I’m an engineer by trade, and had been working on offshore wind projects for an international renewable energy company in Madrid. I traveled across Europe on a weekly basis to keep projects moving forward, so it was difficult to find time to study the really complex aspects of the business. The MIT course I took is definitely a niche, but very much of interest to me, because technology, markets, and policy are all central to renewable energy and are changing quickly as the power sector becomes decarbonized. I was aware of the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI), but until my wife got an offer to spend a year at the Kennedy School, I didn’t know about MIT Professional Education. I was amazed at how well-tailored the program is, and the scope of benefits that MIT provides.
I loved the class. The professor was very experienced internationally and very open, and the PhD students assisting him were phenomenal – I found people who were interested in what I was interested in, and my time at MIT also exposed me to other sectors, like IT and media. In just four months, I gained a new foundation in the interaction of engineering, economics and regulations, which gives me a better understanding of the context of investment decisions that have very long-term horizons and are exposed to rapid ongoing changes. Now, I’m putting this learning into practice, as my former company has hired me to kick off its offshore wind activities in the US, looking at investment opportunities along the East and West coasts. My wife and I will be staying here at least another year, which we’re both really pleased about.
I have always had entrepreneurial instincts. My brothers and I started two businesses together – a tomato-growing venture, and a project development and construction company, and the experience gave me an appetite for more. I knew I needed to supplement my undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering with business and management knowledge, and the Advanced Study Program let me take MIT Sloan School of Management classes in entrepreneurship and supply chain subjects. They prepared me for decision-making roles in a startup, and I also got all the benefits of being a MIT student. That’s unusual, because most of the certificate programs I explored offer classes apart from the rest of the university and don’t cultivate engagement with degree students and teachers. And of course, the opportunity to be part of one of the best schools in the world was very appealing.
I certainly added to my knowledge base, but what really stands out is the people I met and the way my network has grown. The Advanced Study Program put me in contact with amazing people, students and teachers alike, and the experience was extremely helpful. I was able to apply many lessons over the summer of 2017 as a research and development manager on a project to develop induction welding equipment at Grupo Polesa. And now, as I enter my master’s program, I feel very confident that I’m well prepared and ready to engage any challenge.
As CEO of a company that has developed online math content for 15 years, and with our program currently being used by almost all secondary schools in Singapore, I felt I should become more literate in mathematics. I also wanted to study math more rigorously and improve my knowledge and understanding of more-advanced math concepts to enable me to create better online lessons for our new junior college level math program and our existing secondary school math content. The main reason for choosing the ASP was MIT’s outstanding undergraduate programs, including mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics – they’re consistently ranked top in the world.
My knowledge of mathematics is significantly improved, which gives me confidence and assurance in creating junior-college level online math content. I am also getting new ideas to improve both our online primary and secondary level math programs. One interesting insight came from learning about how straight lines in 3D-space can be represented in vector form with just a single parameter - it opened my eyes to how math allows a concept to be represented in multiple ways, with each having value in different situations. That's the sort of thing I'd like to build into our curricula, to help our students gain new perspectives and capabilities.
While teaching science in New York City, I became interested in energy technology and started investigating how I could make a career in that field. The answer was a graduate chemical engineering degree, which has many applications, but I had no engineering background. I looked for programs where I could get the prerequisites, and ASP seemed like exactly what I needed. I wasn’t sure I could get in, but [Chemical Engineering undergraduate officer] Barry Johnston was supportive. That first class, Introduction to Chemical Engineering, led to three more semesters in the ASP, a year of lab work, and now my master’s program.
I’m thrilled, because I’m getting into what I hoped to get into, passion-wise and career-wise. I’m doing research on solar and wind generation and energy storage, and I hope and expect it will lead to work at a startup or an existing energy firm or consulting company. Professors whom I studied under in the ASP hired me to assist with research in their labs, which gave me essential experience and income. And Tish Miller of the ASP was a wonderful advisor and supporter; she and the whole program were very flexible and accommodating, and made all this possible.
