Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Looking Back at Two Years in LGO

I spent the majority of my adolescence avoiding mirrors, for even a passing glance could reveal a new imperfection staring back at me.  The strategy made sense to me, and on most days it probably reduced to a tolerable level my already rampant self-consciousness.  But there were surely days when this approach backfired; when, by ignoring my reflection, I missed that giant piece of spinach in my teeth, the messed up collar, or the pillow feather in my hair -- all embarrassing but easily mitigated flaws...if I had taken the risk of checking out my reflection.

Why in the world am I publicly reliving these traumatizing years?  Because I learned from this that reflections -- by mirror or by memory -- have value.  By allowing a look in the mirror, however brief, we can learn something about ourselves.  The value of reflecting was hammered into our heads over the past two years by professors, students, and industry leaders alike.  So, I thought it would be appropriate to finish up this blog with some reflections of my own from these past two years.  Specifically, I will recount a few things from the LGO/MIT experience that I expect to remember for many years into the future.  This is more of a snapshot than an all-inclusive list, but I hope it gives a glimpse into my two years at MIT.

Memory #1: The Uniqueness of MIT
MIT is different, yet, it is exactly what I'd expected it to be when I first arrived on campus two years ago.  Strangely enough, this surprised me.  I knew of MIT as a school of brilliant professors and students tackling the world's most challenging engineering and scientific problems.  But I figured this was an exaggerated version of the truth; a tale perpetuated by people like me who don't know any better.  Now, after being embedded in the MIT world for two years, I am astonished by how right I was.  MIT does not take lightly its position as a bastion of engineering innovation, as it routinely engages in efforts to solve our biggest obstacles in energy, medicine, and manufacturing.  The latter of these three was on full display during MIT's conference on "The Future of Manufacturing in the U.S.," hosted by LGO last month.  The conference included some fabulous speakers from industry and government, and the LGO students were fortunate enough to be intimately involved in the two-day event.  It was great to witness first-hand the crucial role MIT sees itself playing in these types of conversations.  More importantly, I have been pleased to observe how MIT goes beyond ideation by developing and implementing transformational solutions to these problems.  Being at this school has given me confidence in our ability as a society to overcome the obstacles we face.

MIT is also a collection of unique personalities.  I have overheard conversations on some of the most and least impressive topics (two students discussing how to overcome the physical limitations of traditional solar cells, and two different students seriously discussing -- for half an hour -- how to beat a level of a video game).  I have also witnessed the extreme nerdiness of the MIT populace (epitomized by the bespectacled, pony-tailed grad student in a faded 1980s Metallica t-shirt, jean shorts, and high white socks, running across campus, both hands on the straps of a 40-pound backpack; if you walk around campus for a day, I guarantee you will see someone fitting this description), and have been surprised by the athleticism of other students (how else would the LGO softball team have lost to the Chemistry Department??). 

Two weeks ago, I was walking through campus and thinking about what an interesting collection of people MIT has brought together.  In the midst of this thought, I ran into a member of my Sloan core team, and we began discussing a team reunion dinner.  She said something about how we should check with the rest of the team to see if a certain restaurant would be "amenable to them."  A passerby, closely resembling the person I described in the previous paragraph, stopped abruptly, turned around, and said, "It's 'they are amenable to the restaurant,' not, 'the restaurant is amenable to them.' Got it?"  Just as abruptly, he turned back around and continued walking as if nothing had ever happened.  We just stared at each other in disbelief, finally shaking our heads and saying simultaneously, "Only at MIT..."

Memory #2: LGO Sports
Over the course of my life, I have formed stronger bonds through participating in sports than by any other means.  The LGO crowd seems to appreciate this aspect of organized athletics, as teams were created in a variety of intramural leagues.  I wrote extensively last year about sports at MIT, so I won't add too much here, but I will say that playing hockey and softball on LGO teams, running in the Malibu half marathon with a bunch of classmates, and battling fellow LGOs and Sloanies in table tennis, gave me some of the fondest memories of my time at MIT.

Memory #3: The Thesis
The best part about the thesis?  Handing it in.
The LGO thesis is really only on students' minds for one semester, but it is completely and utterly all-consuming at times during that semester. Personally, I found the thesis to increase my productivity in other areas of my life.  I would do absolutely everything else I could before sitting down to write.  As a result, my apartment was the cleanest it had ever been, and I was weeks ahead on my other schoolwork. I heard similar stories from some of the other LGOs.  For one, the thesis even sparked a great business idea: the anti-procrastination computer.  It is just a well-marketed typewriter -- no internet access, no games, no applications.  The only thing it can be used for is writing.  Sounds awful.

Still, the thesis provided a conversation starter for LGOs (the conversations usually went something like, "Ugh.  Thesis."), so that's a good thing, right?  Despite the griping, in the end, I think most people had some small amount of pride in their thesis.  For most of us, it wasn't as strong as we'd hoped it would be, be it typically wasn't awful, either.  These documents might even be useful to the sponsoring companies (ha!). More than anything, they provided a multifaceted learning experience; we learned how to manage our time to meet a deadline, satisfy multiple stakeholders (advisers, sponsoring companies), organize a set of complex thoughts, and concisely and convincingly present an argument (or not-so-concisely in my case...34,000+ words!). 

Memory #4: The LGO Family
My LGO Summer Team, two years later,
and with many new additions!
As I wrote in my last post, one of the best things about the LGO/MIT experience has been the people I have met.  It was almost exactly two years ago that our class of 48 first came together to start our summer semester with a week-long leadership class.  I remember feeling very lonely that week, wondering whether I'd ever really connect with any of these strangers.  Fortunately, it wasn't long before my summer team was bonding during marathon group meetings and at LGO social events.  Since then, it seems like everyone in the class has connected in some way with almost everyone else.  This speaks to the personalities of the LGO class and to the incredible amount of time we spent together over these past two years.

But the LGO class does not constitute the LGO family in its entirety.  Every experience we had in this program was made possible by the LGO staff -- they are the backbone of this program and have built it into what it is today.  Their job is often thankless, catering to the needs of stressed, distracted, and generally unresponsive students, but they do it with enthusiasm, gusto, and nary a complaint (at least within earshot of us).  I really appreciate everything they have done for me; my experience in this program was much more enjoyable as a result of their hard work.

Memory #5: Life Changes
Just a few highlights of the past two years.
It's incredible how filled with life these past two years have been.  Four semesters at MIT, a six-month internship, a little less hair, a lot more gray in the beard, three apartments, a broken face, a new job, a new baby, a new house, graduating from MIT.  There was stress at times, but never enough to make me regret going back to school.  These were two of the best, most memorable years of my life.  From this experience, I will take more knowledge, friendships, and memories than I ever could have hoped for. 

Thank you, MIT and LGO.  It has been a blast.


  1. Thanks for sharing your wonderful moments at LGO.

  2. Thanks Chris for sharing your amazing moments of LGO. Chris I am also Interested in LGO. So if you don't mind will you share your mail id, so that i can get in touch with you and introduce myself.