MIT Experience

From Ship Design to Supply Chains

In this post, I’ll share my journey of transition, the challenges I faced, how I prepared myself, and the valuable lessons I’ve learned.
Written by Elizabeth Marie Bruttomesso

How do you go from designing ships to orchestrating global supply chains? Sounds like quite a leap, doesn’t it? Yet, that’s the journey I embarked on when I transitioned from a career as a Naval Architect and Marine Engineer at Shell to a Master’s program in Supply Chain Management at MIT. In this post, I’ll share my journey of transition, the challenges I faced, how I prepared myself, and the valuable lessons I’ve learned.

Discovering My Interest in Supply Chain Management

Growing up, I always had a passion for math and science, leading me to pursue an education in engineering. This interest led me to a fulfilling career at Shell where I worked on Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) projects, immersing myself in diverse aspects of maritime engineering.

A training at Shell introduced me to the intricacies of the company’s value chain. This sparked my curiosity for the larger picture of strategic decisions, setting the stage for my future exploration of supply chain management.

While working on critical projects during COVID-19 our work was often held up by supply chain issues for key items. One instance that stood out was when the team needed to replace a valve in the FPSO disconnection system so the asset was ready for hurricane season. The issue was discovered during prep work for hurricane season, so we did not have long to get this part. Due to COVID-19 delays it was going to take until the beginning of hurricane season to get one part. The team was able to work with the supply chain team and got the part right before hurricane season. This episode not only highlighted the importance of effective supply chain management but also prompted my interest in this field.

Choosing MIT’s Supply Chain Management Program

Once I decided to deepen my understanding of supply chain management, I researched top programs across the United States. MIT’s Supply Chain Management program, ranked number 1 in the QS World University Rankings and Eduniversal group rankings, stood out.

To get into the program, I emphasized my unique engineering experience and knowledge about ocean and barge transportation from my stint at Shell. I was convinced that this knowledge would add value to the learning environment and my peer network at MIT.

Preparation and Transition

The shift from a corporate to an academic environment was daunting due to not having been in a classroom in 3 years. I prepared by focusing on program prerequisites, refreshing my analytical skills, and picking up programming using Python via online courses. The gradual transition through orientation was a huge help in transitioning back to the classroom.

Lessons from the Program

The program has not only been an enriching academic journey but also a platform for cultural and industrial exchange with peers from diverse backgrounds. Some of my favorite classes so far have been logistics systems, system dynamics, competitive strategy, and supply chain case studies.

System dynamics helped me view problems in a different way and look at the whole system and how different parts of the system interacted in feedback loops. Many of the examples we used in system dynamics came from the oil and gas industry, so I was able to use my background to contribute to class discussions and provide insights. Competitive strategy and supply chain case studies were built on each other, so I was able to apply what I learned in competitive strategy to the class discussions in supply chain case studies. One notable case study that we discussed was comparing the strategies of Halloran and Allied steel during a market downturn. Using Porter Five Forces I learned in competitive strategy I was able to understand the industry well and get a better understanding of both companies’ strategies.

Linking Past and Future

Transitioning from engineering to supply chain management was more than a career switch – it was a natural progression that allowed me to combine my engineering background with my interest in strategy. My engineering background developed my logical thinking required to tackle supply chain problems using a systematic approach. Engineering also gave me the analytical tools I needed to succeed in my classes. Moving forward, I plan to apply these analytical tools in my role as a consultant for AlixPartners.

Concluding Thoughts

Transitioning from a career in engineering to a Master’s program in Supply Chain Management can open up exciting opportunities for career advancement and personal growth. My journey has been both challenging and rewarding, and I eagerly anticipate the new paths this will lead me down.

If you’re considering making a similar move, I encourage you to take the leap and pursue your passions. The rewards of challenging yourself and expanding your horizons can be truly transformative. Are you considering a similar transition? What’s holding you back?