Tuesday, November 1, 2011

CMU Operations Case Competition

Another fantastic opportunity available to MIT Sloan & LGO students is participating in case competitions.  Of specific interest to those of us supply chain/ops-minded folks out there is the annual International Operations Case Competition hosted by my undergrad alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University.

The Sloan Operations Club coordinates MIT's participation in the event and recently held open tryouts to select this year's team.  About 35 or so students attended, and the field was a nice mix of Sloanies and LGOs.  During tryouts, we were all randomly assigned to teams of five, and got three hours to read a case, craft a solution, and develop a slideshow selling our team's ideas.  All of the tryout teams did extremely well, and the judges, last year's (winning) MIT team, selected five students to move forward in representing Sloan at the competition this year.  Myself as well as FOUR (4!) other LGO's were lucky enough to make the cut!

We've since been holding weekly practice sessions where we've had additional opportunities to solve cases and develop presentations to hone our skills, and we're very excited to try to bring home the trophy again!  We've got big shoes to fill, too - MIT has been victorious in three of the past four years!

Wish us luck!

You can read more about the Carnegie Mellon Case Competition on their website.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Long Time No Blog

So, I admit it.  I've been a terrible blogger.   For this, I apologize and offer a pathetic heartfelt excuse.  The last couple of months, both in my personal life and at MIT/Sloan, have been amazingly busy!

The only decision I think I've ever made that's been better than coming to LGO happened on 8/20/11 when I married my wonderful wife.  We had a fantastic celebration with family & friends in the Finger Lakes region of New York, which is absolutely beautiful.  We set the date a long time before even knowing where we'd be living at this time of year, so it's amazing how the stars aligned with the wedding falling right into the break between summer and fall semesters!

An appropriate summary photograph

In what felt like little more than a hot minute after getting back from NY, Sloan Orientation started, and I got to meet my new Class of 2013 MBA classmates - all 400 of them!  Orientation week set up some great opportunities to get to know the new recruits, meet and greet with our new Ocean mates, and settle into our core teams.  All pretty awesome stuff.  Sloan divides the MBA class up into (I think) 7 "Oceans" with which students take all of the core classes.  Each Ocean is divided into "core teams," which are smaller groups within the Oceans directly analogous to our summer LGO teams (<3 Bearpack).  I happen to be a member of the Caribbean Sea Ocean Cranes, as a matter of fact.  My new teammates, though very different from the Bearpack, are awesomely diverse (aircraft carrier sailor, anesthesiologist, and Spanish consultant, to name a few) and are super excited to be studying at MIT.  

This is not an ocean, unless you're at Sloan.  Also, I still can't spell "Caribbean" 99% of the time.
In addition to rocking packed schedules of MBA core, business, and engineering courses this semester, the LGOs have definitely been making time for fun, though.  We embarked a few weeks ago on a pretty epic camping trip whose success faced some awfully long odds.  We left Cambridge en route to the White Mountains area of New Hampshire after Sloan Team Day on Friday afternoon.  If you've never indulged in Boston rush hour, it looks exactly like this:

Also, it was pouring rain.  And cold.  After 3 hours of driving (to go 45 miles), we finally arrived at the park (in the dark) and started to set up camp.  For a few minutes, it looked grim.  There was mud.  There was incessant rain.  There was adversity.  But LGOs persevere.  Within an hour, we had engineered ourselves an awesome shelter, got a roaring fire started, and were set to enjoy a fantastic weekend in the woods, weather be damned.

Working on our shelter.
Who wants cheese on their burger?

LGOs Persevere

Much better Saturday weather
Finally, we're also busy working on planning the 2011 LGO Ambassador Day & Information Evening.  This was the single best MBA/grad-school recruiting event I attended during my application process last year, so we're trying to put on a great event again for this prospectives.  If you're considering LGO, this is your best opportunity to see the program, meet faculty/staff/students/alumni, and explore the Boston/Cambridge area.  I highly, highly recommend it.  (More information can be found here.)  Hope to see you there!

That's about all for now, though I'll do my best to be back soon.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Summer learnin', happened so fast.

As we are speeding toward having closed out two full months of our first Summer term, I thought it was high time to get a post out there that actually addresses just how fantastic the LGO experience has been thus far.

My very last first day of school officially went in the books on 6/1/11.  That morning unfolded a lot like how I remember starting a new grade in elementary school felt, right down to my brand new shoes, backpack, and Spiderman lunch box.  Actually being at MIT - just physically standing there - felt very surreal, but very exciting.  The ice was quickly broken, and before lunch, it was like 50 strangers had known each other for years.  

Around 75% of the summer work at LGO is done in predetermined summer teams.  Our first challenge was selecting a team name.  We decided to name ourselves after the fiercest possible combination of our undergraduate schools' mascots.  We learned that one teammate was a "Bear," and another was from the "Wolf Pack," and so the BearPack was born.  Pretty fierce stuff!

Meet the BearPack.  Grrrr.
As a Carnegie Mellon alumni, I didn't even want to offer up my mascot for the discussion.  CMU athletic teams are nicknamed the "Tartans."  For you non-Scots out there, "tartan" is the word for the pattern of fabric from which kilts are fashioned.  Intimidating, right?

