MIT Sloan options

•August 11, 2011 • 2 Comments

The dizzying array of graduate business programs at MIT Sloan can easily confuse the average person. Harvard has ONE program (called the ‘Harvard MBA’) and many other top schools are similar. But MIT Sloan begs to be different.

So how does the average applicant choose between doing an MBA, or the LGO (Leaders for Global Operations) program, or the SDM (System Design and Management) program or the Sloan Fellows program or even the newly launched Executive MBA program?

Well, much like a CPG company having a brand offering at every price point/customer segment, MIT Sloan has structured its programs to represent offerings at multiple price points/customer demographics.

Give this a thought- regardless of the specific program, the common thread that runs through all the programs is the high quality of education and the benefits of being at MIT (even more so with the SDM and LGO programs since they have close connections with MIT Engineering). Also, each of the programs comes with great opportunities which allow you to progress in your career or even move into something that interests you more.

If you are set on MIT, just as I was when I was looking, and you are trying to choose between the various MIT Sloan program  options, think about yourself and what you want to do after the program and then look at the chart below.

***Disclaimer: Please take all this with not one, but multiple grains of salt since everything that I am about to say is completely unofficial and IMHO only. The individual programs will give you a lot of information some of which might not make sense- this is my way of looking at all that detail, living the MIT experience and simplifying it all to a blog post.***

The top chart in the figure below represents the kind of roles that people tend to take up after finishing each program. The bottom chart shows the typical seniority with which people start out post-business school. A uniform shaded area over multiple roles means that students tend to go evenly into all of those roles. Uneven shading indicates concentration in one or more business roles.


Note: Entrepreneurship as a post-b school choice is big at MIT. I just didn’t put it in the figure above since I couldn’t think of a nice way to fit into the corporate framework (no big surprise there!)

What’s the next step? Well, you’ll need to go a bit deeper than just this. Consider the following factors.

1. Program costs are different: LGO costs only ~30K counting partner company subsidies, SDM is ~75K, MBA is ~100K, the Sloan Fellows and EMBA programs run 25-30% more than that)

2. Entry points into each program are different and previous work experience is obviously very important (SDM recruits staff level engineers, EMBA only brings in people at the Director level and higher, etc.) and admission to any of these programs is very competitive.

3. LGO’s/MBA’s tend to be younger (25-30). SDM/Sloan Fellows a bit older (30-35), EMBA’s even more so (40+).

4. MBA’s/LGO’s get a lot of help with recruiting since they employ well-oiled career services- SDM’s, SF’s and EMBA’s are a bit more independent in job hunting. MBA’s typically have more career choices and hence more jobs to choose from, but they aren’t focused on any one thing (which is a good thing for companies to mold them however they want, but a bad thing in the sense that non-MBA’s have been known to question the actual value that an MBA can bring to the enterprise) and tend to move into relatively junior, ‘canned’ positions in industry. However, MBA’s tend to have strong networks and a clear path for career progression. SDM’s primarily focus on managerial positions in high tech (and often start out in more senior roles in technology management, depending on their past experience- their class tends to be very diverse) .

SF’s/EMBA’s tend to target executive positions. Although the EMBA program is new, the Sloan Fellows program is very well known since it one of a kind in the world and has graduated the majority of all the well known alumni from MIT Sloan (Kofi Annan, Carlie Fiorina,…).

5. Program lengths and logistics are different too. MBA and LGO are mandatory on-campus two year programs. The other programs offer varying degrees of geographic and temporal flexibility. SDM lets you video-conference into classes.

That isn’t all…there are literally dozens of other factors that you’ll need to consider when you are about to pick. Regardless of your program, I’m pretty sure that you’ll have pretty awesome experience here!

Hope this helps- good luck!


Thomas Smith on Effective Advertising, circa 1885

•August 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment

The first time people look at any given ad, they don’t even see it.
The second time, they don’t notice it.
The third time, they are aware that it is there.
The fourth time, they have a fleeting sense that they’ve seen it somewhere before.
The fifth time, they actually read the ad.
The sixth time they thumb their nose at it.
The seventh time, they start to get a little irritated with it.
The eighth time, they start to think, “Here’s that confounded ad again.”
The ninth time, they start to wonder if they’re missing out on something.
The tenth time, they ask their friends and neighbors if they’ve tried it.
The eleventh time, they wonder how the company is paying for all these ads.
The twelfth time, they start to think that it must be a good product.
The thirteenth time, they start to feel the product has value.
The fourteenth time, they start to remember wanting a product exactly like this for a long time.
The fifteenth time, they start to yearn for it because they can’t afford to buy it.
The sixteenth time, they accept the fact that they will buy it sometime in the future.
The seventeenth time, they make a note to buy the product.
The eighteenth time, they curse their poverty for not allowing them to buy this terrific product.
The nineteenth time, they count their money very carefully.
The twentieth time prospects see the ad, they buy what is offering.

