In July of 2023, I was working at a great company, in a great role, with the future ahead of me. I had just finished my MBA from the University of Illinois in June. While I had a great experience at the University of Illinois, something was missing. An MBA specializes in breadth, exposing one to every aspect of a business’s functioning, but lacks the depth one would expect from a more specialized program, especially in the supply chain space. I had decided to apply to MIT’s SCM program after taking Supply Chain Analytics on MITx and being blown away- this was the challenging, in depth material I was looking for, material I used daily in my previous role. I decided to apply for the program at the start of 2023, with the thought that “you miss every shot you don’t take”.
I think my reaction was the same as everyone else’s when I heard I was accepted – a mixture of disbelief and elation. Leaving my former company was tough, but I knew that I could not miss a once in a lifetime opportunity like this. Within a month, my wife and I had moved to Boston, a far cry away from Austin, TX. In retrospect, I really didn’t know what to expect at the start of the program, other than it would be intense and the experience of a lifetime. This post is for those in the future who have been accepted into the program, or for those who are considering applying to have a better idea on what to expect than I did!
You’ll encounter amazing people during your time at MIT. First, the SCM staff responsible for recruiting and administration are the best I have seen in my career. These are the people that you will encounter first in your MIT SCM journey, and will help orient yourself throughout the whirlwind of classes, events, career coaching, and company coffee chats. The people you will spend most of your time with, your classmates, are equally capable. MIT’s SCM program has a wide diversity of students from all over the world (16 countries for the 2024 residential program), all with their own unique perspectives and talents. You’ll learn about them, grow with them, and above all have fun with them! Study sessions, cultural gatherings, celebrations, and sports events are just some of the few extracurricular outings we enjoy together. Many of our cohort have families, and some have commitments that make going to all of the social events available more difficult. This is not only 100% ok, but respected; you’re working with top class professionals who know their priorities (but also love to have fun when they can)!
The caliber of the instructors here are also out of this world. You’ll be working with cutting edge research scientists at the top of their field from day one, people who are exceptionally curious, capable, and kind. They will push you farther than you thought you could go, but provide every resource imaginable to get you to the finish line. The adage “Going to MIT is like drinking from a firehose” is 100 percent true, in that there is a breathtaking width and depth to the opportunities for learning available. For example, within just a month of being on campus, both myself and a number of my classmates have been trained to use MIT SuperCloud, a high performance supercomputer for intensive modeling and optimization for our research capstones. Using this powerful tool is only possible via the time and effort of instruction the researchers we are working with provide. If you had asked me a year ago the likelihood of using tools like this, I would have responded with a solid 0%. The professors and research staff you’ll work alongside are there to push you beyond your pre-defined limits.
Most importantly though, you’ll be humbled. When first getting to know my classmates, I remember talking about how crazy it felt to move across the country in such a short amount of time for the program. After hearing the stories of my classmates, where they were from, what they had seen, and what they had to overcome to get to MIT, I quickly realized what I went through was nothing compared to their experiences. Countries at war, humanitarian disasters, and unstable political regimes are just a few of the obstacles overcome by members of the Class of 2024, and hearing their stories showed me how privileged I was. There was no room for failure for many of them, and I am humbled to sit alongside them.
Moreover, Dr. Steven Levitt, co-author of the book “Freakonomics” and host of the popular podcast “People I Mostly Admire” has described his first year experience at MIT as one where he felt he was the “dumbest person at the table”. Instead of feeling disheartened by this however, he felt joy in the fact that he could learn so much from everyone around him. He felt as though he was receiving the highest % return on education, measuring from where he started to where he would finish. He had more to learn from everyone else than vice versa, and he relished in this. Another lesson in humility; seeing just how talented your peers truly are.
I think this is the secret of what makes MIT’s SCM program so special. Everyone in the class has a completely different subject matter expertise and experience, and everyone is bringing in a new, novel perspective on cutting edge supply chain problems. One day you may be advancing your existing skill set even further, the next day you are a complete novice leaning on your classmates. You’ll be exposed to advanced statistical analysis, forecasting, logistics systems, programming languages, all in rapid fire succession. You’ll work alongside people in Tech, Operations, Military Fellows, literally every end of global supply chains. There are going to be plenty of times where you’ll feel humbled by the coursework, and that is 100% by design. If that doesn’t scare you, if you are capable, earnest, and determined, you’ll grow tremendously at MIT.