Thursday, March 1, 2007

SDM internships provide value for students, companies

By Dhiman Bhattacharjee, SDM ’07, with Lois Slavin

Internships are optional at SDM, but students sign up for them year after year because participating gives them the chance to conduct state-of-the-art research in a wide range of industries—from renewable energy to information warehousing to banking and high-tech.

Chris Aden, SDM ’07, worked with Ampair (www.ampair.com), a renewable energy company in Berkshire, England, that is headed by SDM alumnus David Sharman. As Ampair’s CEO and managing director, Sharman is working to define the micro-wind market, address the critical engineering expertise needed and ramp up the product line to maximize value to the environment and, of course, the bottom line.

"I worked with David and Ampair engineers at a high level to integrate platform manufacturing techniques into a scalable design practice, focusing on bringing the first 600-watt home energy system to market," Aden said.

He said he got the opportunity to work with world-class power engineers; he was exposed to an aggressive startup environment; and he spent several days in front of a homemade wind tunnel. He also worked with such downstream competencies as installation and service companies, and—in a key cultural exchange—spent several nights discussing renewable energy opportunities at the local English pub, the Stag and Hounds.

"Aden’s work allowed us to move at four times the speed and with far more confidence, compared with our traditional approach," said Sharman, who was Aden’s internship supervisor.

Peter Burton, Ampair’s technical director and chief technology officer, said, "The results of the simulation work undertaken by Chris gave us the confidence to proceed with development work on the project. Without it we would have been wary of investing more time and effort with no guarantee of success."

Strategy for a startup

Nick Cravalho, SDM ’07, worked as a marketing intern at Kiva Systems (www.kivasystems.com), a warehouse automation company located in Woburn, Mass.

"My passion is technology-based startups. Working for Kiva gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in a dynamic startup environment and cross the chasm from engineering to business development and marketing,” he said.

Cravalho’s primary responsibilities included creating a go-to-market strategy to penetrate the manufacturing sector and a returnon-investment calculator to justify a future product extension. He credits part of his success to the SDM community, whose members shared both their time and contacts so he could better understand the manufacturing market at top-tier companies.

Cravalho reported to Kiva Systems’ vice president of business development, Rob Stevens, who said, "In a startup you rarely have time to step back and do analysis— you tend to be running as fast as you can. Having Nick as an intern in the marketing group gave us a chance to look ahead and analyze upcoming market and product opportunities."

Although the internship is over, the relationship is not. Kiva will be Cravalho’s base case for his master’s thesis on new venture formation.

Systems approach to banking


Vinay Deshmukh, SDM ’07, conducted his internship at Bank of America in Boston.

"My work involved exploring the question of whether systems engineering principles can be applied in the banking sector to achieve both radical and incremental improvements in operational efficiency," he said.

Deshmukh explored how concepts and tools, such as quality functional deployment, signalto- noise ratio, lean thinking, rapid experimentation, multivariate regression analysis, Kano analysis and process modeling and simulation could be applied to the financial processes and products of the bank’s Global Wealth and Investment Management Division.

Taking a "system of systems" approach, Deshmukh used process modeling and simulation to examine people, products and processes, then suggested holistic solutions that harmonized the voices of the customers, employees and the shareholders within specific areas. One of the projects dealt with retaining the funds of institutional clients and another dealt with improving the account review process.

"In Bank of America’s Global Wealth and Investment division, we are working on many projects with an end-to-end view. Vinay’s contributions helped clarify the value of applying a systems engineering approach in six sigma applications and other tools and methodologies," said Rajesh Jugulum, the bank’s vice president and quality and productivity engineer for the division.

Helping Cisco with compliance

Dhiman Bhattacharjee, SDM ’07, interned in the advanced sourcing department of Cisco Systems’ manufacturing division, focusing on developing processes to help Cisco comply with upcoming production regulations. Working with SDM ’02 alumna Carol Ann McDevitt and several members of the manufacturing, compliance, engineering and sales staffs, he helped identify forthcoming regulations and their potential impact on the company, then crafted compliance processes.

"I was able to apply my SDM learnings at Cisco, then take my learnings from Cisco and apply them when I returned to SDM," said Bhattacharjee. "I used a systems approach to examine challenges from a broad perspective and offer suggestions and solutions to help Cisco continue to be a proactive world-class leader in compliance."


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