Monday, December 22, 2008

And all of a sudden...

.. the semester is done.

Ok, not as exciting as you might have hoped, but it's hard to believe that I am now halfway through my academic requirements for school and that's exciting for me. Something to consider... with two degrees being earned, it's comparable to me already earning one. ;) Ok, I know it doesn't quite work that way, but I got to motivate myself somehow. What's left? Well, a lot, actually - 2 more semesters of school, a 6-month internship and writing a thesis.  Piece of cake, right?

From what I've heard, the Summer and first Fall semesters are the two most difficult, and as far as workload, I think I'd agree. The Core classes weren't overly difficult material wise, but the quantity of work at the end of the semester was definitely intense. During the last 2 1/2 weeks of school (classes & finals week), I had the following to do:

- 1 individual and 1 team assignment for my engineering class (each required easily 20+ hours of work)
- final exam in my engineering class
- 8 page research paper & 15 minute presentation for Power & Negotiaton
- 15 page research paper for Organization Processes and 20 minutes presentation for Communication (forunately, both were on the same project)
- Economics final exam
- Accounting final exam

As I've found throughout the entire semester, unless you decide to give up on sleep and socializing, you can't do it all to the level you want to. So, I ended up focusing on the classes where getting an A was most important to me. For various reasons specific to me, I selected Accounting, Communications and my engineering class. This meant the other classes, although I still did a lot of work for them, took the back burner.

I'm not yet sure how the grades will turn out, but the one thing I've come to realize is that it's not so important. As I studied for finals and worked on final projects, I discovered that I actually learned a lot in my classes. It might sound totally cheesy (and I admit I question how useful some of the material is) but it's really rewarding to know that I've come out of this with a little more knowledge. Afterall, I quit my comfy job in the warmth of Southern California and came to grad school with the intention to gain knowledge and skills to help me in my career. It's re-affirming to know that as I "suffer" through the long nights, the rising credit card bills and the crazy wind chill factor, I'm accomplishing what I wanted.

With that slightly serious note, I'll end with some pictures from our social activities of the end of the semseter.


Maureen, Becca & I - with Rob "ruining" the photo from the background. ;)


Drew, Anuj, Jon, Lisa (Drew's SO) & Nitida sporting their ugly Holiday grab.


Me, Margo, Jeremy, Maureen, Mike G and Becca in the warmth of Dapo & Abishek's during the LFM end of the year/semester party.


Outside after the end of the year party - my last night in Boston included some light snow and brisk temps in the 20's. Fortunately, I left town before the major storms hit.

Coming next, some updates from/about the January LFM activities - plant trek and InternshipFest...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sometimes classes get in the way...

I think the biggest challenge about LFM and MIT, is not understanding what you're learning in classes but managing your time - there are WAY more things to do on any given day than you have time for. They've actually coined a term here called FOMO - Fear of Missing Out. With so many opportunities, one feels like they have to do everything to get the most of the experience. And, in any given day there's dozens of things to balance: classes, company presentations, club meetings, internship search/networking, general socializing ... oh, and don't forget homework & studying. It's really a miracle anything gets done.

One neat thing I've been able to be involved in, that's a bit different from the normal LFM activities, is something called Retail Lab. My team is working with Victoria's Secret helping them improve their peak holiday season hiring strategy. It's a pretty neat experience for a few reasons: one, it gives me the opportunity to meet Sloanies that I wouldn't otherwise meet, and two, I'm getting exposure to an industry that I'm interested in but have had no previous opportunity to be involved with.

Company presentations are another big thing in the Fall and can sometimes be tough to manage, since LFMs don't have to recruit through the normal channels for an internship, attending a company presentation is really only necessary if it's a company you think you might want to work for after graduating.  In which case, it never hurts to begin the networking.

And, speaking of jobs, the past few weeks have been a flurry of internship & interviewing activity. The '09s all returned from their internships to interview with the partner companies for full time positions.  3 days of interviews, and a lot of people had pretty full days. Additionally, the off-cycle internships for our class have all been posted and the discussion of whether or not to submit a cover letter and resume has been a popular convo around the office. This year there are 12 off-cylce internships, which, if they all get filled, would be the most off-cycle internships yet.  Going off-cycle is a tough decision, I actually spent a lot of time debating what I should do and for many reasons decided to stick with the normal cycle.

