Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Looking Back...

It's been awhile (2+ years) since I've put up a blog post, but I think it's a good time for one. My LGO experience has been on my mind the last couple of weeks for a couple of reasons - first, the LGO Alumni conference is coming up on May 1-2. It's in San Francisco, where I am, and I'm helping organize. More on that later. Second, I recently spoke to someone who was admitted to the Class of 2016. Although he was leaning towards enrolling, he wasn't 100% sure and wanted to speak to an alum to help him decide. There may be others in the same position, so I wanted to offer some perspective.

To be honest, my initial reaction when I was told that this person was on the fence about enrolling was "You must be crazy." When I got the acceptance phone call from Don, I was ecstatic. It was a no-brainer. My LGO experience was awesome, and so far has offered me the exact type of opportunities I was looking for. Why would anyone pass it up?

I thought about it some more, and I realized that (1) everyone has different personal circumstances prior to LGO, and there are a lot of factors involved in making the decision, so it may not be a no-brainer; and (2) I tend to have a biased memory and selectively recall positive experiences, so maybe I'm just not fully considering why someone might be hesitant. After thinking through these things, I'm going to revise my reaction to "You are probably crazy" if you've been admitted but can't decide if you want to do it.

I started in LGO after working in finance in New York for 5 years, looking to do something more tangible. I had no desire to move to the West Coast, and there was no one industry I was particularly interested in. It was really everything about the LGO program - being constantly driven and motivated by my classmates, learning from generally awesome MIT faculty, and access to a great LGO and Sloan alumni network - that contributed to me ending up where I am.

I'll leave it to the current student blogs or some of my older posts if you're more interested in what it's like to be in the program, but I wanted to focus on my experience since graduating in 2012. I've been at Apple in the Worldwide Supply/Demand Management group, working on iPhone. My group is at the intersection of operations and business planning, and is ultimately responsible for matching supply with demand in order to get the most iPhones in our customers hands when they want them. It's an enormously complicated challenge on a daily basis, but really interesting and rewarding. In short - it's what I was looking for.

In addition, being in the Bay Area is great, especially as an LGO and Sloan alum. There are so many exciting things going on and ideas being worked on, and you can be a part of it. Former classmates of mine are at some of the coolest, most innovative companies out there - Tesla, Amazon, Google - and others are starting their own ventures. If I want to talk to someone about a company or opportunity, I've found that I'm at most one person removed from being able to make a connection. The ability to do that is invaluable, and I think something that most people overlook when doing cost-benefit analysis of leaving work and going to grad school, especially LGO. On a related note - our alumni conference is coming up on May 1-2. The theme is "Innovation in Manufacturing and Operations," and we have a great speaker list lined up. I'm looking forward to being able to see many of my classmates and other LGO alumni. 

When I look back on my decision to join LGO and my experience during my two years there, there isn't much I would do differently. Yes, the program is challenging at times and will probably push you to your limits academically, but you wouldn't be applying if you were looking for a two-year break, and you'll be prepared to tackle all sorts of complex problems because of it. Yes, you'll have to give up making money for a couple of years, but the ROI is so high, especially when you consider that you basically eliminate a lot of downside risk for the rest of your career and open an enormous network of opportunity. Most importantly, you'll learn a ton and build relationships that will last a lifetime.

If you're interested in learning more about the program or my experience in it, e-mail me at amil.mody@gmail.com. For those who've been admitted to the Class of 2016, hopefully you make the right decision, but feel free to reach out if you have any questions or concerns.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Time to find a job

Back when I was reading these blogs and thinking about applying to LGO, I wondered why there weren't many posts about the full-time recruiting process. I get it now. It's tough to write about because it's a hectic time, it's a very personal decision and there are some sensitivities to consider, such as exploring non-partner company opportunities. That said, I wanted to provide some perspective on what it's like going through the process, both good and bad.

The good
First, we are incredibly well-positioned coming out of a program like this. It's easy to get caught up in the stress of the process and lose sight of what is going on. Next week is our official recruiting week, and most of us have several interviews lined up for great positions at great companies. With most of our partner companies, getting an interview is as easy as clicking a button to sign up for a slot. That's awesome.

