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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Inspiring Thesis Project Wins 2009 LGO Best Thesis Award

By Don Rosenfield, Director, LGO Fellows Program; Senior Lecturer

Congratulations to Julie Matthew, LGO '09, winner of the 2009 Best Thesis Award (BTA). I'll get back to Julie in a moment, but first I'd like to provide some context on thesis projects at LGO.

The centerpiece of the LGO program is the six-month internship, which each student completes at one of our partner companies. This is an incredible opportunity for our students, who get to work with key company employees (including upper management) to identify and address critical challenges facing the company and industry.

The internship, in turn, provides the material for a joint engineering-MBA thesis project, which students must finalize before graduating. Two faculty advisors — one each from engineering and management — offer guidance throughout the internship and thesis-writing process.

Over the years, LGO theses have made major impacts economically and intellectually. To acknowledge their importance to the program, we introduced the BTA in 2006. We give out this award at our graduation party, and it has become one of the highlights of that celebration. The prize has been a laptop computer provided by Intel (and in one year by Dell).

2009 BTA Highlights
Julie Matthew did her internship at the biopharmaceutical company Amgen. In her winning thesis project, she developed a powerful business case for using Quality by Design in a large biopharmaceutical environment.

Julie Matthew, winner of 2009 LGO Best Thesis Award.

This year, we had a total of 11 nominees, all of which were outstanding. I'd like to mention two standouts that I'm familiar with:

  • Rodolfo Carboni, LGO '09 (Zara): Developed a pricing-optimization model for retail merchandise over time; a pilot test showed the model would have generated $47M in additional profits in 2008.

  • Nick Barker, LGO '09 (Amazon): Helped develop a system that will allow Amazon to introduce and optimize an online grocery-delivery service.

Nomination & Selection Process

Finally, a quick overview of how we choose the best thesis project:

  • Each faculty advisor can nominate one of his or her students for the BTA (or can be the second advisor on another advisor's nominee). Both faculty advisors must agree the student's thesis is worthy of nomination.

  • LGO alumni review the nominated theses. Each thesis is reviewed by a minimum of four alumni.

  • A committee comprising of staff and one faculty member who did not advise on any of the competing theses decides who takes home the BTA.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this year's competition. I look forward to seeing the 2010 entries!

LGO at MIT Welcomes Back Tanja Vainio, LGO '04

By Jon Griffith, Director of Operations and Partner Relations, LGO-SDM

OK, I admit it: I'm a big fan of Tanja Vainio, LGO '04. Tanja, VP and general manager of ABB's Service Power Electronics in Switzerland, recently led a pro-seminar at LGO at MIT — a special treat for our students.

Tanja's pro-sem was a good example of best practices for this type of event. After starting with a career overview, she gave some background on ABB and Service Power Electronics, and then took students through a real-life case study. The case — implementing a major change in the company's sourcing portfolio to support more low-cost sourcing in its low-volume/high-mix environment — was interactive, with students asking questions and giving their perspectives on this complex issue.

It was a pleasure seeing Tanja again, and it reminded me of how much fun it was to see her and hear her huge laugh in the hallways from 2002-2004. She's an authentic, no-spin kind of person, and you could sense this in her presentation...

  • In her emphasis on a leader's establishing personal relationships with customers, suppliers and staff

  • In her belief that seeing with your own eyes is critical (e.g. go to the suppliers and customers, see the plants)

  • In the importance of getting along with the people you work with, disagreeing with them, stating your point, but making certain you've kept the relationship intact

  • And what it means to lead from your heart — e.g. the importance of committing to the project with your whole self and not just representing it to your team as something coming from above that you don't care about

Vintage Tanja. Great stuff!

But what struck me the most was how quickly her career has become global. After graduation, her goal was to return to ABB in her native Finland. However, a detour along the way led her to Service Power Electronics in Switzerland, where she moved from team leader to global supply chain manager to VP and general manager with P&L responsibility and oversight of business units worldwide.

Tanja's career is truly a global one in every sense of the word. I think her example shows that when we changed our program's name to Leaders for Global Operations in June, we got it right.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Knowledge Sharing and Energy Internships: Midstream Review Recap

By Ted Equi, LGO Research, Internship & Alumni Manager

As research and internship manager at LGO (Leaders for Global Operations), I'm responsible for managing the internships that are the basis of the research for the dual-degree thesis. Our goal is to obtain the highest ROI for the students, faculty and companies during the internships and follow-on activities.

