Late in 1995, just after becoming Otis Elevator Company’s first director of systems engineering, I was told that our parent company’s corporate director of education wanted me to meet someone from the MIT Sloan School of Management to talk about educating product development engineers. That was the start of my personal journey with the System Design and Management (SDM) program.
Professor Thomas L. Magnanti explained that he and Professor Edward F. Crawley of the MIT School of Engineering were gathering stakeholder needs for a new career-compatible graduate program called “System Design and Management”—the first graduate-level, degree-granting program at MIT to include a distance education option. The program would partner with industry to educate future leaders in product development, with a curriculum that combined system-level engineering content with management courses adapted from the MIT Sloan MBA program.
As an MIT alumnus myself, I knew that an MIT graduate program would be a terrific option for my high-potential product development engineers at Otis, a division of United Technologies Corporation (UTC). I also had some thoughts about what the new degree should include. Magnanti and I spoke for about an hour, and I was soon able to confirm that Otis would send students to SDM’s inaugural class.
Since that time, UTC has sent 45 students to the degree program and 164 students to the certificate program. Seventy-five percent of Otis’s degree students and one of its certificate students rose to executive positions within a few years, as did many of the students from other UTC divisions.
After seven years at Otis, I left to start my own consultancy, and was hired through my company to run the SDM Graduate Certificate in Systems and Product Development program with Helen Trimble, who is now SDM’s director of career development. In 2004, I joined MIT as the director of the master’s degree program, and I have since discovered that I love teaching and mentoring the students and working with the staff.
It feels as if I am home now, after being associated with SDM since before the beginning.
Happy 15th birthday, SDM!