Second, the support network is invaluable. Between Sloan's Career Development Office and LGO staff, there are a lot of people who have a vested interest in helping us find the right job. In addition, the Sloan and LGO alum networks are fantastic. It's been easy to reach out to people at the companies I'll be interviewing with to learn more about the opportunities. People are extremely responsive and have been very generous with their time, particularly LGO alums.

The bad
Being away from Boston on internship makes recruiting difficult, especially with non-partner companies. In addition to the logistics issues of scheduling interviews, we can't attend on-campus events such as company presentations and practice interviews. Perhaps more importantly, we're just not in the recruiting mindset like most of our Sloan classmates.

It's one thing to be able to attend events and meet company representatives, but I think being in the frenzied recruiting environment on campus has other benefits as well - for example, you might overhear interesting facts or news about particular companies, and you can learn through others' experiences with interviewers. In general, it's much easier to be prepared. That being said, I think the one good thing about being away is that you can probably think clearly and avoid getting caught up in group-think, or "the game" (as one LGO alum who recently spoke to us called it) of chasing after the hot companies or opportunities.

Anyway, it's an exciting time. Within the next few months we'll all (hopefully) have some certainty as to what we'll be doing in in life. I'll try to write more about the process as I continue to go through it.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Where nobody knows your name...

One of the main reasons I wanted to move abroad for my internship is because I've basically been in one place my entire life. For me, moving to Boston after living in New York for awhile was a big deal. But on a global scale, they're extremely similar places (sorry, it's true), especially considering the types of people with whom I would normally interact. On the other hand, Finland is a very different place. It has made this experience challenging but also eye-opening and rewarding in a lot of ways. Here are a couple of the more valuable lessons I'm taking away from this experience:

How to sell ideas to people who are different than you: When I was a freshman in college, a father of a friend of mine took a couple of us out to dinner. He had a very successful career in business, and his main piece of advice to us as we began our higher education lives was to soak in as much knowledge as possible, but to not underestimate the importance of sales skills (i.e. selling an idea). Since then, throughout my brief career and now in school, I've seen how true that is. You can do amazing and thorough analysis that leads to a groundbreaking idea, but if you can't sell that idea to the right people, it's basically useless.

A key part of selling an idea to someone is understanding how that person thinks and what that person finds important, which is relatively easy when you can relate to the person. In a foreign place, it's not easy at all. In Finland people tend to be naturally reserved and hide their emotions well. Determining what people value and how to effectively pitch ideas in this type of unfamiliar environment has been an immensely helpful part of the experience for me so far. I'm not even close to mastering this skill, but it's been valuable to have the opportunity to work on it.

Understanding a different way of life: In addition to the internship experience itself, it's a fascinating time to be living abroad with all that is going on in the world, and in particular the ongoing debates about effective systems of government and taxation. Finland is a welfare state with very high taxes and strong social programs, including free healthcare and education. Finland, along with most other Nordic countries, also has a relatively healthy economy, relatively low unemployment and consistently ranks extremely high on surveys that measure overall happiness and life satisfaction. It's been interesting to better understand the system here, why it apparently works in place like this, and the pros and cons of it. I wouldn't say that it has dramatically altered my views, but experiencing a different system firsthand certainly makes you re-think some basic notions you assumed to be true but never questioned.

In short, I'm glad I've had the opportunity to live abroad. It's been challenging at times, but it's also been an awesome learning opportunity. And, of course, traveling around Europe has been pretty cool too.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Midstream week

Last week was our Midstream Review for us interns who are on-cycle (i.e. currently on our internships). It was great to be back in Boston and catch up with LGO and Sloan classmates who I haven't seen in awhile. The week was much busier than I expected, with internship presentations and recruiting-related events. The highlights:

Internship presentations: Each of us had to give a short presentation on the progress of our internship so far, followed by a poster session during which people could ask questions and provide feedback. It was really interesting to hear about my classmates' projects, and overall I was impressed with the quality of the projects and progress people have made in just 3 months. It's definitely motivating to be a part of a group of people who are so capable. The poster session was actually really helpful for me as well, as I got some great feedback from representatives of some of our partner companies as well as faculty.

