Friday, March 30, 2012

Eugene Kwak, SDM '12: From SpaceX to SDM

By Amy MacMillan, News@MITSloan

Eugene Kwak
Photo by Kathy Tarantola Photography
SDM student Eugene Kwak literally had a front-row seat in the ambitious private-sector space race.

Kwak, who is a member of the SDM class that entered in 2012, was the lead flight termination systems engineer for the Falcon 9, the first liquid-fuel spacecraft launched into orbit by a private company, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX). After launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on June 4, 2010 (Kwak's 31st birthday), the unmanned rocket completed two orbits around the earth.

As lead engineer for SpaceX, Kwak's job was to design and monitor a system that would blow up or cut off the fuel supply of the Falcon 9 rocket in case it malfunctioned or went off course toward a heavily-populated area.

"There was a technical, as well as a political aspect, since human safety is involved," Kwak said. "I had to deal with multiple organizations, such as the Air Force, NASA, and the FAA, among other entities." Kwak spent many hours working with the Air Force to ensure that SpaceX met the thousands of technical requirements that allowed the company to launch from Cape Canaveral. During the launch, he was "on the console" in charge of subsystems and leading his team in running tests on the rocket. It was a job that definitely had its "stressful moments," he admitted.

Kwak, who has an MS in mechanical engineering from the University of Southern California, said he was humbled by the experience of being involved in the historic launch.

"The people I was surrounded by were truly brilliant. It was like a David vs. Goliath situation because we were competing against giants like Boeing and Lockheed Martin, in a market which has not been too kind to new entrants," Kwak said.

SpaceX was recently chosen as one of Technology Review's "50 Most Innovative Companies of 2012" and was awarded a $1.6 billion NASA contract to carry cargo to the International Space Station.

Kwak is a full-time, on-campus SDM student, and he will most likely not return to SpaceX when he graduates, because he plans to pursue a career in product management.

"I love technology and I want to apply it across different industries, not just aerospace," he said.

The SDM program, which resides within the MIT Engineering Systems Division and is jointly offered by the MIT School of Engineering and the MIT Sloan School of Management, culminates in an SM in engineering and management and is just the right fit for Kwak, as he needs formal management training, but does not want to abandon engineering.

"I thought it was really important to bridge the gap between the business side and the engineering side and I thought this would be the best program for me," he said.

Kwak is also a vice president of the MIT Sloan Asian Business Club and is a member of the Management Consulting Club.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Marwan Hussein, SDM '12: Complexity and Interplanetary Space Systems

By Eric Smalley

Marwan Hussein, SDM '12
Photo by Kathy Tarantola Photography
Marwan Hussein, SDM '12, is truly a man of the world. German-born and of Iraqi descent, he lived in Jordan before moving to Canada, and his work takes him to places ranging from the Arizona desert to the Arctic. His job is literally out of this world.

Hussein is a space systems engineer. His latest work for Canadian aerospace firm Optech Incorporated involved leading the design and development of critical guidance and navigation systems for a pair of robotic landers that are slated for launch. "One is on a NASA mission that is going to an asteroid four years from now and the other one is on an Indo-Russian mission that's going to the moon in 2014," he said.

Having a commercial airline pilot for a father accounts for Hussein's peripatetic background and interest in aerospace. Having a vocation that involves systems that span considerable chunks of the universe accounts for his interest in MIT's System Design and Management (SDM) program.

Hussein's experience includes developing space mission concepts, designing critical spacecraft sub-systems, leading multidisciplinary teams, and managing multimillion dollar programs for NASA and the Canadian Space Agency. Much of his work involves introducing innovative designs, yet reducing cost and complexity through the use of commercial off-the-shelf technologies.

Hussein was a co-investigator in several NASA and Canadian Space Agency (CSA) field tests where he worked with astronauts on new rover and sensor prototypes in the Arizona desert and in an impact crater in Devon Island in the Arctic. Such tests aim at preparing for future missions that will see humans return to the moon and set foot for the first time on Mars. His new ideas and dedication in these expeditions earned him awards from NASA.

Hussein's interest in complex systems emerged as he took on increased responsibilities. "I was first working on certain spacecraft subsystems, such as vision and guidance," he said. "As I progressed I was assigned more responsibility in terms of leading the mission's design and managing teams of 10 to 15 engineers, so I was starting to look at the big picture."

"It was clear to me two years ago that I lacked the systems perspective, the holistic engineering perspective on how to develop these complicated systems of systems," Hussein said.

He searched for a graduate program that could give him a formal education in systems thinking. SDM, with its focus on system architecture, product design, systems engineering, and management, was the clear choice, he said.

Hussein's goal is to think from a holistic perspective and apply system dynamics and systems engineering principles to building orbiters, landers and rovers. In short, he's looking for SDM to give him the skills to design and manage the next-generation of planetary exploration systems.

When he finishes the SDM program, Hussein will either return to Optech or get involved with a startup. One of the appeals of MIT is its strong culture of startups, he said. If he does go the startup route, it could well be in the emerging field of commercial space exploration.

