Among My People

One of my first sources of worry about the SDM program was "Opportunity Sets". Not their existence, but their name. The kind of individual who would name a "problem set" an "opportunity set" seemed to me infected by the worst elements of contemporary managerese doublespeak. When I took a break from the corporate world for the academic, I thought I was leaving "learnings" and "incent" behind. Did this mean that I would be surrounded by suit-wearing phonies who actually believed in their golf-themed Successories posters?

Turns out that it's not a problem. My colleagues are My People, engineers and scientists with a leadership-oriented bent. They are honestly interested in solving real technical problems. They have accomplishments from aerospace, civil engineering, IT, consumer electronics, the military, and even the food industry. They have all seen Star Wars. (Except one. We're working on him.)

That said, we all learn the most from people who are different from us. It's comfortable to be surrounded by people Like Me, but I may have to stretch myself a bit to try new things. Does this mean that I may end up in the Sales Club? Stay tuned.

But no Successories posters, please.


Design Challenge - LEGO vs Sleep

I had an ambitious idea that I would be posting regular interpretations of my MIT SDM experience on this blog.


The january program is intense enough that there isn't enough time for sleep, much less regular writing. Heck, I'm writing this during a lecture right now.

Week 1 was dominated by Design Challenge 1, the goal of which was to build a robot which would perform a variety of different tasks. I have been burned by similar challenges before (2.70!) and learned then that the most important thing is to test, test, test. Our team agreed to physical and code freeze by thursday night, then spend all Friday testing. We also had an idealistic vision that we would not work too late any given night. We didn't meet either of these goals totally, but we did manage to spend most of Friday testing. Unfortunately, we tested in the wrong lighting conditions. At the competition, our robot kept seeing its own shadow and confusing it with the lines on the field. Because we tested in a dimly-lit room without shadows, we thought that our robot was 80-95% reliable depending on the event.

Instead, we ended up failing miserably. We scored NEGATIVE points on 3 of the 5 challenges and came in last place. Given how much time we sunk into the challenge and the strength of our test runs, this was a crushing result. I went home Saturday night sleepdep'd and numb.

Once again, the lesson is test, test, test. Except that if your tests don't reflect field conditions accurately, you're not really testing.