Friday, April 8, 2011

Airong Dong, SDM '11: Learning to Think Out of the Box

By Ethan Gilsdorf

Airong Dong
Photo by Kathy Tarantola Photography
Airong Dong, a native of Huanghua, China, and a member of the System Design and Management (SDM) class entering in 2011, comes from an impressive work history that belies her 10 years of industry experience.

After earning a B.Eng. in communications engineering and an M.Eng. in communications and information systems, both from China's Dalian Maritime University, she focused her career mainly in the rail transportation sector. She's served as a system engineer, lead engineer, and interface manager for several railway companies, including Ansaldo STS, General Electric Transportation Systems, and SiemensTransportation Systems. In the past two years at Ansaldo, she helped produce two parallel signaling systems for two metro train lines in the cities of Shenyang and Chengdu.

Asked about her SDM experience since starting the program in January, Dong said, "The SDM students around me come from so many backgrounds. Working with them is enhancing my ability to think differently — to think out of the box."

Dong added, "Being able to apply knowledge to real-world projects in a real-time manner, and having CEOs and chief scientists from big companies coming to talk in class are both really valuable."

In addition to the students and visiting speakers, there is, of course, the faculty. Dong said MIT professors demand that students express "original results and clear thinking" in all of their work.

Dong's thesis will likely cover some aspect of technology strategy blended with marketing, engineering, and business processes. She hopes to use what she learns to address a key deficit she's observed in the workplace: the gap between technical know-how and management savvy. "To my knowledge, some places were great with technology, but weak in other areas. Others were well-managed, but lacked technology savvy," she said.

What she's learning at MIT is "universal," she said, and can be applied to any company she may work for in the future, wherever it may be.

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