Why Study Anything but Engineering?

SPRING 2017
Jeff
B.
Leaders for Global Operations

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 and access to infinite resources and some of the world’s best professors. For instance, the university has one of three domestic tokamaks, has the Media Lab (which works on cool “problems” like this and this), and has researchers and engineers who 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 the cutting-edge technology MIT is known for.  I’m here to tell you this could not be farther from the truth.

Of course, it is easy to feel like you too need to be involved in something truly earth shattering. However, the exciting things going on at MIT have not discouraged or deterred me from continuing down the path I was on when I got here.

If anything, it is energizing to be closer to the work that MIT scientists, students, and professors are working on while developing my general operations and leadership competencies at part of the Leaders for Global Operations (LGO) program.

Their work adds flavor to different classes and experiences, whether it be a lecture on autonomous freight in a logistics class or a tour of Amazon’s robotics center in North Reading. 

With that, here are a few reasons why I am studying supply chain management, operations, and general management and not falling victim to the MIT engineering innovation bug. And while the below are fairly program specific, I'd argue that anyone already in or considering options outside of a core engineering degree and/or those involved in joint programs, might find my advice useful. 

Job Prospects (and Security)
Every company that produces a product (and many that do not) has a supply chain. These products differ in complexity and have different stages in their lifecycle, demanding adaptive thinking from experienced professionals when managing the value stream of the product. Managing inventory, negotiating supplier contracts, and sourcing components require people (or they will for at least the next 30-40 years… who knows what’s on the horizon).

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 (of which I am a member of) to name a few. These programs work with some of the major innovators when it comes to operations and supply chain. Specifically, LGO boasts partnerships with companies such as Inditex (Zara) and Amazon; companies that define themselves by their agility in supply chain management.

Combining the practical experience with these companies and the education yields a professional that is typically ready to tackle some of the most complex challenges that supply chains are seeing today.

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 a becoming more and more important. To spur this type of development, companies have been creating leadership development and rotational programs.

These programs help to fast-track development in a way that a standard hire position 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 as well. For those of us that thrive on adventure, this career path can be very attractive.

Workplace Engagement and Relationships
Supply chain and operations is personal. Whether you are working with a diverse team to lean out a manufacturing line or conducting negotiations to combat price increases from a supplier, the task is just as much technical as it is about intuition, wits, and experience.

For some, this can be daunting, but for others, the thrill of “success” can offer a level of engagement in your work that some jobs simply cannot match.

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

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 in undergrad. For most of us, 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 that is associated with selling over 200 million devices per year, Samsung (or another company) would likely rule the smartphone world today.

As a result, 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.