My Degree by the Numbers

SPRING 2017
Jeffrey
B.
Leaders for Global Operations

Two teams, 11 unique personalities, seven months, 14 classes. A return to New England Patriots nation after a six-year journey where I resided in three different states (and one district). An opportunity to complete two masters’ degrees in two years supported by 27 global corporations. Adding to the mix travel to 22 states and countries while playing on four intramural sports teams.

As one would expect, MIT students like to characterize everything with numbers.  However, my experience as a Leaders for Global Operations (LGO) Fellow thus far has been much more about the people, described quite well by my experience this past summer with my first-semester team.

First, some background. The 48 students in our cohort were divided into eight teams of six students and each team was responsible for completing a variety of projects and classwork associated with the summer curriculum. These teams were announced at a welcome reception with little clue as to how critical it would be that we rely on each other to succeed in our first three months at MIT.

Team 6 Möbius (our team name for which I’m still not sure of its roots): A naval aviator and officer from Texas; international energy and policy consultant previously based in China; tractor engineer and father from the Midwest; brilliant energy (and Mario Cart) professional and prior McKinsey consultant; and go-getter robotics enthusiast originally from Asia.

At face value, it almost sounds like a “so-and-so walked into a bar” joke. While the first semester included regular stops at the watering holes near campus (think Muddy Charles, The Fields, Aeronaut Brewery to name a few), the experience of working on this diverse team through the summer core was truly exceptional from an intellectual and personal growth perspective. 

Before attending business school, I dismissed the idea that the forced team-learning environment I was joining could be so practically and profoundly valuable. I figured that with my few years of experience on the manufacturing shop floor and at corporate completing international supply chain projects had exposed me to enough different teams to be effective in all settings. Boy was I wrong. After experiencing the summer core semester with Team 6 Möbius, I learned more about team dynamics, building and managing professional relationships, and driving results than anywhere else I had been before.

For teams at MIT (specifically in the business school), technical skills are just as important as the ability to convey complex information and teach your classmates. Students come from a variety of backgrounds and MIT Sloan gives you a unique opportunity to learn about all industries and career paths, from development consulting in Africa to finance on Wall Street. As a result, students here may find they are teaching others just as much as they are learning from the professors.

Sometimes those lessons were practical. Our team created an optimization model for the NY-ISO electrical grid, attempting to model the utilization of New York power plants according to energy demand based on different statewide conditions (think weather, future potential shutdown of the Indian Point Nuclear Facility).

Two of our teammate’s experience in the electrical grid was the basis for the team being able create an accurate model, but this required sacrifice on their part to teach us the relevant material so that all teammates could contribute to the final product. I still draw upon this project in other classes due to the knowledge I gained from my teammates as a person who had never learned about the grid previously.

And sometimes those lessons were profound. In one instance, a teammate confronted me with feedback regarding my propensity to prioritize efficiency over other individuals learning. In procurement, the name of the game was agility when it came to completing strategic sourcing projects and driving cost savings activities.

In the MIT academic environment, I realized that balancing learning and efficiency was a critical element and lesson to have over the first semester. Taking time to understand the particularities of new environments and wishes of my teammates is a lesson I will take forward when working in any team in the future.

Both practical and profound is how I would describe my first semester at MIT; it has been easy to find sources of inspiration from other students, professors, and the community as a whole.

After all, without the people and community to draw upon, my two years at MIT would be just another four semesters of classes after 17 years of primary and undergraduate education and 16 years of the Patriots dynasty.