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?

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.

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

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.

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.