Recruiting: I was sort of caught off-guard at how quickly the recruiting process is starting to ramp up for us. There were many company presentations, dinners and other events during the week, for both partner and non-partner companies. It was great to start to talk to people and get information about companies that I might be interested in. I've been delaying the decision process I need go through in terms of figuring out what I actually want to do in life, so it's been good to get that process going. It's a little overwhelming also, but mainly because there are just a lot of different options out there, which I guess is a good problem to have right now.

As an aside, it's clear and somewhat surprising that companies will still be recruiting pretty aggressively despite the broader economic environment. I think that says a lot about the value of Sloan and LGO.

Fun stuff: There wasn't a lot of time for socializing given how busy the week was. But there was definitely some excitement about seeing each other after being away for awhile, so we did our best to hang out a few times, including a two-class party at our old apartment that is now occupied by 3 guys in the class of 2013. It was also great to see some of the Sloanies at BHP, the standard Wednesday night Sloan bar.

Before getting back to our internships, just about all of us who are in Europe made a quick stop in Munich to check out Oktoberfest. I think that deserves a separate post, so more on that coming soon.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Does the US need to make things?

Yes, says MIT president Susan Hockfield

Maybe not, says Ryan Avent in The Economist

I think these two articles present both sides of the ongoing debate - not really about whether the US needs to make things, but how important growth in manufacturing will be to an economic recovery. The articles don't entirely disagree; both acknowledge the importance of investing in R&D and education. The big question seems to be whether innovation follows manufacturing abroad or whether innovation moves abroad because the US doesn't offer the right incentives to keep it from moving abroad. Is invention and manufacturing a virtuous cycle, as the first article says, or can you continue to invent and innovate in one place and produce in another?

I agree more with first article. But it's a really interesting question, and it probably comes down to an industry-specific conclusion. I think if you're referring to advanced technology industries, as President Hockfield is doing, then innovation and manufacturing go hand in hand.

In any case, I like that this is a very prominent discussion right now.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Groupon: the ultimate case study

If you haven't been following all the Groupon drama lately, it's been pretty awesome. The story in a nutshell - the company filed for an IPO, but critics say that they created this accounting metric called "adjusted consolidated segment operating income (ACSOI)," which excludes certain marketing and other costs, to intentionally mislead potential investors about underlying profitability. The company stopped using ASCOI but still defends it. The latest is an internal memo from the CEO defending the company.

In following the story, I can't help but think about how useful a case study this will be for business schools for a long, long time - in accounting, communications, marketing, and pricing. I'm also realizing that taking all of these classes has made me think about this situation very differently than I would have prior to going to school. I think that given my background, I probably would have focused solely on the accounting/valuation issues surrounding the IPO, and not really thought about other aspects of the business.

This is probably one of the under-appreciated benefits of some of the core b-school classes. They weren't all great classes, and I was disappointed in what I ended up getting out of a couple of them, but I'm pretty sure they are helping me think about businesses more holistically than I would have previously.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Implications of "Made in China"

While doing some research for my internship, I came across this study that was published last week. It's not really relevant to my project but I think it's probably worth reading for people interested in global supply chains.

There are two surprising findings - first, Chinese imports account for less than 2% of all US consumer spending. That's a much lower number than I (and probably most people) would have guessed. Second, more than half (55%) of US spending on products labeled "Made in China" actually goes back to US companies. The authors claim that this suggests that the effect of domestic inflation in China should be negligible in the US. Seems to make sense to me.

I think there are a lot of ways to look at this data, but my key takeaways are -

1. For all the talk about globalization and in particular our dependence on China, the US is more of a closed, self-sufficient economy than most people think (granted, the 2% figure is slightly misleading because it includes spending on services, the vast majority of which are produced in the US of course).

2. Understanding global supply chains and where different companies add value is so much more complicated than it seems.