By Hoss Nasseri, Class of 2014
This year is probably the only year in my life that I wouldn’t mind repeating. I am going to share with you my MIT journey, which won’t be topped for years to come, if ever.
Exactly one year ago, I broke down into tears after hanging up the phone with Jen (The SCM program’s academic administrator). Little did I know what SCM would have in store for me. After a hard year of applications and constant challenges at work, I could finally dream of a brighter place in the not so distant future. MIT had given me a pass to fairyland and I wanted to build my white castle; my cornerstone was going to be MIT Supply Chain Management Program.
Something that never gets old about studentship is procrastination. Once the initial excitement faded away, I started thinking about job opportunities and brushing up on my study skills. We had some assignments to complete before the first day of classes in August and I also wanted to research the recruiting companies in order to better prepare myself for interviews. However due to procrastination, I fulfilled only a small portion of my plans in the three month gap between admission and first day of school. Moving to Cambridge in July was a story in itself; you can read more on it in my other post about housing.
The First Semester
August was intense with student orientation, my first analytical course at MIT, thesis sponsoring companies’ social mixers, networking with classmates, preparing for consulting interviews, etc. We practically started drinking from the fire hose from day one. There was so much to take in and so much to do in such little time. I strongly urge you to participate in as many events as you can from the beginning of the year and practice saying yes to everything. After all, your time at MIT is short and you need to capitalize on every drop of the water. You’ll be surprised by how far you can push your body and how little sleep you REALLY need. I managed with five hours on average for the first semester; make sure you exercise everyday (preferably first thing in the morning) and eat properly. A healthy mind requires a healthy body. As the saying goes at MIT, mens et manus (“mind and hand”).
September and October were inundated with recruiting activities, not to mention all the course work that rapidly gained momentum. At MIT you have access to many companies who come to recruit from MIT, and not necessarily just the SCM program. I attended Sloan events, SCM events, career center events, and even some smaller ones organized by students’ personal contacts. I practically applied to every job post on the SCM recruiting page, even if I was unsure about the company and/or the position, I looked at it as an opportunity for honing my interview skills and learning something new. I have to reemphasize that opportunities of all kinds open up to you at MIT, but you have to make sure to take advantage of them by simply saying yes! Some of us wanted to do consulting and we started practicing with each other as early as August. If I could go back in time, I would have joined Sloan’s consulting club and Ops club from the beginning. They provide ample resources for success during job hunting season and they don’t discriminate. Which also brings me to another point: I made as many friends at Sloan as I did in the SCM program. I took half of my courses at Sloan and I tried to partner with Sloanies for group projects.
Here is my tip about Sloan classes: the bidding process may seem sophisticated and unfair to non-Sloanies, but the truth is that classes open up eventually and anyone that has a genuine interest is able to take the course. I bid for courses that I couldn’t even get on the wait list for, but within a month I was able to officially register. Make sure that you attend every class session, even if you are not on the wait list, and actively participate and talk to the professor. I guarantee that you’ll get in. Moreover, I listened to a couple of Sloan courses and gained a lot from them.
November and December went by fast. More interviews took place in November and it was around that time that I started to reflect back for the first time since moving to Cambridge. In a short time, I had met great people that I could count on for a lifetime, I had been acquainted with professors and professionals that once I could only dream about meeting, and I had gained new skills that would serve me for the rest of my life. For me, it was crucial to take a step back every now and then to reevaluate myself and my situation. With all the noise, it was easy to get carried away in the moment, but maintaining a global perspective was essential for success. The thesis work was heating up during this period and midterms were soon followed by finals. Classes were over as quickly as they had begun, and I was already half way through.
The Second Semester
January was an amazing time with students from the MIT Global Supply Chain and Logistics Excellence (SCALE) Network arriving. Exciting tours and very interesting speakers. Working with other students in small groups not only challenged my technical skills, but also my people skills. I admit it was frustrating from time to time, and there were days that I wished I could work alone, but looking back at it now, the whole experience was worth it. Now I have friends in South America and East Asia who would love to host me when I travel there. The people capital is the greatest return for all the investment we make at MIT. The trip to Panama at the end of the month for our SCALE Trek was a great adventure, and you can read more about it in other posts.
Second semester was very different. Half the students already had secured job opportunities, we had all settled in, and the coldest winter in recent history was upon us. It was a great time to give back by helping other classmates in the job hunt, focus more on the thesis and embrace more of Cambridge. Living in the dorm was a blessing since I could use the gym downstairs and the shuttle service made my commute as convenient as possible. February was filled with chocolate fountain events; the grad rat delivery, Valentine’s Day events and a few others. Around this time, I also started attending the C-Functions on a regular basis. C-Functions are a Sloan-sponsored series where a cultural club puts on a show every Thursday while providing free food and drinks all night. Thinking back, I wish I had been attending them from the beginning of the year. C-Functions are a great way to end the week, relax a bit, and socialize with people who are normally very busy around the campus. Another thing about spring semester are the half-semester courses, which go by really fast. I highly recommend them, but you should also stay on top of the assignments and study hard from day one since time for a makeup is almost nonexistent.
By March, thesis work had really gained traction and the half-semester courses were coming to an end. Most of our classmates had figured out their life plans immediately after MIT and we were spending more time socializing and bonding. The second half of March was a relatively mellow period. My partner and I spent almost ten days in a row drafting many sections of our thesis. Although a lot of what we wrote was discarded by our advisor, the practice helped us build the foundation of our thesis. Before we realized it, spring was upon us and April had replaced March on the wall calendars. This month was hectic as we needed to focus on our thesis and align our class schedules together. Having a hard-working and understanding thesis partner was especially valuable during this time. We both managed to spend long hours on our thesis while attending our other engagements and enjoying the last full month at MIT.
May was the month that had started my journey and it was also the month where it all ended. Classes were coming to an end and finals were around the corner, but as I previously mentioned, the second half of the journey was not nearly as intense as the first half. The learning curve was much less steep and the extracurricular activities had scaled down considerably. The last C-Function was held on the first Thursday of May and was followed by a goodbye party for Sloanies. Our class was not big enough to have its own campus-wide goodbye party, but there was no reason for us not to participate in Sloan’s and embrace the moment. May was the month to take the final sips and take in whatever we had room left for.
My last words are about the Research Fest. Research Fest was a fantastic experience where we shared the fruits of our months of hard work and got to witness our classmates’ thesis results at the same time. This presentation is your last deliverable at MIT, so you have to give it all you got and make it count — all while having fun with it. Also make sure to use Research Fest for networking not only with the industry partners, but also with SCALE alumni who come. We are filling the shoes of these great people; make sure you meet them and learn from them, so that you can travel the path forward faster and leave deeper footprints for the next classes to follow. May the force be with you!