On the fun side, this Fall some of the LFM X's decided to start an IM hockey team.  One of our classmates played competitively in undergrad, so he's our coach.  But, most of us had no hockey experience. I had never played hockey and probably hadn't been on skates in around 10 years, but it turns out it wasn't as bad as i thought it would be... and I had a blast!

All in all the Fall is as busy as they said it would be!

As always, if you want to hear about something specific, let me know!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fall at MIT - The good, the bad, the ugly

October happens to be one of my (if not THE) favorite months of the year. It's the peak of football season, the weather is usually great, Halloween means it's normal to get dressed up in crazy costumes and it's my birthday month. This Fall is proving to be different than my recent Falls (one might argue there's no seasons in Los Angeles... but still), all in all, despite the continued craziness of school, I must say that I'm really enjoying the Fall semester in Boston. And, I am even going to say that I like Fall better than Summer (in Boston). So, I'm going to break down my Fall so far, in reverse order from the title above.

The Ugly

  • Midterms: Most of the Sloan Core class midterms happen in October, and it so happened that the two of the toughest happen in the same week. It made for a pretty stressful first couple of weeks of October. And I think a lot of us discovered that for the class (Economics) that does not require us to turn in completed homework, we were a bit behind... sure made studying fun. ;)

The Bad

  • Cold Weather Already: (this would be Ugly, but I recognize some people might LIKE cold weather) In any case, the recent mornings in the 30's are a bit cold for my taste. Good thing for layers and scarfs! Plus, people have said it's a bit unseasonal! But, what I really dislike is that I bundle up for my walk to the T (which is fortunately barely 5 minutes), get on the T and sweat because the heat is so high, get off the T to walk to class and freeze again. It's rather uncomfy, but I guess that's the way it is in places with winters.  One thing I am actually enjoying about the colder weather - wearing a scarf. I'm discovering they are a fun accessory! (I am sure the men especially appreciate that comment!)

The Good

  • The Colors: Ok, so this will sound weird for many of you, but being from Southern CA, I had NO idea what "peak" meant in reference to the Fall. I have now learned that it's the peak time of the Fall when the colors change on the leaves and everything looks amazingly beautiful. I really am enjoying it - especially since this may be my only Fall in Boston. It actually makes me understand why people love New England and makes me happy to be seeing it for the first time.

  • SIP Week: This is one of the great benefits of being LFM. Basically, SIP (Sloan Innovation Period) is for the Sloan students to take various workshops on leadership & other professional development topics. Since LFMs have many other requirements and not a lot of "extra" units, it is not a requirement for us. Which leaves us with a week of only engineering classes. Or... for some, vacation. I'm not going to lie, it's been super relaxing, and although I had a pretty tough engineering homework set due on Weds, I still managed to relax, catch up on some TV and pretty much enjoy not having hours of class and homework.

There's much more I could say, but I will keep it to that for now.  As always, let me know if you want to hear about something specifically! And, for those of you attending the Info Session and/or the Ambassador Visit day on Monday, I look forward to meeting you!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Applying to Grad School - My November Part Time Job

I've noticed that many of my fellow classmates have provided very useful posts about the application process and figured that it might be worth sharing my process (I use the word process very loosely) to offer a different view on how things can turn out well. In other words, I hope to point out that there's many ways to put together a great application.

To refresh your memory on my situation (or in case you are not an avid blog reader - shame on you!), I am one of those people that did not know that I wanted to go to grad school. I never had a master plan that involved an MBA, and although I had thought a lot about it, this time a year ago, when most of my classmates were in the throws of the application processes, I had not even registered to take the GMAT.

I tell you this, because for those of you who are interested in applying, but feel like you are behind the curve, I really believe that it is not too late. Yes, I acknowledge that putting together the application, writing your essays & studying for the GMAT is a lot of work, but the application deadline is still almost 3 months away. And, since I feel like I was a rockin' (aka - good) candidate, I am sure there's more people like me out there.

So, now....

Johanna's Tips

Tip 1: Decide which school you want to apply through.
LFM allows you to apply through either the School of Engineering for the engineering degree you'd pursue or through Sloan. This makes a difference for 2 reasons: 1) If you don't get into LFM, that school will review your application for their degree program and 2) GMAT versus GRE. I applied through Sloan.
I'll leave it at that since I think this is largely a personal decision.

