Aceil, my wife, has done the test and it’s come back, not with a grade but two little blue lines: She is pregnant. That’s the best news I have heard while at MIT. Having a baby when you are a student is as exciting as it gets, but it can be overwhelming. Lucky for us, MIT has a lot of resources for new parents. MIT offers the Spouses & Partners Connect, Pediatrics meetings, Post-Partum Support and Breastfeeding Classes, prenatal yoga in addition to top medical care right on campus.
As a father to be, my favorite class by far is a Childbirth class taught by Wendy Mackey-Kydd an experienced birth companion. Both parents attend a very small class once a week. The class is fairly intimate with 4 or 5 other couples. Wendy, covered the fundamentals of childbirth such as relaxation, position practice, massage and breathing and we left with a “toolbox” of support techniques and lots of practice. We were also introduced to breastfeeding and early postpartum.
A tour of Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, MA was included. The birth center is family centered and is considered to be one of the most prominent Massachusetts. It was an opportunity to see the birthing rooms: Mothers stay in one room through labor, delivery, and recovery, and rooms are equipped with private baths and showers; some rooms even have Jacuzzis. (Aceil’s favorite)
The class gave us an opportunity to meet other new parents, hear their stories and learn from their experiences. It was a chance for my wife to meet other mommies to-be and bond over what is supposed to be the greatest gift of all.
There is more at MIT than just homework and exams; It is an inclusive community both for students and spouses that will support and nurture you so you can get the best out of your 1 year as a student, both inside and outside classrooms.
This year, for the first time, the SCM program added a degree and provided the option to students to pursue one of two degrees: Master of Applied Science (MASc.), or Master of Engineering (M.Eng.) in Supply Chain Management. M.Eng. students write a thesis, while MASc. students complete capstone projects.
This article provides an overview of both options, their pros and cons, and some key decision factors from a student’s perspective that may help you decide!
Completing a Capstone Project
Working on a capstone project allows students to solve a real-world problem and make a tangible difference in a company. Projects are sponsored by a wide-range of companies. Some are large and well-established, looking for ways to transform long-standing systems and workflows. Some are mid-sized companies facing a new challenge. Yet others are startups, looking for students to research new concepts. The topics students are tackling this year include blockchain and 3D printing, and many others.
Students work with company-provided data and apply methods learned in class to develop an optimization model or a new forecasting procedure that addresses a specific problem. Students engage in regular meetings with company contacts and often have the opportunity for site visits to manufacturing plants and / or distribution centers.
Companies and SCM faculty present capstone topics to students during orientation. Then students bid on their favorite projects. Each project is assigned to a pair of students who will work as a team. It is not always guaranteed that students will receive their first choice although most receive one of their top two projects.
The pictures below feature students on company-sponsored site visits. Mary Kate Gorman and Bernadette Orende are working on a project with a Fortune 500 company in the consumer packaged goods industry. Hilary Taylor and Russ Miller are working on a project with a start-up company in lot traceability of food products.
Working on a Thesis Project
Thesis projects are longer, have more extensive academic requirements, and are done individually. It is the responsibility of the student to propose a topic that is relevant and original to the field of supply chain management.
The thesis can involve one sponsoring company like the capstone or address a supply chain challenge common across an entire industry. In either case, it is entirely up to the student to research the topic independently and to reach out to potential partner companies or industry groups.
The thesis write-up must include a literature review, a component not required for the capstone project. This section, which will appear at the beginning of the thesis, is typically 10 – 30 pages long. It defines the context of the research question, identifies the gap in current knowledge that the thesis will address, and presents the methodologies that will be used to solve the problem.
Key Decision Factors in Choosing a Degree
Academic & Career Goals If you wish to continue in the SCM program beyond the one-year masters, performing research or working towards a PhD, writing a thesis will help you to prepare for that. If you plan to work in industry or consulting after graduation, a capstone project can provide you with a taste of what to expect after joining the workforce. There are certain benefits to both project options.
Personal Interests Is there a specific problem you want to solve? What better place to research a technical topic than at MIT? While a thesis requires a little extra initiative, it allows a student to be fully creative, drawing upon past education, and work experience to work on the problem that most interests him or her. Writing a thesis is a great way to tailor the SCM program to your individual interests, deepen your knowledge of a particular subject, and learn from experts in other departments across the university. At the same time, you might run into a capstone project that is a great match for you. There are students who got to work on a capstone project that was an interest of their industry and problem.
