Why Study Anything but Engineering?

– Jeff Birenbaum (LGO ‘18)

Why study anything BUT engineering at MIT? In my case, why study supply chain management and operations?

MIT
is Infinite
MIT offers cutting-edge research opportunities, access to
infinite resources, and some of the world’s best professors. For
instance, the university has one of three domestic tokamaks; the Media Lab works on cool “problems” like this and this; and MIT researchers have created the first robotic cheetah.

I
think this is a critical part of being at MIT; it’s an environment
filled with some of the most interesting research that the world can
offer.  One could think that as a supply chain and operations student,
they would not have the same access or engagement with cutting-edge
technology.  This could not be farther from the truth.

Of course,
it is easy to feel like you need to be involved in something truly
earth-shattering. But the exciting things at MIT have not discouraged or
deterred me from continuing down my planned career path. If anything,
it is energizing to be closer to the work that MIT scientists, students,
and professors are working on while I develop general operations and
leadership competencies in LGO. MIT research adds flavor to my classes
and experiences, whether a lecture on autonomous freight in a logistics
class or a visit to Amazon’s robotics center near campus.

With that, here are a few reasons why I am studying supply chain management, operations, and general management.

1. Job Prospects (and Security): Every
company that produces a product (and many that do not) has a supply
chain. Each product differs in complexity and lifecycle, demanding
adaptive thinking from experienced professionals. Managing inventory,
negotiating supplier contracts, and sourcing components requires
specific knowledge.

In addition, MIT is world-renowned for
its supply chain and operations education with several programs that are
world-renowned, including ORC, SCM, and LGO. These programs work with
some of the major supply chain and operations innovators. LGO boasts
partnerships with companies such as Inditex (Zara) and Amazon: companies
defined by their supply chain agility.
Combining practical
experience with these companies and MIT education creates graduates who
are typically ready to tackle some of the most complex challenges in
today’s supply chains.

2. Mobility and Growth
:
Corporations are more diverse and global now than they have ever been.
As a result, providing employees with opportunities across the spectrum
of operations is becoming more and more important. To spur this type of
development, many companies have created leadership development and
rotational programs.

These programs help to fast-track your career
in a way that a standard job cannot offer. Young professionals often
get the opportunity to experience two to four different jobs at several
different sites during their time in these programs.
In addition, the
millennial generation has been classified as “nomadic” and “adventure
seeking”. Operations can offer a career that caters to that. Over the
last four years, I have had the opportunity to work in four states and
several of my colleagues had the opportunity to work abroad. For those
of us that thrive on adventure, this career path can be very attractive.

3. Workplace Engagement and Relationships
:
Supply chain and operations is personal. Whether you are working with a
diverse team on a manufacturing line or conducting price negotiations,
the task is just as technical as it is about intuition, wits, and
experience.

In my experience, successfully negotiating price
reductions or convincing manufacturing veterans to change their process
has been extremely motivating and rewarding.

4. Cutting-Edge Technology
:
Say you want to get involved in the development of the next iPhone but
did not study electrical engineering or computer science. For most,
there would not be a place on that team.

However, operations
management and supply chain always get a seat at the table because if
Apple could not effectively manage the scale of over 200 million devices
per year, another company would likely rule the smartphone world today.

Pursuing
a supply chain and operations education is a great way to gain access
into some of the world’s coolest innovation while not having to have
such a specific skillset that some industries require.

Read Jeff’s full blog post, and other MIT Graduate Student Blogs, here.

Studying Water Use in India

image

I’m Nupur Dokras (LGO ’17), and I recently travelled to India as part of MIT’s D-Lab course, where I worked with in a team of MIT students to study water filtration in Uttarahand. Read my full blog post here.

The purpose of the project was to gather market data for a current MIT research project under Rohit Karnik, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Amy Smith,
Senior Lecturer, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Founding
Director of D-Lab. We wanted to understand what rural people in India
need and prefer to better develop a low-cost water filter.
We started
our project in Dehradun where we met with local partner organization
People’s Science Institute (PSI). Over a period of three weeks in India,
we travelled to Almora, Kapkot, and Bageshwar, three towns at the base
of the Himalayas, to conduct research. We worked with local university
students as interpreters. We hiked up and down the hills and approached
villagers to conduct interviews. After completing nearly 100 interviews
and a few design workshops, I was able to use what I learned in classes
such as Global Engineering and New Enterprises to develop a set of market findings.

The
interviews gave me an inside perspective on villagers and their way of
life. Some people had to walk for over an hour to gather their water
several times a day. For many, providing food for the family takes
precedence over water quality. Filters and maintenance parts were
difficult to find in local markets because the villages are so remote.