For me, a highlight of the LGO academic year is the Midstream Review. During this week-long event, LGO students who are halfway through their six-month internships return to campus to reunite as a cohort, share what they've learned and discuss their progress with faculty advisors.

Thirty-six LGO 2010 students took part in September's Midstream Review. They're currently working onsite at the following partner companies: Amgen, Boeing, Cisco, Dell, Harley-Davidson, Genentech, Inditex-Zara, Intel, Kimberly Clark Corporation, Novartis and Raytheon.

Student presentations and poster sessions are the centerpiece of Midstream Review. Students are assigned eight-minute slots to discuss their internships before fellow students, faculty and company representatives. They present the problem they're trying to solve, the approach they're taking to solve it and their progress to date. They also state who they'd like to meet during the poster session (which follows the presentation) to have in-depth conversations about their internships.

Here are my key takeaways from September's Midstream Review:

1) Knowledge Sharing
LGO students always tell me how much they benefit from knowledge sharing at Midstream Review. Interacting with fellow students, faculty and company representatives gives them new ideas for solving problems at their internships. In addition, company representatives appreciate the insights they pick up while mingling with other representatives and learning about internships at other partner companies.

2) Energy and Sustainability Track
What makes this season's internships particularly exciting for me is the new Energy and Sustainability Track. The LGO '10 Class has a passion for energy and sustainability, which led to the creation of this track; seven of the 36 current internships are in this area.

Besides trading ideas during a formal session on energy/sustainability, students and company representatives also had lots of informal collaboration on the topic. I'm sure energy and sustainability will play a more and more prominent role in our internships moving forward.

3) Networking

Midstream Review also serves as the unofficial kickoff to recruiting season. Every day, students have ample opportunities to network with partner companies and display their unique blend of engineering and management knowledge. It's always a pleasure to see students networking and preparing for the next steps in their careers.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

CLFM Synergy Committee Strengthens CLFM/LGO Relationship

By Jon Griffith, Director of Operations and Partner Relations, LGO-SDM

I just got out of the China Leaders for Manufacturing (CLFM) Synergy Committee meeting. It never ceases to amaze me how much these students can accomplish in 60 minutes!

The Synergy Committee was launched in 2005 along with CLFM, our sister program in Shanghai. (CLFM is China's only dual-degree, graduate-level program focusing on manufacturing and global operations. Shanghai Jiao Tong University created the program with the academic support of MIT and Leaders for Global Operations (LGO).)

CLFM and LGO look a lot alike. Both programs allow students to earn an MBA from the school of management and a master's degree in an engineering discipline. Both have a six-month internship. And both have a student-committee structure to help run the programs. The Synergy Committee, for instance, aims to "establish a mutually beneficial collaboration between the LGO/CLFM communities to facilitate relationship building, exchange ideas and develop joint opportunities" (according to its mission statement).

I'm happy to report that good things are happening with the Synergy Committee. Highlights gleaned from today's meeting include:
  • The committee is large and VERY active; 13 students from both the LGO '10 and '11 classes attended today's meeting.

  • A Google site has been set up for joint work between the CLFM and LGO synergy committees

  • LGO and CLFM are collaborating on LGO's International Plant Trek (going next March to China and another country in Asia; LGO and CLFM students will meet in Shanghai to tour plants and potentially attend a manufacturing summit hosted by the two programs).

  • Other smaller joint projects meant to build stronger relationships are also in progress.

CLFM's Jessie Chen with David Simchi LeviThen there's the big topic of today's discussion, Lion Teams. Lion Teams, something like industry tiger teams, match three LGO students with three CLFM students to work on short-term, moderate-impact projects for companies operating in East Asia.

The Lion Team concept was successfully piloted last year with a CLFM partner company. (The company was so satisfied with the results that it wants a team to return as soon as possible this fall!) Last spring's LGO members of the Lion Team had a great time working with their CLFM counterparts.

This is exactly why we wanted to help start a program like LGO in Shanghai: to add value to the LGO program by fostering student skills for working in global teams and by giving students real-life experience working on a project in China. The Synergy Committee's lofty but doable goal this year is to provide 30% of LGO students with this opportunity.

For those who have worked behind the scenes, CLFM's success is a realization of whatCLFM students we believed LGO's commitment is all about — facilitating a relationship between two groups of students who will one day be leaders in manufacturing and operations worldwide. If today's meeting is any indication, it looks like we're in good hands.

formerly MIT Leaders for Manufacturing (LFM)