Competing Time Requirements Grad school at MIT has so much to offer: clubs, athletics, entrepreneurial events, recruiting sessions, cross-registering for classes at nearby universities, free food hunting, and much more.
The SCM program is only 10-months long so you have to prioritize!
There are also other ways to personalize your degree should you choose to forgo a thesis. Students in the SCM Masters are allowed to pursue certificates through the Sloan School of Management. These certificates, in healthcare and sustainability require extra coursework beyond the SCM classes in a concentrated series of electives. Pursuing a certificate and writing a thesis is definitely an ambitious workload to take on!
Branding If you are wondering what employers might think of the two degrees, don’t worry. So far, degree choices have had no impact on hiring decisions. But, it’s ultimately your choice as to which degree will appear on your resume.
My Choice I arrived on campus with a very specific background and set of interests. I had spent almost five years working as a chemical engineer, mostly in the natural gas industry. My career interests are very focused in energy and sustainability.
I wanted to hear all of the company presentations before I made my choice, just in case one might be a great fit. There were some exciting projects for sure, and I waivered when Bruce, Executive Director of the Supply Chain Management Program, asked me whether or not I would participate in capstone bidding at the end of August.
In the end I chose to stay true to my long-time passions. I am writing a thesis on natural gas transportation, drawing upon both my first-hand experience in the field as an engineer, and my freshly-learned skills in supply chain management.
My experience does not apply to everyone in the program. Some students were lucky enough to be assigned to projects in their exact area of interest, yet others chose to expand upon a company-sponsored project and turn it into a thesis, gaining the advantages of both degrees.
The choice is yours and the options are endless. Which will you choose?
On the first day of the orientation, one thing you notice right away is the diversity of your classmates. They come from different cultures, industries, and even generations. I was awed by the diversity yet afraid it might hinder my ability to connect with them and make new friends. That fear vanished on the second day of the orientation when we traveled to Thompson Island, just off the coast of Boston. On the island, we played a game to learn about our leadership style, and we were encouraged to practice different leadership styles to get out of our comfort zone. With that lesson in mind, we participated in various team building exercises such as Human Calculator, Spider Web, and Rock Climbing, etc. Imagine you are rock climbing for the first time and you are getting belayed by another person who’s also never climbed before. You’re forced to trust the other person! After a full day of those activities, you leave the island with newly forged friendships.
GSC Orientation 2017
In addition to MIT SCM activities, Graduate Student Council held GSC Orientation events from August 28th through September 5th. The events included grad panels from various departments on topics ranging from academics to social, a Boston city tour, a Cambridge pub crawl, White Mountains hiking, apple picking, and the OneMIT Banquet. Through these events there are endless opportunities to meet graduate students outside of SCM and learn about what they do. For example, there is no other place where you casually learn about a nuclear fusion reactor at a pub other than in MIT.
Academics: Analytical Methods for SCM and SCM Leadership Workshop
To prepare for the rigorous semester, we took two courses during orientation: Analytical Methods for Supply Chain Management and Supply Chain Leadership Workshop. The analytics course is a foundation for all things you will learn in the fall (and probably spring) semester. You want to do well in this class. The course is very fast paced, and we struggled often as a class. Through those struggles we formed deeper relationships, and I learned what MIT SCM was all about: one big family helping each other. The analytics course can get intense, so if you have some time prior to the program, I highly recommend taking the SC0X Supply Chain Analytics online course. I personally only had time for completing through Week 3, but that helped me tremendously during the orientation. You can thank me later.
The SCM Leadership Workshop was more manageable. We learned about different leadership styles, gave a 2-minute speech, and most importantly, played the infamous Turducken game that almost ruined all of those hard-earned friendships. I won’t give away any more details, but all I have to say on the Turducken game is that the chicken farmers were anonymously reported to the FTC for price collusion (ahem, Justin).
Near the end of the Orientation was a final exam where a lot of students including me stayed up late trying to digest the exorbitant amount of information our instructors had thrown at us. Although the exam was difficult, we all got through it and celebrated happily afterwards.
Oh boy, where do I begin? If there is one thing to be said about MIT SCM Class of 2018, it’s that we know how to have fun. Although we were busy with recruiting and academics, we always found some time to take a break and partake in activities such as sailing, Ashdown Dance Party, Karaoke. If you want to know more about things to do in Boston, one of our alumni wrote an extensive article about it.
