For military veterans, LGO offers a good transition
LGO students come from many different professional backgrounds, but several students in each class, year in and year out, come from one employer—the U.S. military—and many veterans in the program say LGO is an ideal way to transition from military to civilian industry careers.
David Jacobs (right) with his commander,
Capt. Benjamin Hassell, in Jalalabad, Afghanistan
in July 2011 before Jacobs' promotion ceremony
To become an officer on a nuclear-powered submarine in the U.S. Navy, John Marsh (LGO '14, MechE/Sloan) had to go through a rigorous series of written and oral exams as well as interviews. "It's a very technical program that puts you in a position of leadership where you're forced to make important decisions, with limited time, to keep the crew and submarine safe," he said. "When I learned about the LGO program, I felt that it was a perfect extension to my career and was along the same lines as my Navy experience. I would be participating in a highly technical engineering program and a world-class business program that would provide me with the right training and experiences to become a better leader in operations and manufacturing. It just seemed like the right fit."
Unlike some of his fellow LGO veterans, Marsh did not come to MIT straight from the service. He worked for Nalco and LGO partner company Boeing from 2004-12 after leaving the Navy with the rank of lieutenant commander.
One of the major attractions of the LGO program for veterans and non-veterans alike is that it provides training in leadership and ethics while conferring two degrees, one in engineering and one in management—and the engineering portion "resounds particularly well with those from the service academies, which are themselves more engineering focused," said David Chou (LGO '15, MechE/Sloan). Chou served for four years as a battalion logistics officer and company executive officer with the U.S. Army in Baumholder, Germany after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with a degree in mechanical engineering.
"I wanted to gain technical knowledge, which the engineering degree provides, and I like that you can incorporate that technical knowledge into an understanding of how businesses operate, specifically from an operations perspective," said Oliver Schrang (LGO '14, ESD/Sloan), who got his bachelor's degree in operations research from West Point in 2005 and was then an operations officer at Ft. Hood in Texas and a Chinook helicopter pilot with the army in Iraq.
Willow Primack (LGO '15, MechE/Sloan) welcomed the opportunity to get back into mechanical engineering, which she studied at West Point before serving as a battalion logistics officer and executive officer in the Military Police, "a rough-and-tumble branch with an essential role in counterinsurgency," she said. "Although I liked my work, especially in a staff logistics position, I was not able to apply the specific technical skills of my degree to my job in a significant way."
Making the transition from military to civilian life can present psychological challenges, but Chou found that the LGO program structure, where everyone takes the same classes and works in teams during their first summer, was helpful. The change was a positive one for David Jacobs (LGO '15, ESD/Sloan), who was a civil engineer and assistant operations officer posted in Afghanistan and later Hawaii.
"I've really enjoyed the freedom of being a civilian. I came straight out of the service, so it was an adjustment for me to get used to how people behaved in a different setting and to not take everything so seriously," Jacobs said. "Getting to meet a new group of peers, not all of whom have the same story as I do, was a great experience as well."
The six-month LGO internship with a partner company was another cultural transition for some students, providing a valuable learning experience in how to apply skills learned in the military to a civilian job setting.
"I was used to a very direct, top-down leadership and management style, and what I experienced on internship was a very indirect model where few explicit instructions were given," Schrang said. "It took me a few weeks to realize that no one was going to tell me what to do and I needed to be more self-sufficient in terms of setting goals and deliverables for myself." Schrang worked on modeling and analysis of commercial finished goods inventory during his internship at Dell. Inc.
Primack is doing an off-cycle internship at Amazon, where she's met many other veterans. "The regimented, high-pressure culture of the company is a good fit for military backgrounds," she said. "Working as a staff officer taught me how critical analysis and presentation can be in high-stakes environments, as well as the importance of influence and consensus building. These skills adapt well to any company role, it seems."
LGOs from the military are certainly prepared for management roles after graduation. "The initial operational positions that LGO grooms us for are typically functions involving managing larger groups than we may see with finance or marketing roles. This fits well with the military mentality to continue leading people," Chou said.
Time management skills from the service also come in handy. "I see my family a lot more now than I did while I was serving, which is a big bonus for me," said Rick Mullen (LGO '15, MechE/Sloan), who was an officer on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier U.S.S. Ronald Reagan.
During their time at MIT, the MIT Sloan Veterans Association has provided an important avenue for connecting with other veterans. The group, which was profiled in a 2013 an article in MIT Sloan News, welcomes members from every Sloan program and all branches of the military, both U.S. and international.
LGO veterans find that they bond with their classmates in much the same way as they did with their fellow servicemen and servicewomen. Working with 150 shipmates on a submarine, "we grew together as a team to the point where everyone had each other's back. The LGO program provides a similar opportunity for camaraderie with a close-knit group, working together, and building friendships that I'm sure I'll have for the rest of my life," Marsh said.