Tip 2: Figure out who your recommendors will be & talk to them.
I think this is a big one because it is important to find people who will represent different strengths that you have. No one person knows everything, so the key is finding people who have worked with you in different environments and that can accurately capture your EXCEPTIONAL qualities. Once you've identified someone, talk to them! I had very candid conversations explaining not only why I was applying but why I wanted THEM to write my recommendation. I gave them over 2 months to submit the recommendations and am thankful that all of them finished WELL before the deadline.

Tip 3: The essays are very important.
In my (not so professional) opinion, I think the essays are the most important part of the application because they offer the best insight to who you are... forget the GMAT scores or your undergrad GPA - in the essays this is your chance to talk about who you really are. This is the portion of the application where I spent the most of my time. Yup, while others spent close to or even over a hundred hours studying for the GMAT/GRE, I decided to invest time in my essays. The reason I decided to do this? Well, because a number is a number, but a story... now that's something that people remember.

Tip 4: Study for the GMAT or GRE. (Ok, you had to know this was coming next.)
Don't get me wrong, I studied and bought books. There were two 9 hour plane rides between Los Angeles & Puerto Rico during which I am sure I did dozens of practice problems. Sunday afternoons were spent in front of the TV rooting on my fantasy football players while doing practice problems during commercials I put my hours in and felt prepared. And, since I didn't start studying until October, I waited until 17 days before the application deadline to take the GMAT. In hindsight, sure I wish I had more time to study and to get a score that I could brag about to my kids (ok, not really), but the reality is, life was busy, and I couldn't do everything. Plus, I know standardized test taking is a weakness of mine, so I focused on making my strengths even more prominent.

Tip 5: Don't forget the details & don't wait to submit until the last minute.
There's a lot of little things that need to be completed for the application... a transcript, a list of classes taken during undergrad, filling out a lot of random information. I actually logged in and started filling out some of the easy stuff (name, birth date, etc...) well before I needed to. This way, the last thing I did was a few days before the deadline

Ok, that's it! Hopefully it's not too general to be useless, but I really did not want to get into details and duplicate the great advice of my classmates, because you can read it there.

I'm going to end with a few caveats/notes.

First, I'm not on the admissions committee. This means, I don't really know the answers, I just know what worked for me.

Second, I am not going to promote my methods as the best. But, I think, as an individual, it's important to know your strengths and do everything you can to play them up so you look as rockin' as you likely are.

Third, Once I committed to applying (paid the GMAT fee), I was totally in. I built a spreadsheet to track everything that needed to be done and I got myself focused. So, despite my laid back approach, organization and dedication were absolutely required to get it all done.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fall means it's Football Season!

....oh, and also the start of a new school semester and classes.

But, before I get into that, I'm obviously very excited for football season. And, since I am from California, my teams of choice are not highly followed here in Boston so, I'm making sure everyone knows where my loyalties lie. This weekend is the big USC vs. Ohio State game and in order to be as supportive (aka - obnoxious) as possible, I'm going to start wearing USC shirts to school tomorrow for 4 days straight. (Don't worry, I have plenty of USC shirts to wear and not have to re-wear a dirty one!) Also, in the NFL realm, some of us LFM Xers (10s) are in a Fantasy Football league and I'm excited that I won the first game of the season. Off to a good start, which is better than the Chargers did.

Ok, enough football, I could go on for pages.


So, if I could offer you one piece of advice (besides wearing sunscreen) for those who are here next summer, it would be to take time in the summer to learn about the classes you can take for your engineering degree. I chose my engineering major as Engineering Systems because I thought it'd offer me the best opportunity to take classes that interested me, and aligned with my career plans. Once I got here, however, I realized that I had really strong interests in Logistics & Transportation and the ESD program didn't give me exactly what I was looking for. The great thing about LFM & ESD is that I've been able to take the initiative to shape my own program with this focus. While it's definitely a good thing, it's also bad because I've had to meet with various people to negotiate classes that would form a good course plan for my engineering degree. I unfortunately, have been scrambling and doing this for the past week and a half since Registration Day. It would have been time VERY well spent if I'd done a lot more due diligence before classes started. While it's intimidating to look at all of the options out there, it's much better to do it when you're not being e-mailed daily asking how things are coming. :) Fortunately, tomorrow, I should be able to get all the signatures needed to finalize things. Phew!

So, what am I taking?