This
trip reinforced my studies here at MIT, but it also absolutely changed
my outlook on life. Not only did I learn about water filtration and
water use, but so much more about a simpler way of life. I saw students
walking for an hour each way to attend school. I laughed with a child as
he ecstatically ran across the field when we fixed his broken plastic
flip flop with duct tape. I tried on a crop basket and felt the enormous
weight of the mustard plants against my back as I climbed the hills.
Families greeted me with a cup of chai even though they had only enough
electricity to power three LEDs for the entire house. I watched ladies
lug gas tanks for cooking from the base of a hill to their kitchens.

image

I have visited Mumbai and Delhi for family trips before, so I did not
expect to be affected by culture shock. However, rural India was a
different experience. I realized just how much of an adventure we were
on when we had to go to ten different stores to find bottled water and
had to drive for another hour to find toilet paper and gasoline! The
food, though incredibly spicy, was so fresh and some of the best Indian
food I have ever had. When handed an orange in a village, I was promptly
given salt and spices to smear on the peeled orange. The mix of tangy
and spicy flavors was unforgettable!

This experience gave me a new appreciation for India’s beauty and a simple life. Additionally, I have a new perspective on how to view day-to-day challenges. They pale in comparison to other larger issues in the world. I know I wouldn’t have been able to learn many of these life lessons solely from the classroom. I am incredibly fortunate to have had this opportunity and will never forget the relationships I made, experiences I had, and lessons I learned.

image

Read my full blog post here!

What I Learned [Before] My Summer Vacation

I began thinking about writing a blog post on my drive from Boston to Seattle for my internship at Boeing a few weeks ago. All I could think about what how crazy the last few years have been. A year and a half ago, my girlfriend and I lived in Atlanta. She was teaching pre-school and I worked for GE. Now, we’re married and Abby will be joining me in Seattle for the summer. First of all, I want to digress and comment on planning a wedding during LGO. There was one LGO that got married the first week of summer classes and there were two LGO 17s that moved to Boston, planned a wedding, and got married right after our first year. It wasn’t easy, but we found time to plan our weddings, get involved with committees and clubs, and make great friends during our first year.

During my drive, I had over 50 hours and 3500 miles of driving to reflect on the last year. From not being engaged and working at GE to being married and driving to my internship in Seattle, my life is completely different. I can’t say that it’s all been stress-free, but I have learned a lot during the last year. This might be a little cheesy, but here a few of the memorable lessons that I learned during my first year of LGO.

  • Many LGO 17s would agree that the best piece of advice we heard during our first year came during a leadership and ethics seminar. Our speaker said that many of her LGO classmates lived outside of their means and ended up trapped in jobs/lives that they didn’t want. Her advice was to live within your means so that you can quit your job at any moment and transition to something that you truly love. I know that we’ve all heard this advice before, but it was refreshing to hear it from a successful LGO alum.
  • Find a work/life balance – school and work are important, but so are staying healthy, meeting new people, and trying new things. I still struggle with this, but these are important things that will allow me to get the most of of LGO and life.
  • It’s OK to say “I don’t know. Can you help me?” This happened very early on during LGO when I struggled with a few classes. I knew that LGO would be hard, but I didn’t expect to be completely lost during the summer. Luckily I learned to ask for help and my classmates and teachers were more than willing to take time to help me. I am continually shocked at the kindness and willingness to help that my classmates have shown each other throughout our first year.
  • You do your best thinking by slowing down and concentrating. I realized early on at LGO that I like to think things through slowly and methodically. I also realized that it takes me more time than some of my classmates to recall certain things that we’ve learned. I realized during a leadership class over the summer that taking time to think about something can be extremely beneficial. We are always trying to multitask, especially at LGO, but I rarely found creative solutions or solved problems while multitasking. I believe that there is a time and a place for multitasking, but disconnecting and concentrating on the problem at hand can produce great results.
  • Getting angry can make you temporarily dumb. This came up in a negotiations class that I took in the Spring. Our professor explained that getting angry temporarily changes your brain for up to 17 minutes so that you are actually temporarily dumb. I used to get really frustrated at work and learning about this side effect of anger/frustration/impatience made me seriously consider if allowing myself to get angry was impacting my work more than I realized.

Overall, the most important lessons that I learned from my first year at LGO were not technical. While I loved learning about supply chains, manufacturing, finance, etc., and I’m sure they will help me in my internship and post-LGO career, I was really shocked by all of the meaningful, non-technical things that I learned. These most certainly differ from all of my classmates’ lessons learned, but that’s the beauty of MIT Sloan and LGO. Everybody gets exactly what they need out of them.

Nick Arch, LGO ‘17

MIT Sloan MBA & SM in Mechanical Engineering

From Boston to Seattle, there are a few sights along the way.