operations allows me to diagnose where my project adds value within the workstream. Furthermore, “soft skill” classes in communication and organizational processes has helped me manage my project stakeholders so I can be more successful in implementing my project.
Has my internship allowed me to think outside the box and take on new leadership roles? Yes, and yes! Since our internships are finite in duration, I had to think of practical ways of delivering predictive models that would be useful for our stakeholders after I leave. Instead of building time-consuming, first principles-based models, we focused on an algorithmic framework to build data-driven models, to allow for scalability and transferability in analogous use cases. There was a lot of research and advise-seeking on the best ways to create our tools. In the end, we were able to develop a modular framework and a user-friendly front-end application to help our projects’ customers understand and adopt our tools.
This internship has helped me practice influencing without formal authority in an industrial setting. In fact, one of my favorite experiences was the opportunity to travel to the Amgen site in Singapore for a knowledge transfer session, where I taught end users how to use my machine learning-based applications.
I had a lot of support throughout my internship. There were biweekly meetings with my faculty advisors, during which Anna, our helpful LGO research collaboration manager, also provided advice. Within Amgen, I relied heavily on alumni for mentorship, both in navigating my project and the company.
Most importantly, my fellow LGO classmates provided invaluable support. Within Amgen, the LGO interns have created a close-knit community, collaborating on project topics and providing useful resources to one another. For the whole class, we hold weekly calls where all LGOs can share issues and provide constructive advice to each other.
There have been some surprises along the way. From a technological sense, what’s been surprising is the ubiquitous emphasis on Big Data and AI (and all the related buzzwords) across companies and industries. I feel very fortunate to be in a community at the forefront of innovation, where I can learn about the “latest and greatest” technologies.
Regarding LGO – I can’t say I’m too surprised – but I’m very appreciative of the amazing achievements of my classmates. On top of that, everyone is humble, friendly, and funny – which makes for a great group! One of my favorite takeaways from my classes at MIT is that authenticity is the one key trait shared among diverse, effective leadership styles. As you think about applying, think about how you can present your story authentically and show your genuine aspirations and passions. Be bold and think about what specific program or opportunity will allow you to be genuinely fulfilled, for the duration of the program and beyond. Good luck!
Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone
By Jake Pellegrini, LGO 2019
The LGO Program is a blend of both the MIT School of Engineering and the MIT Sloan School of Management. LGO Students gain both the hard-technical skills and the softer skills that will help them succeed in the business world. Jake Pellegrini is an LGO 2019 student pursuing his degree in Mechanical Engineering. Here he reflects on why he chose a dual degree with the business school and one of his favorite classes from Sloan.
Why business school? Why now? Even when applying for schools, I thought extensively about these questions. Coming from a consulting background, I felt that I had a broad business base and there was a path to the post-MBA role at my firm without the need to leave for an MBA. I had worked on over two dozen cases: acquisition screens (What should we buy?), commercial due diligence (Should we buy it?), post-merger integration (How does 2+2 become 5?), and growth strategy (What next?). I realized, though, that as I transitioned from more of an individual contributor role to one of leadership and management, I knew I needed to work on some of the softer skills like communication and team building.
After completing my undergrad in MechE at the University of Notre Dame and working at L.E,K Consulting, I knew it was time to take the leap and apply to graduate school. I stumbled upon the LGO website and cold-contacted a current student who happened to have attended the same undergrad as I did. That conversation plus meeting other current students at the Preview Day event helped me better understand how complementary the engineering / operations and business ideas could be. I applied, got in, and began my LGO journey.
After spending the summer with my LGO Cohort and taking classes that are specifically targeted for LGOs, it was time to move into the Sloan world and join my fellow Sloanies as an MBA Candidate. I was excited to take on classes that were outside of my comfort zone, particularly a Communications class that was a required part of the core semester. The class offered opportunities for impromptu speaking, structured communication, and effective writing. My two favorite experiences with this were giving a prepared five-minute persuasive presentation and learning to give and receive feedback.