Well, all first year MBA students at MIT participate in the Core Curriculum, as LFMs we take Accounting, Economics, Communication for Managers & Organizational Processes with our core. Non LFM students are also required to take Finance or Marketing and Data Model Decisions in their first semester, we take DMD in the summer, and can take Finance/Marketing at a later date if we want, depending on our schedule. On top of those 4 courses I am taking 1 Sloan Elective - Power & Negotiation and 2 Engineering Electives - Logistics Systems and Logistsics & Transportation Planning Methods. It's a bit of a heavy course load and I think I'm going to regret it at many times this semester, but the nice thing is that the classes do actually feel very practical and a lot of the professors seem like they'll be very engaging (which also helps!).

Another highlight of the first semester of the MBA program is the Core Teams. Just like in the summer, we are put in study groups with other individuals in our cohort that we're to work with on group projects and help each other learn the core material. The LFM students are separated so you are the only LFM on your team. It's always a nerve racking experience meeting the group, but I'm really pleased! My group, the Caribbean Cranes, has been productive in all our meetings and are working together real well up to this point.

On that note, I'll leave you with a photo from one of our team building events during orientation week.


Friday, September 5, 2008

And now... 350 more people to meet!

One of the greatest things about LFM is that we start school in the summer and have 3 months to get settled, get to know each other and meet the rest of the class. We become very close and comfortable with one another, and pretty much have a good time among ourselves. It is a great time because we have the run of the Sloan buildings, the LFM office and pretty much anything we want.

But, I think it also makes the Fall and meeting the rest of the Sloan class a bit of a challenge.  The social experiment (at least this is what I call it) begins when Sloan Orientation starts and we are forced outside of our "comfort zone" (which 3 months ago did not exist because we were all strangers!) and integrated with the rest of the Sloan class.  Surprisingly, it's hard -- it's intimidating, the rest of the Sloanies are pretty impressive people and are very excited and motivated... but, worst of all, they are new people! haha, It sounds silly, but I am sure everyone knows the feeling!

We're lucky to have such a great LFM class, but it's easy to fall back on each other. As a result, I've actually been trying pretty hard to get to know a lot of people outside of LFM.  It seems silly to consciously avoid other LFMs when there's a group at a table or talking together in a bar.  But, it pays off -- the rest of the Sloanies are awesome.

Also, I'm actually very excited about my Fall study group. The 6 other people in the Caribbean Cranes pretty much rock, and although I know nothing is ever perfect, I think we'll have a good team experience.

Despite all of the fun of meeting new people, I am admittedly glad to run back into the "arms" of our classmates for an occasional boost to continue with the slightly daunting task of meeting the other 350 people!

It really is crazy to think that 3 months ago us 48 LFMs were all complete strangers!

Coming Next.... more about Sloan Orientation and fall class selection.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Summer Semester

It's pretty hard to believe that I've been living in Boston and leading the life of a college student for the past 3 months. Time has pretty much flown by and I'm still deciding if I'm happy or sad about that...

Regardless, I figured it'd be a good time to reflect back on my first semester as a grad student.

Before I jump into it, I had so many people tell me when I decided to return to school and come to LFM that I'd work hard but I'd also have a lot of fun. And, all I can say is that it was so true - all in all, as I look back on the past 3 months it's been a fun time, a lot of laughing, exploring, meeting new people and learning (can't forget that ;)).

The school part was admittedly tough. We took 5 classes this summer: Leadership, Lean & Six Sigma, Operations Management, Systems Optimization and Probability & Statistics. The work load started out relatively normal but it quickly ramped up to the point where our summer teams became critical (and not just because of group assignments). For the most part the material in the classes wasn't terrible (difficult, confusing, etc.) but there's always a few concepts I get stuck on and naturally, a few classes I wasn't as enthusiastic about. This is part of the reason the summer teams were so important - there's usually at least one of the 6 people who understands the material and/or feels passionate about it. Thus it helps to have people focus on certain areas and take the divide & conquer approach. But, a big lesson learned from our team was to not get so wrapped up in dividing & conquering that we forget to give each other the opportunity to learn new things.

Some of the highlights from the classes were 2 leadership building/team bonding days. The first was for our summer teams which was an Outward Bound trip during the first week of classes. It was a great time to learn about each other, but not quite as exciting as we had hoped because the rain put a damper on our opportunity to climb ropes and do other physical outdoor activities. The second was with a new group of 6 people (randomly selected) at Fort Devens Army Base, and this time the weather cooperated and everyone
seemed to have a blast challenging ourselves mentally, physically and getting to know some new classmates better. My team of 6 for this challenge was arguable the best team - we spent about 90% of the time laughing so hard our stomachs hurt PLUS we were able to successfully complete almost all of the challenges.