I learned about the ASP through a GE Aviation leadership program that offers new hires the opportunity to take graduate-level classes at several Boston-area universities. I was drawn to MIT’s unique class offerings, and ASP’s option of part-time enrollment. By taking one class per semester, I continued my career while also gaining a new set of skills. I have a special interest in combining my background in aircraft engine design with my interest in environmental studies, and have used my time at MIT to take classes focused on aircraft emissions, new technology, and the resulting environmental effects.
Prior to enrolling in ASP, I really didn’t know much about my industry’s environmental impacts. Learning so much from my classes, and my interactions with students and faculty at the Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment, has led me to apply for full-time graduate studies next fall (editor's note: Cassi will be enrolling in an MIT degree program in Fall 2017!), so that I can do research and contribute to the future of aviation. Identifying a focus area that I’m genuinely passionate about has been a huge boost professionally. There are hundreds of jobs within GE Aviation, and my ASP experience has clarified for me which ones I want to pursue.
As an undergraduate, I planned to go to medical school. But as I took the MCATs and did some internships, I realized that a doctor’s life really wasn’t what I wanted to pursue.
Fortunately, my minor in business administration had kept the door open for entrepreneurial work, and I knew I wanted to spend the next few years building a foundation for that. The Advanced Study Program at MIT seemed ideal for me because it’s very flexible in terms of combining study and work, and it made it possible for me to explore different classes and subjects while also co-founding SendItLater.
The ASP team has been extremely helpful in matching me with courses and steering me towards the world of MIT resources, even as my goals have evolved. The access to faculty and programs has been almost as valuable as the coursework in focusing my plans, and one can have an enlightening conversation on almost any topic.
I have had the opportunity to develop and pitch a business plan which was a finalist in the MIT Fintech competition and received Legatum funding to travel to Mexico City for primary market research on implementation. These experiences never would have come to me without the ASP - I’m ecstatic and fortunate to be here!
I was interested in taking classes, but wasn’t ready to commit to full-time graduate studies, and needed to ensure that I continued performing well at my current job. The ASP was a perfect fit academically, because there were so many interesting classes that would count towards a potential future degree. And because MIT is just a five-minute walk from my Kendall Square office, I could choose from classes starting at almost any hour and schedule meetings around them without much conflict. That gave me much a broader array of offerings to choose from than other schools I considered. The location has also made it possible to work with other students on campus, and attend some seminars that I wouldn’t have been able to get to if they’d been farther away.
I enjoy handling my work responsibilities, but since graduating I’ve missed the ability to shift my mind onto different challenges periodically. My job often requires me to focus on very similar tasks for extended periods, and it’s nice to take a break and work on my problem set or study something that we’ve been covering in class. This keeps me thinking, but prevents me from getting burnt out, and the ability to come back to a problem with a fresh and primed perspective has been quite valuable for my overall effectiveness at work. And the class content, with its focus on classic numerical problems, is making me a much more effective problem-solver in general.
Product design is central to my job, and one of the prevailing challenges is building better understanding of customer needs. I wanted to immerse myself in a diverse group of people, learn to see problems through different lenses, and become a more inclusive problem-solver. MIT was a great fit for gaining insights into delivering solutions for target users, and exposure to problem-solving methods used in other companies and industries. The ASP’s flexibility let me study while working full-time, and because MIT classrooms and student centers are walking distance from my office, it was easy to weave lectures and group work time into my schedule.
One of the most helpful things has been how ASP has enabled me to participate in the MIT community – I found it to be very supportive and full of strong, innovative thinkers who are welcoming of anyone who is inspired to make a difference. In addition to my class work, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a non-profit venture and participate in business competitions. As a result, I’ve developed skills in pitching ideas, brainstorming, and collaborating with teammates from varied backgrounds, and I’ve been able to bring that mindset back to my current job.