Friday, April 30, 2010

Ampair Energy Receives Funding from Sigma Sustainable Energy Fund II

CEO David Sharman is an ’01 alum of MIT’s System Design and Management program

Ampair Energy Limited is pleased to announce that the Sigma Sustainable Energy Fund II has committed £1.5m to Ampair Energy Limited (“Ampair”). The company’s CEO is David Sharman, an alumnus of MIT’s System Design and Management program.

Ampair, a company based in Dorset designs and produces wind turbines, currently ranging from 100W to 6kW. Ampair wind turbines have been manufactured in the UK since 1973 and the latest model, the Ampair 6000, is a 6kW device which has been designed for worldwide use in grid-tied applications, commercial off-grid applications and rural electrification. Customers who have bought Ampair turbines include Shell, Cable and Wireless and Scottish and Southern Energy, who have purchased two of the first batch of Ampair 6000 turbines to be produced.

Sigma Capital Group plc, the managers of Sigma Sustainable Energy Fund II, are a specialist asset management and advisory group focused on venture capital, property and the commercialisation of university IP.

The investment will be used to support further development of the Ampair range and the expansion of the company’s existing commercial activities.

Patrick Graham, a Director on Sigma’s investment team, said, “Having looked at a number of compelling opportunities in the small wind sector we were drawn to Ampair due to the fact that the overall performance of the Ampair 6000 is comparable to that of the top manufacturers in the industry but it comes at a lower price point, and hence a lower cost per kWh, making it potentially the most economic small wind turbine on the market. It was also important to us that the Ampair 6000 has been specifically designed as a platform technology that can be used to produce larger turbines at minimal additional cost, thereby further reducing the cost per kWh.”

Ampair CEO David Sharman, SDM ’01, said, “We are delighted to have Sigma on board as our lead investor, they are clearly committed to the sector and were very supportive throughout the process. We look forward to working together with Sigma as we build Ampair into the world leader in small wind turbines.”

Ampair Energy Ltd
Park Farm, West End Lane
Warfield, Berkshire, RG42 5RH
t. +44 (0)1344 303 311
f. +44 (0)1344 303 312

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Systems Thinking, India, and the Big Picture

By Vineet Thuvara, MIT System Design and Management Program, ‘05
Worldwide Launch Lead—Windows Server
Microsoft Corp.

Today, more than ever, India is associated with engineering. But India has been an engineer-creating society for a long time, certainly since Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru helped establish the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) in 1950s. This is where I received my Masters in Industrial Design in 1997.

At IIT, one of my professors, Dr.Soumitri, noticed that I liked to look at the “big picture”—not just how to make a good product but the reason for making it, its potential market, and its sustainability from both an environmental and revenue-producing standpoint. Dr Soumitri told me, “You think like a business guy. Start a business.”

I did. In my last semester at IIT, I co-founded, along with two other classmates, 5th Quadrant, a consulting company that offered product, graphic and space design services. One of our largest graphic/martketing-related design clients was Amway.

After a few years, I was managing Amway’s $8 million, marketing communications budget and was invited to join their staff as India head of marketing communications and research. This job had many engineering aspects but what was most important to me was that it offered the chance to be in the boardroom and to broaden my thinking about both business and technology. I realized that marketing should be a part of product development, not something done after the fact. Only then can one create a brand and optimize revenue.

At Amway, many directors and senior marketing people had MBAs. An MBA would have given me a notch up on things I had already done successfully with my colleagues at Amway, such as manage finances, cut costs, and oversee market analysis. I wanted to combine my strengths in both business and engineering and learn how to think about end-to-end processes in a scientific way. That’s what brought me to MIT and the System Design and Management (SDM) program, which offered a master’s in engineering and management and would help me go beyond an MBA.

After graduating, I joined Microsoft as a Senior Manager in Windows Server Marketing. In the System Design and Management program, I learned how to look at value creation from that end-to-end, big picture perspective. At Microsoft, I was able to use that to improve Windows Server Enterprise Edition’s value proposition by leveraging my engineering experience (optimizing scalability and reliability, adding virtualization capabilities) and business knowledge, emphasizing synergies with products enterprises already used. This represents the systems approach to thinking and leading emphasized throughout the SDM program.

Systems thinking also helped me in my next challenge: leading a global launch of Windows Server that addressed large and small companies in over 100 countries. . In my next role I will serve as business manager and chief-of-staff for the general manager of Microsoft’s management and virtualization business. This will require more complex levels of systems thinking to effectively manage how the business, people, budget interact with market economics.

A systems approach is necessary if India is to continue to grow. Indian companies must become strategic partners with companies such as Microsoft. However, the cost-cutting business model that gave birth to the technology revolution in India is not sustainable because if low cost is the only driver because there will always another country that that can get the work done more cheaply. India must add value – and many companies have started doing that. That’s where systems thinking comes in.

Someday I would like to find ways to give back to India by bringing SDM’s way of systems thinking home. I believe that it can help Indian organizations add value and continue to grow and prosper.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

MIT System Design and Management Program: The Best of Both Worlds in Engineering and Management

A recent article on the MIT news page noted that according to the latest U.S. News & World Report annual rankings, MIT continues to excel in engineering and management graduate programs,

MIT’s School of Engineering was again ranked number one in the magazine’s annual evaluation of U.S. graduate school programs. The School of Engineering has achieved the top score in the U.S. News rankings each year since the rankings were created in 1990. In addition, the MIT Sloan School of Management jumped from fifth to third among the nation’s MBA programs, according to the magazine.

This is great news for MIT's System Design and Management (SDM) program because it is co-sponsored by the Institute's #1 ranked School of Engineering and #3 ranked MIT Sloan School of Management. Truly, SDM offers the best of both worlds at MIT!