Musings about MIT SDM Year 1

•February 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Moments of wonder, of joy, of frustration, of opportunities. And the promise of a new life. All very intense indeed.

That’s how I’d summarize my first year.

For some of you out there who are either starting the MIT SDM program, or are thinking about starting it, and might be looking for some good information on some of the right things that you could do while in the program, as well as things that you could do to screw it up, here is the dope. In reading this, please keep in mind that every person’s journey is different- try to carve out your own unique path, and do what drives you from within.

I’m going to take it easy with the language on this blog. And I will sound judgmental. I have had to be- it’s my life. Don’t read if you’re easily offended, or are looking for something fluffy- this is the real stuff!

HOT: Made friends, really started liking what I was doing, found a research sponsor
NOT SO HOT: Came on way too strong sometimes and pissed some people off in the process, wished I had spent more time on Probability and Statistics, wished I didn’t do so many things….I simply can’t stress enough how easy it is to get carried away at MIT!

SPRING, 2010:
HOT: Sat in Matt Marx’s fabulous entrepreneurship class, took Global Strategy which had an ok lecturer, but great content, had a blast in Product Design, got exposed to a whole bunch of things around campus: theater, music, Sloan VC/PE (came second in the contest too!), two industry treks (Staples, American Airlines), took Korean classes, bunch of conferences,….all a bit too much to write about!¬† And yeah, I was lucky to end up with a bunch of summer internship offers.
NOT SO HOT: User Centered Innovation: you’ll just learn everything there is to know about open source.
Tech Strategy: Some good reading, and good talks from outsiders, but I wish the good professor and the course in general had more pizazz to offer by way of real modern technology strategy (I don’t mean ice machines). Maybe introduce a management game?
Real Options: Good material and good teacher and great TA, but it sort of stepped on the toes of people who had good Product Design projects going. Hopefully this year will be better.
I did too many things, way too many things (including job searching) for my own good.

SUMMER, 2010:
HOT: Amazing summer internship at an great company, knocked off 3 required courses in parallel over distance
System Dynamics was taught well by Brad Morrison. The theory is very sound and it is easy to drink the kool aid on it with all its amazing applications, but there is a reason why it has not been adopted worldwide to it’s fullest potential. My advice is, apply it with caution. Every model you will come up with, will be either wrong or incomplete by definition.
NOT SO HOT: Wish I planned June better for distance classes. Never, ever, trust broadband in hotels, especially for video streaming.
Did I mention that being on Distance is not pleasant, regardless of connection? I wouldn’t trade my time on MIT campus for anything.
Wish I’d spent more time on Ops and Supply Chain- went too fast.
Wish I’d bought an AC for my apartment- the Boston summer is hot!

FALL, 2010:
HOT: Throttled back a bit on some of those activities (although I have to say I loved the NYC luxury trek), only did 36 credits, hit the gym sometimes, spent some quality time with the wife, saw the new SDM website up!
Shalom Saar’s Leadership class was stupendous. Some of the things I learned there really went to heart (hopefully permanently). I think I became gentler as the year progressed, made myself more approachable, I think.
NOT SO HOT: Risk/Benefit Analysis was just OK- too much overlap with Real Options
System Architecture is way too theosophical- wish it was more hands on.
iTeams had good content, but two out of the three lecturers were somewhat blah at best- the third (a seasoned VC) balances that out somewhat, although we didn’t hear much from him. Also, beware of the grading scheme- it is nebulous, arcane and illogical.
SL&M Lab had good material, but the content of my project did not resonate with me- I should have picked something else. But then, one of my partners Matt Harper (SDM’10) taught me a lot about the energy industry, to which I am grateful.
Fell behind on some reading and HW- never again, I promise!

DEC,2010 and JAN, 2011:
HOT: It gets hotter and hotter here (maybe that was just me getting a bit wiser!)
Had a great time with my fashion internship- show me the green and I will pimp you up!
Restarted classical music lessons after almost eight years
The educational and professional parts of the LGO plant trek
Went to the Richard Ivey school in London, Ontario for a Business Plan Competition- made it the semi finals with a Media Lab project. Made good contacts in the finance industry. It’s nice to have (now) experienced both sides of the valuation negotiation (pitching as well as term sheets) table.
NOT SO HOT: Wore myself out towards the end of Jan, fell sick towards the beginning of Spring.

SPRING, 2011:
HOT: Know what I want to do after SDM, picked the areas I wanted to focus on, taking just the courses that I need to round off my techno-business education (luckily I made it into all of them), finally came up with the nerve to plan out my entire week with no double bookings. After dropping two courses, here’s what I ended up taking- Corporate Finance, Technology Sales, Organization and Corporate Strategy and International & Macro Economics.
NOT SO HOT: None so far- but this semester has got quite a ways to go!