So, what is it like to go back to school? Well it’s a lot of work, a lot of fun, and a lot of great people. You get to make lifelong friends and possibly future roommates. In five years, looking back, I know I will be reminiscing about all the struggles and fun we had together as a class.
Hello from Cambridge! It is early November as we are writing this first blog article, and the Boston weather has just turned. Some of us from colder climates were prepared, some of us less so (looking at you, Singaporeans). We were lucky enough to have extended warm days this year that allowed us to get out and explore the area. In future articles, we will introduce some of the fun leisure and cultural activities that Boston has to offer through the summer and autumn seasons!
It’s been a hectic three months filled with orientation, classes, recruiting, and capstone/thesis projects, and right now we are celebrating the end of midterms!
Through the SCM blog we hope to share a little of our story, introduce you to the fascinating people in the program, and give you a peek into what it’s actually like to be an SCM student at MIT! We will showcase our experiences, insights, and the challenges we face over the course of this year. We hope that you gain a broad understanding for what the program offers and that our thoughts may help you find out if MIT is a fit for you and your graduate school experience.
After weeks of staring at a blank screen, I was jolted awake at 3AM with snippets of words and phrases forming in my brain for this post. What was supposed to be a quick recap of my grad school decision-making process has instead inched ever closer to a novella. Because I never met a listicle that I didn’t like, here are the 3 questions I kept coming back to.
Do you need grad school?
My work experience was internationally focused and the companies I worked at had a way of ensuring that just as I started feeling antsy and wondering if I should go back to school, a new role or exciting project would crop up. I loved my job, but eventually it hit me that for the industry I saw myself in (healthcare), I now had enough years of relevant experience for more senior roles, but those almost always required a graduate degree. However, I don’t think that is the case across the board, especially if you want to move up within a certain company. Be warned, the institutional knowledge and years you gain are not as relevant if you plan to be changing industries completely.
In terms of when in your career to do this program, my personal view (having been closer to the opposite end) is the earlier the better. The bump in seniority and salary is great at any level but to get there at 25 could truly catapult you on a different career trajectory altogether. However, the trade-off is that earlier on, you may not have a defined idea of what you want to do yet, which makes it harder to evaluate all the companies and job descriptions floating by.
What do you want to get out of a program?
Like many of you, I initially thought that an MBA was the only viable option, given that I didn’t want to be a lawyer, doctor, or academic. However, within a business function, the core classes and tracks that appealed to me were operations-focused in any case.
One of SCM’s most underrated qualities though is that it is basically a choose-your-own adventure story within MIT and Sloan. If anything, the issue is that the pace of a one-year program makes the class-taking FOMO real—we recently had 3 snow days and there was some grumbling about having classes canceled!
One of the biggest assumptions I had coming in was that this was a program where everyone else, who already had deep experience in a specific supply chain function, came to be groomed further into demand planning/forecasting/analytics ninjas. As it turns out, this was not necessarily the case. My classmates come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and I am actually one of just a handful who came in having worked in a direct supply chain industry; some had not worked directly in this field at all. As a class, most of my classmates are also not necessarily looking to work in operations roles after graduation.
Be aware that the coursework is designed to aim for breadth over depth, which makes sense given the accelerated pace. Bruce and the team work hard to ensure that we get exposure to all the concepts and tools that are used in industry. But then certainly, should you want to delve deeper into the machine learning/3-D printing/UAV world, you happen to be at a place where the recent Nobel winner or the person who led the latest game-changing development in the field, could be in front of you at Chipotle.
I also find the wider MIT/Harvard/Boston area incredibly inspiring as there is no shortage of panel discussions, lectures and symposia happening all around you.
How does it fit in your ‘Life Project’?
Yes, yes, this is a professional program and you are doing this to further your career, but take a minute to consider what this degree will mean for your ‘Life Project’. My good friend Meli coined this term (she assures me it is a very common term in Colombia), which I think is a beautiful way to describe what she envisions for her whole life, personal and professional. Part of why I chose MIT was because it was the perfect transition to the next stage of my Life Project. Browse around the jobs and locations of where alumni end up and make sure that makes sense for where you want to be.
Every morning as I ride my little Hubway bike share past the Tootsie Roll factory en route to school, with the scent of chocolate wafting in the crisp morning air, I know that MIT is where I belong, even if imposter syndrome and the stress and discomfort that is part of the learning process sometimes have me feeling otherwise. MIT SCM has been a great experience for me, and as co-President I am always looking for ways to ensure that the rest of our SCM family feels the same.