While decked out in Notre Dame gear, I gave my presentation on how Notre Dame should be ranked higher than Alabama in college football (at the time, there was a case for that… a persuasive case might I add J). Reflecting after, I realized the Powerpoint skills developed as a consultant combined with the tools learned in the Communications class complemented each other.
The second experience I look back on as critical in my development involved giving and receiving feedback with my core Sloan team, a group I had become very close with over the course of the semester. We carefully prepared feedback for each person, including one positive and one constructive. While I had been in feedback sessions before, the structure of the session and the thoughtfulness of my peers helped me realize what effective feedback is and how to give it.
Looking forward to my future career, I know there will be times when I am on the other side of the table, looking to grow and develop those around me to be leaders. I know I will leverage the softer skills developed throughout my time at Sloan, particularly with the Communications class.
From Benghazi to MIT: An International Perspective on Applying to Graduate School
By Ali ElSeddik – MIT LGO Class of 2020
The thought of coming to MIT was one of dreams to me, even more so being an international student from Libya. This was my dream however; I had always imagined myself coming to MIT and learning to become a principled thinker making an impact on the world with hands and mind. Just ten months ago, that dream felt like an insurmountable mountain with no clear way up, however today, I am writing this blog post after finishing up my first summer semester as an LGO student. I wanted to write and reflect about my experience making it to where I am now. I will touch on how I first came to the US as an international student, my first experience learning about LGO, how I went on to apply to MIT and my experience so far now that I’m three months into being a graduate student.
I was born and raised in Benghazi, Libya and I consider Benghazi to be my home. I grew up in the 90’s when Libya was politically and economically isolated from the world under the socialist dictatorship of the time. Nonetheless, I was extremely fortunate to have had the best possible education given the circumstances. My parents instilled upon my siblings and I the importance of learning English (along with Arabic) at a young age and expanded my learning horizons by getting us all the book and interactive games they could in both English and Arabic. I then even went on to take Spanish, French and Italian language classes as well! In the evenings after school, most of time was spent in the various extracurricular activities that I was a part of from all the sports I hopped on and off from to all the volunteer and community work that I got to do and most importantly to my 13 years as a Libyan Boy Scout. It was truly through scouting that I came to develop my leadership, social and personal skills. In those long sun-drenched summer days along the Mediterranean coast of Libya when we were pitching up tents for our summer Jamborees did I learn how to work in a team, lead by example, and value the importance of friends.
Just as I graduated from high school and was planning out my gap year, as if fate meant it to be, the Arab Spring rolled in and all my plans for the future were scrapped as I was on the front lines of attempting to bring change to my beloved country. Nonetheless, I always maintained that desire to continue my education and so by the end of 2011, I embarked on a journey that took me from the American University of Sharjah to Michigan State University to study electrical engineering. It was during those years when I was away from my family, friends and people I came to know growing up, did I find home with my fellow international students across campus. I developed relationships that crossed cultural lines and taught me the value of the global connected world. As I was approaching graduation, growth and career opportunities back home were non-existent and so I decided to take a job working as an electrical engineer with Black & Veatch designing electrical systems within power plants. By then, I had experimented with an internship and was involved with the Solar Car Racing team at MSU, so I knew that my passion was in the energy/power worlds and so I embraced my new job as the perfect place to learn and grow my passion for the industry and prepare me for my next career move.
Crossing the frozen Red Cedar River
Being the constant learner that I am, I was never satisfied with the introductory knowledge I was taught during my undergraduate years and I had always intended to continue on to graduate school. I had my eyes set on doing my masters in some form of engineering at some point but never knew when the right time or place was. Until I stumbled onto a few programs of interest at the 2015 Purdue Graduate School Fair where I picked up brochures and collected business cards. I felt rejuvenated by the prospect of being a student again and learned so much more from meeting admissions representatives in person than I ever did scrolling through websites. A couple years into working with Black & Veatch, I felt like I was falling into a stagnant routine and I was getting too comfortable in my job. And so, I decided to apply to graduate school. I knew I wanted to study electrical engineering with a focus on sustainable power generation and I knew I wanted to go to the best universities that I could, but not much beyond that. And thus commenced my graduate school research adventure sometime around the fall of 2017.