Key takeaway- doing fewer and more targeted activities will reward you more. Challenge yourself by doing things that you haven’t done before, but keep perspective. Enjoy yourself.

So how different will year 2 be from year 1 personally for me?
1. Minimal campus activities, emailing
2. Focus on thesis, focus on job searching
3. Finally, sad to say, a gradual distancing from SDM, Sloan and all those activities.

It’s been nice to get back to student life and I daresay that I have done well overall to make good use of my opportunities. Personally, I haven’t missed corporate life all that much so far, but I suppose I will pretty soon.

All good things in life have to come to an end.

(notice I didn’t talk about social)

Opportunities for Dell

•January 19, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Dell ships something like 120000 computers a day and that’s a minor portion of their business.

How does a company with the reputation of having one of the best supply chains in the world kick its performance up a couple of notches even higher, in the face of brutal competition from low cost computer companies from around the world? How does Dell stay competitive?

Hardware is hard business. Gross margins after capex and opex could be as low a a couple of points. But hardware isn’t going away. Companies usually need hardware in order to build a platform on which value can be unlocked, as related products and services. Companies need that penetration, presence and brand in order to make money on things other than hardware.

Think about it. Starbucks sells coffee, but it makes a lot of money on a bunch of other things. Why else would you even think of buying breakfast from Starbucks? Mostly because it is comforting to know that you’re doing business with Starbucks. Penetration, presence and brand.

According to Michael Dell, who gave a great talk during our visit to their Austin headquarters yesterday, one way of staying competitive might be moving up the value chain to the services business, which in itself is severely fragmented (with the biggest honcho- guess who!- holds only 15% of the world’s market share).

What about staying competitive by product differentiation? Frankly, as far as the consumer market is concerned, I think a whole bunch of companies (Lenovo, Sony, HP, Fujitsu,…) offer attractive products from a usability perspective. Some offer outstanding ones. Where does Dell stand?

Dell does make some cool products (think Inspiron XPS and Alienware) and while it isn’t the class leader, it has sufficient brand equity in most countries to keep going for a while.

Most of the apparent deficit seems to be in the visual, feel and usability areas. However, there is little in the way of technological deficit (again, Alienware makes some of the world’s fastest performance PCs and Dell’s non-consumer PCs are some of the best out there).

Well then, if you are an enterprise user, would you care if Apple makes computers that are cooler looking or easier to use? Enterprise is a different ballgame altogether and Dell does very well here.

One of the things that Dell will truly have to do is move its culture to one that’s more global. Given that the US will be relatively less relevant in the future, Dell will need leaders who are mobile and are seamlessly able to manage teams from all around the world. This will require significant culture shift for future American leaders who sometimes tend to be engrossed in the way things are currently being done.

Also, these will be people whose know-how spans the end to end of business. Siloed experts are less useful for leading teams than all round business professionals who understand how to design, package, market, manufacture and operate.

These are people whose customer focus borders on the obsessive.

While the past called for smart people to work entrepreneurially and in the process, enabled dell to achieve its legendary velocity of execution, the very same things will, predict Dell’s leaders, tend to get in the way of future success now that Dell isn’t a small sized company anymore. This calls for structure, operational discipline, lean manufacturing and strong global supplier management.

The part of the plant tour that got my pulse going was the Design @ Dell talk by Dell’s design guru and the subsequent tour of the design portfolio room. I was instantly able to connect most of what I saw and heard with my learning from DC2, Product Design, Systems Thinking principles, and finally my personal flair for style.

Self expression.

It’s not just that. This isn’t just about Operations and Manufacturing either. This is the ability to excel in all these, as well as the upfront engineering practices, AND balance cross-functional tensions across the global enterprise. It’s isn’t easy, but that is what I want to do. That is where I see myself in five years.

That is why I am in the MIT SDM program. Learning to do all that.

Back to Dell- I can tell that there is change coming. There is opportunity, lots of opportunity and the onus is on Dell to execute. Can Dell deliver?

Lessons from GM to business school grads

•January 13, 2011 • Leave a Comment

GM put a formal dinner together for us during our visit to the Detroit auto show. During the dinner, we heard an inspirational talk from a senior GM executive who has seen it all through her 33 years with the company- upswings, downswings, bankruptcy and a new beginning.

I am posting this since it was no nonsense and straight from the heart. I was impressed.

– No job is bad. It is sometimes worthwhile to take a job that no one else will, and excel in it.

– Don’t worry about promotions. They will come in time. Control what you can and do a good job.

– Keep learning. The moment you stop, your skills stagnate and you are no longer the best.

– Listen more than you talk. You don’t have to know everything. Sometimes what is needed is not an expert but an expert facilitator.

– Remain upbeat and bring a positive attitude to everything you do. People will then want to work with you.