I have travelled to over 20 countries so far, with family, with close friends, or by myself. None of the trips have given me the same level of experience that the SCM Panama trip has given me. If there is one thing you need to know about how much fun this program can offer you, you need to know about our Panama trip. It’s educational, worry-free, wild, and full of surprises.
Escaped from the freezing Boston, our trip started in Colón city with a warm welcome at an old colonial hotel. Ever since then, our days were filled with different adventures, and our nights were full of salsa, pool and roof top parties. The daily schedule was so well designed that you wouldn’t possibly feel bored. Educational visits to logistic facilities and companies were shuffled with trips to Fort San Lorenzo, fishing port, pineapple plantation (where I had the best pineapple in my life), wild jungles, and much more. One moment you found yourself strolling around the narrow streets of old Panama City shopping in small boutique stores, the next moment you could be in the center of downtown surrounded by skyscrapers.
Oh yes. Of course we saw the Panama Canal with Panamax passing through the locks. It was a sunny afternoon. We finished a fancy lunch with the breathtaking ocean view. The breeze came with the perfect temperature. We stood by the edge of the observatory watching the giant Panamax lifted by the locks. That’s when we felt so proud of what mankind could achieve.
Our class decided to stay for an extra weekend before school started. We picked an island in Bocas Del Toro. Can you believe that we were the only ones on the entire island and the sea area around it? I have never lived in such a remote condition before. Everything was super natural. The water was clear and calm. When we were swimming in the ocean, the wild dolphins were jumping 15 meters away. When we were hiking in the jungle, the baby sloth was chilling on the tree beside us. Diving, snorkeling, kayaking, partying or just lying in the hammock falling asleep while watching the stars, it was a paradise, our paradise.
If you think that after the intense orientation, a whole semester of study, the two-week “social period” (IAP) with the scale network peers, people already knew their classmates well. Trust me, we felt exponentially closer to everyone after the panama trip. We started our weekly game night after the trip just to maximize the time we could spend with each other before graduation. We knew things changed when we could talk in tons of inside jokes developed from the trip, laugh at the embarrassing moments, eager to plan our next trip together, and wish the time goes by slower. We are a family now.
I absolutely love our Panama trip. There is only so much that I can describe to you, so you have to experience it yourself. Thank you SCM for making it happen. It is going to be a lifelong memory, for each one of us.
I write this post to describe my experience of deciding to attend the MIT SCM program and how the program lived up to my expectations. As a disclaimer, my experience is very specific to me, but I hope that it illustrates some basic themes that many of you face and can relate to.
First some background to set the stage for the decision. I am a mechanical engineer with ten years of experience in the offshore oil and gas industry. Over the past few years, I became interested in making some changes to my career path. I wanted to work in a different industry and I wanted to break out of the engineering role into something more related to the ongoing business operations. Making a direct transition from my current job into a new job in a different industry and functional role proved more challenging than anticipated. I considered getting an MBA to help cross the industry and functional role chasm.
I decided that a residence program would best meet my goals for getting into a new industry in a different part of the country. Doing an executive program didn’t seem to give me the exposure I wanted outside of Houston and the oil and gas industry. I started meeting with everyone I knew that had an MBA to ask them about their experience. The feedback I received gave me some minor, but surmountable, concerns about the fit of an MBA program with my specific career interests, which were predominately focused on a manufacturing context. The cost of not working for two years with a family of four to support plus the cost of tuition also gave me pause.
Around this time, I had completed my first attempt at the GRE and was receiving marketing emails from both business schools and other programs I had not previously considered. Mostly, these other programs I ignored, but when I received something from MIT’s Supply Chain Program it immediately grabbed my attention. Researching the program and reading blogs such as this one, the program started making a lot of sense for my interests in business operations, my background in engineering, and my desire to afford school. However, I was wary of the old “too good to be true probably is” cliché. How could I spend only one year to get a masters and get to a seemingly similar place (at least for my purposes) as a two year MBA? Needless to say, I decided to pursue the option. It lived up to the hype and I am very pleased with the results so far.
In December, after four months of school, I found the job I wanted in one of the top industries that interested me. Access to the Sloan business school classes gave me access to typical finance and strategy courses. At the same time, I am learning specific analytical techniques and tools that equip me to analyze business data and optimize business processes. The program offers a lot of flexibility in the skills that you can grow and develop and the experience at MIT’s SCM program has definitely met my expectations.
Hope this helps and good luck as you explore options to make changes in your career!