There were also some fun group assignments - one was a paper helicopter design contest (for Statistics). Unfortunately, our design did awesome when we prototyped and did our final practice drops. However, the pilot must have had bad nerves, because during the big event, we looked a bit sad. Although, we take pride on the fact that we weren't last. ;) We also tried to tackle a challenging System Optimization project of optimizing the seating chart for a wedding reception. A good friend of mine is getting married in August and we used her as our customer. It was fun to tackle something different than the usual production mix question! It was also really interesting to hear from our classmates what they did and see how practical the material we learned in class really is (dorky, I know - but learning is much easier when that's the case)!

Ok, I'll stop dorking out now and move into the SOCIAL side! Our class of 2010 - some of us are pushing to change from being referred to as the "10's" to the "X's" - is a blast. We've had numerous parties to celebrate birthdays and .... well, just about anything that we can. Most Wednesday nights were spent at the Muddy Charles (on campus bar) followed by Beacon Hill Pub (BHP) where we were claiming our territory since that's the normal Wednesday night hang out when the rest of the Sloanies show up. We've done a lot of fun touristy stuff and I've had a blast seeing the city with others who are not from the area. It's true that it takes some time to find those people you connect with, but I'd say that for the most part, when a big social event is planned, you can count on at least 20 people from the class joining in on the fun. We are all very social people and know how to have a good time.

Wow, this post has become very long. So, I'll spare any other details for now and return to enjoying my last 3 days off before Sloan Orientation starts.

As always, if you want to know more about something, feel free to leave me a comment and I will gladly share more!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Images from the Summer

Tomorrow is our last day of classes for the summer. It's hard to believe how quickly the 2 1/2 months have gone by!

Although there is a lot to talk about, for now, I thought I'd post a few photos to capture the craziness (aka - excitement) from the last couple of months.

Also, if anyone has any specific questions about the program or wants to hear more about anything specifically, feel free to leave me a comment and I'll incorporate it in one of my posts!

The LFM class of 2010!


Pictures from the 4th of July in Boston

Fireworks on the Charles River


LFMs with the city in background


Leadership Reaction Course (LRC) at Fort Devins



Hanging out with other LFMs



Saturday, August 9, 2008

A Little Bit About Me

Hello! Welcome to my blog. Over the next two years, I hope for this to be a great way for me to share as much as I can about my experiences living in Boston and as a student in the MIT Leaders for Manufacturing program.

I tend to be a talker, and can often go on and on about anything that interests me and since we're almost done with our first semester of school, there is a lot to talk about! But, for now, I think it's best to take the time to introduce myself a little bit.

My name is Johanna, I'm currently a student in the MIT LFM program, class of 2010 and I've been living in Boston now for about 2 1/2 months and am finally feeling settled. Before moving to Boston, I'd been living in Los Angeles, CA for the past 10 years. (So, this is a BIG CHANGE!!!) I am one of the "few" people living in California that are actually CA grown. :) I was born in San Diego and have lived in California for most of my life.

I found my to Los Angeles for school - I graduated from the University of Southern California (Go Trojans!!) in 2002 with a B.S. in Industrial & Systems Engineering. After I graduated, not only did the football team get a lot better, but I decided I loved L.A. and stayed there to work at Northrop Grumman (one of the LFM partner companies) as an Industrial Engineer. I spent 5 1/2 years at NG (before coming to MIT) and was fortunate enough to have many diverse opportunities while there. I worked on 2 different major fighter plane programs and worked both on the manufacturing side and on the business management (finance) side of the world.

Deciding to leave NG and California was not just one of, it was THE toughest decision I've made in my life. Now, don't get me wrong, when I applied (this is the only school I applied to), I knew that if I got in, I was coming. But that didn't make it any easier -- I didn't leave L.A. because I was not happy or felt trapped in my job or hated where I lived. I decided to embark on this adventure because I felt like there was something more out there and I realized it was my responsibility to get out and figure it out. LFM was the best place for me to do this because I already had a great foundation - both education and work experience, engineering and business - and I've always had a passion for learning.

So, here I am... sitting in my studio in Boston, still not quite believing it all, but excited about what's to come.