– Be yourself. You don’t have to fit anyone’s mold. Don’t let others dictate how you function. You don’t have to please everyone constantly. Do it for yourself.

– When you don’t enjoy what you are doing, it’s probably time for a change. Enjoy life and remember to take a break once in a while.

– Treat people in the manner in which you expect to be treated. If you cold shoulder or discriminate, expect the same from others.

Pratt & Whitney Auto Air industry trek

•January 11, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I am attending a two week Operations trek throughout the US and Puerto Rico, sampling some of the world’s greatest industries and shop floors. These are the edifices that have enabled the relatively high quality of life here in the US (so far!) and I am immensely excited.

After sitting through a lecture from a renowned quality guru on how to best observe a plant in action, we drove to Pratt and Whitney Auto Air’s 217 strong facility in Lansing, MI where jet engine composites are overhauled as well as sold. The technology is of course, very fascinating.

However, it was a good exercise trying to understand the business. As expected, the MRO side of business is way more profitable than the retail (OEM) side and they have to do a balancing act to make their margins. I got a great overview of their ACE Quality lean OS, and how it was used to turn the business around. To summarize ACE, “Good hearts, good minds”.

They use several metrics to evaluate their sales momentum: Raw Sales, EBIT, CF, Turns, ROS, OTD, MFA as well as cost of poor quality. They have a cool “Visual Factory” mindset which ultimately leads to elimination of the seven deadly wastes: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride.

Caught you on that one!

OK, here they are…Defects, Over-processing, Overproduction, Waiting, Under-utilization, Excess Inventory, Transportation, and Motion.

But how do they eliminate all that?

With Kaizen tools that enable P&W AA to operate as efficiently as possible. Visual indicators, FIFO lanes, Value Stream Mappings, Kanban, PQ Analysis, TPM, Schedule Boards, Andon, Quality Process Charting and Process Certifications- it was a great refresher on Ops Theory, except that I saw it in practice- good fun!

As one can imagine, this week and the next will be all about Lean. Having said that, I will have to find a way to stay lean myself despite the carb overload that comes with eating outside all the time!

Up next is the tour of the Ford Rouge Plant where some of those badass F-150 trucks are made- stay tuned!

Student introductions: SDM 2011 cohort

•January 3, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I spent a few hours today sitting through the introductory presentations of new SDM cohort.

That brought back some fond memories! I have actually learned to value these presentations since over the course of the past year that’s pretty much whizzed by, I have found myself going back and pulling up archived presentations, trying to discover more cool things about my ’10 classmates, some of who I’ve gotten to know very well. These are people who I have been proud to know, and people who I know I plan to be associated with for a long time to come.

Back to the ’11 cohort and their presentations. Some of my observations:

1. Great snakes- ’11 is big! They outnumber the ’10 cohort by something like 40%. The proportion of the fairer sex in the overall mix has increased by a bit.
2. The crowd is VERY international. I daresay it is the Bostonian lilt twang that will turn out to be the linguistic minority.
3. There is significant representation from Raytheon. Enough to fill a volleyball team.
4. There is significant representation from India. Enough to fill soccer teams. Two of them!
5. The crowd is also very diverse in demographics. Students range from 25 year olds to troopers who will soon see their children graduate from college. What’s common is that they are all very smart.
6. Lots of personal achievements. There’s one guy who’s been up high on Everest. Another guy who used to be a Test Pilot, spoke lightly about the joys of flying (although he glossed over a minor detail- the job of the Test Pilot is statistically the most dangerous job in the world!)
7. Lots of professional achievements too. Some already have their MBA’s (one Sloan Fellow) and Ph.D’s. Most have work experience outside their native lands.

I enjoyed the presentations. This is a good cohort in the making.

On a personal note, coming into this program, I always knew that I’d meet all these smart people and get to do cool stuff at MIT. However, I wasn’t (and still am not) convinced that the cool factor alone will suffice in the long term. There’s more to fulfilling life’s destiny than just accomplishments and credentials.

My primary goal in attending the program was to understand myself better in a variety of contexts including outside work and school.

Social as well as spiritual contexts.

Why am I here, and what do I hope to do with this education?
What are my fears and weaknesses?
What are my real motivations and how do I pursue them?
What are the things that really matter in life?
Who do I not work well with and what can I do to fix that?

The answers, unsurprisingly, were almost always to be found in looking inwards. Every person’s journey is different, but all doors lead to the same destination. Eventually.

MIT has had a role in my own journey however. MIT has provided a platform on top of which I have acquired skills that have helped me unlock (some of) the answers that I was seeking. On top of all the usual MIT resources, I’ve been lucky enough to interact with some really great people- not people who have accomplished a lot on paper, but people who have helped when it has mattered. It is those that I will remember.

Overall, it’s been a very productive year indeed. Lots of ticks checked off too, including working in the fashion industry.