That’s how some people picture MIT students – awkward souls donning big-rimmed glasses who live in basement labs building robots and rockets. Reality is, nerdy has a very different connotation at MIT…
A love of learning.
Forget head-in-the-clouds and nose-in-the-books. MIT students are doers: intense, inventive, and inspired. You could say they are passionate – consumed even – by a vision. So they dig deep and can’t let go, always pushing forward, undeterred by boundaries, precedents, and doubts. That’s because MIT students come to Cambridge to create as much as learn. In the process, they get the space to take imagination to ignition.
READY TO MAKE THEIR MARK
Problem is, you can’t do it all alone at MIT. The campus may be dotted with state-of-the-art labs for everything from electronics to nuclear science, but it is the people who make the MIT experience so exhilarating. That’s especially true at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Sloan faculty may be the elite in their fields, but the students are the problem-solvers who raise the bar for their peers in every dimension, writes Katie Hango, a first-year Sloan MBA student and senior Deloitte consultant.
“When I first think of MIT, I think of students who are brilliant innovators, ambitious to make their mark on the world. While MIT Sloan students certainly embody this, I have been even more impressed by their humility.”
Misha Nathani joins the Class of 2024 after heading up product marketing for a software company. When she visualizes MIT Sloan, she sees a group “driven by a larger purpose” – “intelligent, passionate change makers looking to have a positive impact on the world.” Nathani’s classmate, Tess Harper, uses terms like “impact-driven” as well as “action-oriented, innovative, and collaborative” to describe her “Sloanie” classmates. One word that wouldn’t apply to the class, says first-year Michael Christian, is “shy.” In his experience, Sloanies have instead been “open, friendly, and super helpful.”
And entrepreneurial and innovative too, adds Grant Windom, a U.S. Army Infantry Officer. “When I began interacting with my classmates, I was amazed by the energy and excitement many of them had for starting their own companies. What amazed me even more was seeing the early success of several startups launched by second-year students at MIT. This is no surprise as MIT offers an incredible entrepreneurial ecosystem through the Entrepreneurship and Innovation (E&I) Track, which supports students throughout their journey.”
THE INTERSECTION OF INNOVATION
Robin Butler is one of those entrepreneurs. Before Sloan, she started a beauty company, along with launching a Kickstarter campaign to support a book she’d authored. For her, “technology, creativity…disruption…and [a] data-driven perspective” are the cornerstones of the MIT Sloan experience. Butler also represents an unexpected aspect of the Sloan MBA program: You don’t need to possess a strong technical background to thrive here.
“According to popular thinking, most creative people are right-brained thinkers who are typically creative, intuitive, imaginative, and very much connected to their emotions, while most business schools are looking for left- brain thinkers who are logical/rational,” Butler (an Economics major) tells P&Q. “Yet during our application interview, Sloan tested our thinking process by having us complete a data visualization chart. I believe the best business students are living in both worlds of left and right-brained thinkers. MIT Sloan does a great job of requiring this type of multifaceted intelligence from students early in the admissions process.”
That’s a big part of the MIT magic. Call it what you will: melding, meshing, integrating, or assimilating. In the end, MIT faculty, researchers, and students possess a knack for taking the best from disparate frameworks and disciplines to expand and commercialize their applications. Not surprisingly, the school has birthed breakthrough technologies ranging from GPS and genome sequencing to data encryption and multiplayer video games – not to mention ventures like Campbell’s Soup, EdX, Hewlett Packard, and Roomba Vacuums. At Sloan, the term is ‘intersection.’ Michael Christian, for one, describes the program as “the perfect intersection between finance, technology, and entrepreneurship.” And such fusions are encouraged across the MIT campus.
“While some MBA programs operate in silos within the larger university, that is certainly not the case at MIT Sloan,” notes Katie Hango. “Beyond the option to take courses outside of Sloan at MIT, Harvard, and other schools in the area, Sloanies can also take integrated courses where students of design, business, and engineering can come together to leverage each other’s strengths.”
Even more, adds Misha Nathani , this interdisciplinary approach gives Sloan graduates an advantage in the marketplace. “MIT Sloan’s focus on building data-driven leaders stood out to me as a unique offering. From classes that helps develop quantitative skills to a close association with MIT’s other engineering programs, the school equips students to face the digitization wave head on. I was looking for a program that acknowledges the role technology plays in every job function and industry today and gives you the skills and network needed to succeed in the evolving landscape. At MIT Sloan, I have found this.”
TAKING ACTION FOR THE GREATER GOOD
MIT’s motto is “mens et manus” – Latin for “Mind and hand.” It reflects the viewpoint that knowledge is only as good as its practical usage. That motto could also reflect the work of Michael Christian, who spent the previous five years as an economist for Bank Indonesia – the nation’s central bank. That started at a Bali posting, where he noticed the region’s explosion in tourism provided few benefits to the 50,000 residents of Nusa Penida Island. At the same time, Christian looked ahead, wondering how sustainable the hospitality industry could be if only investors reaped the rewards. In true MIT spirit, Christian did more than wonder…he took action.