One of the brochures I had picked up from the Purdue Graduate School Fair was from LGO and so I looked more into the program and was intrigued. I knew I always had entrepreneurial and business development aspirations but never considered doing an MBA. LGO sounded to me like the perfect combination with the added benefit of being at MIT – a place I had previously attempting to apply to as an undergraduate but never managed to put an application together. On the LGO events page, I learned about Preview Day and instantly booked a spot. I knew I could be flexible at work but I made sure to communicate with my supervisors my intentions of going to graduate school early and hence my upcoming travels. To my surprise, my supervisor welcomed it and encouraged me to pursue graduate school, albeit as a second option to staying in the company. Preview day was a blast! I came out of it convinced that LGO was the perfect fit for me and learned all about MIT and Sloan from the current students, alumni, admissions staff and faculty. Moreover, hearing stories of prior students’ experiences made me a little bit more confident in that there might be a possibility of making it in.
From there I got straight to working on my application. Thanksgiving break was a welcomed time off to dive deep into essay draft editing and hunting down of reference letters from my supervisors and peers. Looking back at it now, I think I enjoyed the process. There were many times when I thought I was embarking on a hopeless challenge and that I should just give up on applying. I surely disliked writing about myself and found it hard to focus. However, I learned a lot from it all the writing. Through reflecting on my life, I honed down further on my personal career aspirations and became even more convinced of why I wanted to pursue this path. To my recent surprise, I wasn’t alone in thinking this way; I learned from my LGO peers that many of them went through that same process and everyone comes to MIT with the famed imposter syndrome. Hence, my words of wisdom are: trust in yourself, your skills and talents and let it be shown in the application; your essays will speak for themselves if you are true about your ambitions.
A couple months later at work, as I turned my phone back on after presenting a major plan to my project clients for the first time, I was surprised to find an invitation for an interview for LGO. Could this really be happening? From there, I nailed my interview and waited anxiously for a couple more months before I got that phone call from Thomas Roemer, LGO’s Executive Director welcoming me to the Class of 2020 and so began the roller-coaster of ride that was my spring and summer.
With classes starting swiftly in June, I wanted to use the transition opportunity as an escape from the comfortable life I got used to in the US and to travel. I made the most out of this career-changing transition period and booked a one-way flight ticket to Aguadilla, Puerto Rico where I was committed to helping the people of the island in their recovery from Hurricane Maria. I ended up staying in Puerto Rico for a month volunteering my time with Solar Libre driving through the narrow mountain dirt roads installing solar power systems for farms, schools and community centers. It was a thrilling experience that got me recharged and ready for my time at LGO and to becoming a community-focused, entrepreneurial, leader within the energy industry.
After my first solar install in Puerto Rico
I could write a whole other blog post about the three months since our first day of classes on June 4th. I am still in awe of how much I learned, how much fun I had, and above all, the amazing 47 other individuals that I now get to call my friends: the LGO Class of 2020. The summer semester comes at you fast. You are immediately thrown into small summer team that you grow and get to know on a personal level. With no background in operations, optimization or even statistics, I still had a great learning experience from our classes without being too overwhelmed. However, LGO is special in that we also go on plant treks and, for example, see how Amazon’s fulfillment center robots are being assembled and brought into life as well as having events with partner companies where we got to learn about what they did and its importance. Finally, I can’t talk about the summer, without mentioning the countless hours I spent sailing in the Charles River and the amazing resource that is the MIT Sailing Pavilion.
With my LGO summer team
Looking back at it now, I have no doubt that 2018 was the best year of my life so far. However, in reflecting, I want to retell the story of how none of what I got to do this year was even possible in my mind only a year ago, but I trusted the process and trusted where my ambitions would take me. We can never know what the future holds for us, but the steps we take today will shape our day tomorrow and I can’t wait for what’s ahead of me in the rest of these two years at LGO.