Hussein has already lent his consulting expertise to commercial space startups, including one of the entrants to the Google Lunar X Prize competition. The competition will award $20 million or more to the first private company to successfully land and operate a lunar rover by 2015.

These days, most movers and shakers in the space industry are seriously looking to the commercial space exploration market, said Hussein. Perhaps in a few years he'll be one of them.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Business cycle tracking method spots downturns - SDM Pulse, Spring 2012

By Felipe Bustos, SDM ’11

Problem statement: Although manufacturing represents 12% of the US economy and the Obama administration is emphasizing manufacturing as a way to stimulate the creation of highquality jobs, most data related to manufacturing are expensive and suffer from inherent biases.
A new metric: For their thesis project, Bustos and co-author Fernando Barraza, SDM ’10, developed a metric that characterizes US manufacturing using a simple, yet meaningful, mathematical representation derived from public data.
The metric, Manufacturing Composite Index of Leading Indicators (MCI), taps data from the US
Census Bureau and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics that includes:
time series for new orders
total inventory
capacity utilization
average weekly hours of manufacturing
Initial findings: After several months of intensive data mining, Bustos and Barraza compiled graphs plotting the MCI against GDP for several subsectors. When they benchmarked the Primary Metals subsector MCI against the US Manufacturing Gross Domestic Product (GDP), they found that this MCI anticipates fluctuations in the GDP by 5 to 9 months. They had found a metric capable of signaling recessions.

Figure 1. This chart shows the correlation between
the MCI and US manufacturing GDP. The MCI anticipates
the GDP by 5 to 9 months.
 The MCI would have indicated the recessions of 2001 and 2007/2008 well before the official government declarations. For example, the 2001 recession began in March and ended in November of that year. The official declaration was not issued until November 26. The MCI would have given its first warning of the recession in March.
The MCI correlates with GDP on 18 of 20 manufacturing subsectors defined by the North American Industrial Classification System. In looking at industry subsectors, Bustos and Barraza found that some lead their respective GDPs more than others. Food products, petroleum and coal products, primary metals, and fabricated metals turn out to be prime movers in manufacturing.
Using the MCI
Businesses can use the method as a management tool in several ways:
delaying expansion or acquisition plans to wait for better prices
renegotiating contracts for raw materials
adjusting hiring plans
decreasing capacity utilization to reduce inventory
shifting sales strategies

Figure 2. This chart shows the Inventory Coverage index for the Machinery
Manufacturing subsector. The green band is the safe zone for inventory
levels and the pink band is the warning zone. The blue line is the industry
average. The yellow and green lines are Caterpillar’s and John Deere’s
inventory levels respectively.

In addition, investors can use the MCI method to adjust their valuations of companies.
Businesses can also create Inventory Coverage indexes for each subsector. These allow businesses to identify safe inventory levels for their sectors, track how their sectors perform against this benchmark, and react accordingly.
The research work that Bustos and Barraza conducted demonstrates how a systematic approach to data analysis can offer significant understanding of fluctuations in the complex US manufacturing economy.
About the Author
Felipe Bustos is a Captain in the Chilean Air Force. He serves as an advisor to the CEO of Empresa Nacional de Aeronáutica (ENAER), the Chilean national aircraft maintenance, repair, and parts manufacturing company. He recently completed MIT’s System Design and Management (SDM) Program and earned an MS in Engineering and Management.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

SDM Class of 2012 Snapshot - SDM Pulse Spring 2012

In early January, SDM welcomed 57 mid-career professionals to its 2012 cohort. Class members come from a diverse set of backgrounds – from clean tech energy to information technology to investment banking – but share a common goal of learning to lead effectively by using systems thinking to solve largescale, complex challenges.
Some facts and figures about the 2012 cohort:
49 men
8 women
25 company sponsored
32 self-funded
Program option:
34 full-time students
11 local commuter students
12 distance students
Armenia, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, India, Mexico, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and the United States

Average previous work experience:

10 years

Monday, March 5, 2012

SDM 2010-2011 Employment Report - SDM Pulse Spring 2012

Each year SDM produces an employment report for self-funded students designed to provide an overview of the most recent SDM graduating class and the world-class corporations that hired them. SDM Fellows continue to be hired into top-level technical and managerial leadership positions across a wide range of industries. Employers recognize that the 10 year average prior work experience of SDM Fellows, combined with SDM’s academic rigor, and the diversity of thought among SDM Fellows equips them to communicate and lead across organizations helping to solve complex problems throughout business and technical domains.
Highlights of the 2010-2011 SDM Employment

Report include:
  •    100% of SDM graduates responding to the 2011 survey are employed.
  •   83% accepted offers before graduation; 17% after graduation.
  •   Job functions include consulting/strategy, product development/management, project management, general management/leadership development programs, IT/software, and engineering.
  •   Among the hiring employers were McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, Altman Villandrie & Company, Cisco, Google, Microsoft, Prudent Energy, Sears Holdings,Topcon