“I saw how indigenous women had to walk three hours to obtain clean water, a situation which prevented them from working day jobs and perpetuated poverty. Resolving to change this, I proposed the construction of an infrastructure that would pump the water from Tembeling Spring to storage tanks up the hills of Penida and distribute it to remote villages using pipes. Equipped with a budge of tens-of-thousands of dollars, I coordinated with the local authorities to start construction. By removing the need to travel for hours, we successfully transformed the lives of indigenous women, an invaluable experience that embodies my commitment to serve the country and shapes my grand aspiration to develop an inclusive economy through investment and technology.”
Christian further safeguarded the larger national interest at Bank Indonesia, where he worked with its Board of Governors to help set policy such as being the first central bank to cut rates during COVID to stabilize finances. “I also orchestrated unconventional policy measures, such as the burden-sharing scheme with the Ministry of Finance to fund Indonesia’s COVID-19 spending, a bold move only deployed by four countries,” he adds. “I also led a bilateral repurchase agreement with the US Fed worth tens-of-billions to stabilize the Rupiah, which depreciated 20% year-to-date in March 2020. The results are that Indonesia’s economic growth and currency were among the least impacted in emerging markets in 2020.”
RESULTS! RESULTS! RESULTS!
As a venture capitalist, Obianuju Nsofor partnered with a female entrepreneur to “turnaround” her production operation for female hygiene products. It wasn’t an easy task. Not only is Nigeria difficult to navigate business-wise, but Nsofor had to work through multiple iterations of the business plan and secure additional funding. The result?
“We have been successful in increasing production by over 3,000x and have built a sustainable project that will cater to millions of females in Africa,” Nsofor explains. “We received our regulatory license approval from the health authorities in Nigeria and have also been featured in both local and international press.”
Action means risk – and risk culminates in achievement. Misha Nathani decided to stray from her family business’ traditional IT service offerings and started a rewards program using SaaS. Over three years, the product moved from 100 beta users to 100,000 platform users generating $2 million dollars annually. At Quantis, Tess Harper developed a supply chain decarbonization strategy for a large chocolate manufacturer. Jaylen Hackett, who is also earning a Master’s degree at the Harvard Kennedy School, worked to keep the My Brother’s Keeper initiative in the Obama Foundation. By the same token, Katie Hango became Deloitte Consulting’s go-to person for SAP Analytics Cloud expertise – a skill that she used to run a three-million-dollar claims analytics program for a leading healthcare firm.
“We successfully pioneered an innovative architecture and design to support immediate summary to detail analysis of billions of transactions,” she writes. “This provided new insight into drug level analysis previously unavailable to the business. It also reinforced my reputation as an accomplished leader known for delivering cutting-edge, SAC solutions.”
In Grant Windom’s case, numbers can’t truly convey the gravity of his service. “The highlight of my career in the Army was leading approximately 300 military funerals in Arlington National Cemetery while serving as an officer in The Old Guard. At the conclusion of these funerals, I had the honor of presenting a folded American flag to the families who had just buried their loved one. Laying to rest our Nation’s service members and veterans was an incredibly somber yet rewarding job that I will never forget.
‘SLOANIES HELPING SLOANIES”
Windom wasn’t the only member of the Sloan giving back. First-years have shared dozens of stories of how current students and alumni made them feel welcome and helped make the path easier. Robin Butler talks of students sending her “handwritten notes via email wishing us luck a day before our interview.” Indonesian Sloan alumni held a “Crack the Code of Attending MIT” event, notes Michael Christian. Centered around a talk show theme, the sessions enabled applicants to network with alumni and gain insights on how to prepare for their essays and interviews. It is all part of a “Sloanies help Sloanies” philosophy, where students go out of their way to help their peers – be it tutoring first-years or bringing soup to sickies, says Katie Hango.
“Alumnae spoke fondly of their time at Sloan, sharing stories of picnicking on the green and collaborating on school projects with classmates who became friends,” Hango adds. “They also spoke of being humbled by their impressive peers and shared their appreciation for the opportunity to be a part of the community. Of course, these alumnae had impressive backgrounds themselves, but they were far more eager to discuss the accomplishments of others rather than their own.”
That sure doesn’t sound like stereotype math nerds. Kenny Groszman, a 2022 alum, jokes that he falls into this category. As a whole, Sloanies are far more diverse. “The Sloan community is comprised of hundreds of wonderful people with diverse interests and aspirations, who also love to have fun (whether that means going out dancing or board games, or in my case both). There’s a community here for everyone.”
Next Page: Interview with Assistant Dean Maura Herson
Page 3: Profiles of 9 MIT Sloan First-Years
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