The MIT Independent Activities Period (IAP) is the first month of actual school experience for a Blended master’s student. During IAP, students across all MIT SCALE Centers visit Cambridge for SCALE Connect which is a three week intensive learning period. The goal of SCALE Connect is to bring students from different countries, cultures and languages to work and excel together as a team. This year we had 175 students taking 7 broad courses and the APICS ‘Shark Tank’-style competition was one of them. This is exactly like the TV show we have all seen but with topics related to Supply Chain problems in the industry.
My required participation in the APICS/ASCM Competition came to me as a surprise. Prior to the first day of SCALE Connect, when I reviewed the agenda, I always thought it was an event in which the participation was optional. I was taken aback seeing my name on the list and already being teamed up with 3 others from different SCALE centers. To my continued amazement, my teammates were quick to find me in the huge lecture hall to schedule our first meeting and added me to a group on Telegram as well. It took me a while to digest what had happened since it was all moving so fast!
Getting home that night I tried to recall the last time I had participated in a similar setting. I could not recollect a single event! However, I knew it had to be more than 15 years ago. My background – Associate Professor in the Department of Marketing/Agribusiness/Supply Chain Management at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. After a long time, I felt the same nervousness I had on the first day of my undergrad and did not know what to prepare for our first meeting the next day. Fortunately, we had emails from the SCM administrative staff that summarized and elaborated on the assignment. Being a teacher for several years, I tend to look at any class activity with a question of purpose and the emails made me feel a little better.
In our first meeting, we spent time knowing one another since each member was from a different SCALE center having diverse background and work experience. The nervousness was changing into excitement. We spent the next few days finding a topic of common interest, having lengthy discussions and making a few compromises along the way. We envisioned our proposal related to food, inventory control, and social responsibility coming up with a new feature integrated with a current grocery app platform that could help reduce food waste/demand uncertainty.
We spent a substantial amount of time making a pitch and rehearsing for our presentation. We provided feedback on each other’s sections and tried to improve the overall flow. Given my background in marketing, I was focusing on consumer behavior and sales-oriented metrics which I believed were of much more importance. My teammates, however, showed me a different perspective and described how things were done at their own companies. It was indeed an eye-opening experience for me.
Although our team did not make it to the finals, I realized a few changes after the event. Firstly, I not only remembered my teammates’ names but also felt comfortable talking to them despite having just started out at MIT. Secondly, it is okay to not win in everything you set your mind to since it is the process that matters more than the end result. Lastly, I started knowing my way around the very many buildings here since our courses were scheduled in a building different from our department in the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics (CTL).
CTL had become my first go-to place for any after school activities or get together with others for work. When I started taking Micromasters in 2016, I enjoyed all of the courses offered, but, I could barely sense any personal connection to CTL other than the brand recognition that it had. Being on campus for just three weeks, I now realize what the Internet cannot replace: human interaction and attachment. I am glad that I decided to reverse roles and be a student again because of the kind of people I am getting to know here, learning to get out of my comfort zone and getting challenged at my age and experience level. I am really happy with my decision to come here and I look forward to the great journey ahead.