U.S. News Best Graduate Schools
School of Engineering
MIT Sloan School of Management
System Design and Management Program

An MBA or an MIT Master’s in Engineering and Management?

By Charles V. Atencio, SDM ‘09

Almost mid-way through my engineering consulting career, I found myself wondering whether to pursue an MBA or a Master’s in Engineering and Management.

I had gone into engineering design after graduating with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, working mainly on infrastructure for pharmaceutical enterprises. At first, it was interesting—you have to understand the needs of the stakeholders and the business ecosystem—but after a while I realized that you never really owned your product. You designed it; you oversaw the construction, and then you turned it over to someone else. You were part of facilities and part of the operational budget, not strategic and definitely not viewed as adding value to the enterprise – which was what R&D did. And when I met with clients and asked questions such as, “How does this product contribute to your overall business strategy?” they weren’t really interested in hearing from me. Such issues were never considered part of the scope of the engineering consultant. Not content with this state of affairs, I decided to broaden my horizons.

I briefly considered pursuing an MBA, but didn’t want something so rigorously focused on profit margin. There is more to an enterprise and its organization than financial statements. To me, MBA schools are commoditized and, generally speaking, they concentrate primarily on the bottom line.

I wanted to leverage the fact that I’m an engineer and a technophile and integrate that with business. Then I found the System Design and Management (SDM) program, which allowed me to remain an engineer and still ask the big picture business questions. SDM opened new career options for me by bringing forward latent talents and now, after a year-and-a-half in the program, I can see myself working in one of two areas: product management or change management.

The System Design and Management program has also provided opportunities to further develop my leadership abilities. I have had many opportunities to help make a difference in SDM and the greater MIT community.

A good example of this was when I helped establish an SDM mentoring program for the MIT undergraduate students in the Gordon Engineering Leadership program. Leadership does not only entail “getting things done”, but also enabling others to realize their own potential. This skills of managing and leading others is crucial for SDM grads as they move forward in their careers towards executive level positions.

In terms of product management, the System Design and Management program has taught me to understand not only the needs of the engineers and researchers developing a technical product, but also the needs of those in finance and marketing. Engineers typically don’t focus on business strategy, and businesses don’t understand technical development. As an SDM graduate, I can connect the two and create a synergy between technology and business strategy in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is one way that an SDM is able to go “beyond the MBA”.

In terms of change management I could, for example, help a company with its acquisitions. Acquired assets all have their own IT systems, business processes, and organizational structures and you just can’t say, “Here’s your new platform; here’s your new organization,” and expect to get the integration and alignment you need to be successful. You need to manage the change and in order to do this you need people who understand IT systems, the organization, and the political and financial implications of changing them. MIT’s System Design and Management program has prepared me to do this.

Hiring an MBA to do either of the above could be tricky. In both situations, it’s important to hire someone who is capable of keeping up with the pace of technological change, who can interact effectively with the different cultures and agendas within an organization, and who can articulate the business case to all. If you don’t hire someone with the “big picture perspective” and the technological experience that SDM grads have, your company might miss out on a new wave of customers and end up playing catch-up, which is not a good place to be in today’s economy.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Inescapability of Engineering

By Brian W. “Jess” Posey, SDM ‘10
CEO and President, Co-Founder, Telepulse Technologies Corporation

My relationship to engineering can be explained best by Al Pacino’s line in Godfather III: "Every time I try to get out, they pull me back in."

I’ve sworn off engineering many times, but it never lasts for long. I graduated from the Naval Academy and began my service as a Gunnery and Missiles officer. But the Navy said it had a shortage of engineers and "suggested" I work in that area. (In the military, suggestions carry more weight than they do in the civilian world.) The Navy then thought I should go to graduate school in engineering, but Navy engineering grads tend to stay technical and stay in defense industries. I wanted to break the mold. And I knew what attracted me.

I had spent a lot of time doing watches on ships cruising Asian waters and as ships streamed across the horizon I wondered, "Why is this ship going from A to B? Who designs the system? Who figures out the economic advantage? How does it happen?"

So instead of engineering, I enrolled at Wharton, believing an MBA would allow me better access to the business world. I wanted to be the person who made the decisions that loaded the ship and sent it off from A to B. I wanted to be the boss. That’s pretty common among Navy grads but not so common among MBA grads. Their impetus often is based more on money than opportunity. Indeed, they may not recognize the difference between the two which is why, after they land a lucrative job, in a few years they’re wondering why they hate what they’re doing. The question I’ve always asked myself is not how much money I could make, but how am I going to achieve?

After Wharton, I worked for a number of consulting firms which led me to a vice presidency at a telecommunications equipment company. Unfortunately, its product—designed to increase bandwidth on copper wire—did not pass inspection and I had to leave. But the problem—how to move information from A to B faster, and with less noise, through the existing copper wire infrastructure—was a real one, and there was a real market for a real solution. So in 2001 I co-founded Telepulse Technologies to solve it in a real way.

And there I was, back in engineering. In January 2010, I enrolled in MIT’s System Design and Management (SDM) program. The thinking Telepulse will need to make and sell our product will be informed by SDM. Yes, I could have hired a couple of engineers, but I believe I really need to know it myself. To get that kind of knowledge from an MBA program, you have to cobble together electives from engineering and then you become a Jack-a-lope—a mythical creature of mismatched parts. The MBA discipline jumps straight to bottom line, which is helpful talking to investors, but it doesn’t help you manage an integration process. And when your customers are in technology, you’ve got to be able to speak their language.

So far, with my course work in disruptive technologies and innovation, SDM seems like a program expressly designed for my needs. It’s amazing to me that it exists.

Even if I am back in engineering.