Sunday, March 6, 2011

SDM welcomes talented, diverse 2011 cohort - SDM Pulse, Spring 2011

By Kathryn O'Neill, managing editor, SDM Pulse

This January, MIT’s System Design and Management Program (SDM) welcomed more than 70 mid-career professionals into its 2011 cohort. Class members hail from all over the globe—from Spain to Saudi Arabia and from the United States to China—but share a common goal: to learn to lead effectively by using systems thinking to solve large-scale, complex challenges.
The SDM 2011 cohort poses with SDM Fellows Program
Director Pat Hale, back row, sixth from right.
“After five years in purely engineering roles, I was looking at programs that would enhance my managerial and leadership perspectives while at the same time leveraging my technical background. I found SDM to be the best fit,” said Farrah Tazyeen, SDM ’11, who came to SDM from a position in product development at Oracle Solution Services India. “I am discovering that, as an SDM Fellow, all the amazing resources at MIT are within my reach.”
The cohort Tazyeen joined is impressive. Several members of the class have already earned at least one master’s degree in disciplines ranging from software engineering to physics and finance. A few have MBAs and even PhDs.
But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Victor Piper, SDM ’11, who works as a quality assurance engineer at Raytheon, said that meeting SDM students at an information session is what convinced him that the program was the right choice. “What stood out was the way the students spoke about how the program changed their way of thinking,” Piper said.
Piper already has a master’s degree in electrical engineering, but he wanted to build a skill set that would help him find and solve technical problems with broader enterprise impact. “[SDM] seemed unlike other engineering management programs, as it is in equal measures rigorously technical and enterprise-focused,” he said.
But SDM’s academic program is not its only asset. The SDM ’11 class—like its predecessors—includes a diverse mix of people.
There are experts in such disciplines as communications engineering, mathematical statistics, biosystems engineering, and management, as well as one member who holds a bachelor’s degree in Oriental studies and another whose master’s is in philosophy. The classmates hail from well over a dozen countries.
That diversity appealed to Melissa Rosen, SDM ’11, who works as an engineering consultant in the medical devices industry. “After 10 years of hands-on experience in my field, I am ready to be exposed to other industries and disciplines,” she said. “MIT is a technological hub that attracts many companies and leaders of industry; as a SDM student, this network is invaluable for career opportunities.”
Rosen also said she was impressed by how well the program accommodates those who can’t afford to be full-time, on-campus students. “Not only does SDM provide the flexibility of being ‘career compatible,’ but it provides the necessary tools to advance immediately at my current position without having to take a break from industry.”
The new cohort began in January with an intensive month on campus commonly called “SDM boot camp.” Designed to help class members to bond, the January program includes instruction in system architecture, a leadership course, several demanding team design challenges, and the popular Human Side of Technology class.
“In the January session I was exposed to principles of system architecture, team dynamics, and organizational processes. I worked more than I thought myself capable and bonded closely with my cohort,” Piper said. “It’s already been an incredible experience, so I find myself very much excited for all that’s to come.”
The January session was just the first step for the SDM ’11 class, which will go on to complete 13 to 24 months of coursework in system architecture, systems engineering, and system and project management, as well as a master’s thesis.
“The journey so far has already been transformative,” Tazyeen said. “There’s lots to learn and I’m looking forward to exciting challenges ahead!”
One long-term benefit will be the connections that SDM provides. “Within a short amount of time, the feeling of the ‘SDM family’ at MIT emerged,” Rosen said. “It is clear that this is just the start of a life-long network with incredible individuals.”

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