The Tartans.  Be Afraid.  Be very afraid.
The first week of class is made up of a special module known as "The Universe Within."  Topics to be covered include leadership, team building, and super sweet physical challenges.  On our third day of class, we participated in the Outward Bound event on Thompson Island in the Boston Harbor.  The entire day is devoted to working in teams to solve puzzles and accomplish tasks that one couldn't complete alone.  The day concluded with a pretty intense exercise: You suited up in full climbing gear and scaled the sort of vertical obstacle with which even a PhD of Ninja might struggle.  As you made your way up the swinging, rickety wooden Everest, an LGO teammate held your life in his/her hands while belaying you from the ground.  A gripping exercise in trust, to be sure!

What the climbing obstacle looked like.
What the climbing obstacle felt like.

At the conclusion of The Universe Within, the fun really begins with the full summer course schedule.  Academic classes have been intellectually demanding and chalk full of things that would have been terrifically useful in countless situations I've experienced at work.  If I had a quarter for every time I've thought "Man, I wish I knew this back then," I might not need that generous LGO Fellowship to pay my tuition!  

(Disclaimer:  If you're reading this, Don.  I'm totally kidding.  I definitely need that generous LGO Fellowship.)  

It's seriously that tremendous, though.  From calculating production strategies for Scandinavian ski gear manufacturers to passionately debating the merits of opposing leadership models, the actual MIT/LGO/Sloan coursework, faculty, and overall academic experience has been ridiculously enriching.  As we push onward, I'm really looking forward to applying the finishing touches to our first LGO summer, as well as meeting the incoming Sloanies over the next several weeks!

Party on, LGO.

Monday, July 18, 2011

If you're going through Hell, keep eating.

You have been warned.

Meet the Hell Bone.  But don't look directly at the Hell Bone.  It will melt your retinas.  For $3, it can be yours at East Coast Grill in Inman Square; a fair price considering that, as best as I can tell, that yellow sauce on top is plasma specially extracted from the core of the Sun.  

Our paths crossed when, upon hearing of my dinner plans at ECG last Friday night, my LGO '13 buddy Glenn suggested I indulge in one of these.  I go through Sriracha like ketchup, so how could I resist?

I ordered it cavalierly, in the fashion of a man who loves his spice.  I took the waitress' pitying laughter as a challenge.  When it came to the table, I laid into it as if it were a creamsicle.  Five, maybe six, seconds passed.  I actually started to say, "This Hell Bone thing is no big dea..."

Thermonuclear war.

I started sweating like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.  I literally couldn't speak.  Passing air through my mouth just stoked the fire.  I sat there in perfect silence.  Staring.  Hallucinating from the heat.  Roller skating with Jesus through the ocean of lava in my mind.

It was awesome.

Definitely check out East Coast Grill if you're ever in Inman Square looking for a bite to eat.  It's a terrific spot, and I highly recommend it.  Just don't say I didn't warn you...  

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Beantown Bound

One crisp winter afternoon, the world issued a challenge.  It said, "I bet you won't get engaged, plan a wedding, uproot yourselves, move halfway across the country, take on a dual-degree graduate program at one of the most difficult schools in the universe, and get married, all at the same time."

My internal monologue in response went something like this:
Excitable Part of Brain: "Challenge accepted."
Rational Part of Brain: "You sure about this, big fella?"
Excitable Part of Brain: "Shut up, and start packing."

And so we were off.

One 2-minute phone call from this guy (Don Rosenfield, LGO Director).  
Life changed forever.
Moving sucks.  There's no way around it.  However, moving is more palatable when the light at the end of the tunnel is accepting a fellowship at MIT/Sloan.  Karen and I must have repeated this to ourselves at least a thousand times while we were packing up everything we owned, quitting our cushy jobs, and leaving our friends/family for a city in which we knew not a soul.  It really is scary, but nothing in life worth doing is easy, right?

Our moving priorities stacked up something like this: 1.) Find a place, 2.) Find Karen a job, 3.) Everything else.  Honestly, it all went much more smoothly than I think we could have ever hoped.  During the LGO Open House, which is an extremely helpful weekend for admitted students, we had tons of opportunities to explore the Boston/Cambridge real estate market and network for jobs for significant others (SOs in MIT parlance).

Because of our dog, Gus, we ended up breaking down, venturing into the 8th circle of hell (where the Boston rental agents live), and hiring help to track down a place.  When you move to Boston with a dog, you'll find that if at any given time there are 15,000 available places that you like, approximately 4 of them will allow you to have a pet.  Of those, 2 will allow that pet to be in excess of 6lbs.  A basic rule of thumb I'd suggest is that if you've ever accidentally sucked your dog up into your vacuum cleaner, you won't have a problem securing housing.  Otherwise, give in, pay the egregious fees the agents charge, and let them do the legwork to find you an apartment.

"Uhhhh... Yeah, sure, he's small... ish."
By the time May rolled around, we had signed a lease on a great place near Harvard Square in Cambridge, and Karen had networked/interviewed her way to 2 or 3 fantastic job offers; a feat I still find to be quite impressive, given the hiring climate out there.  We were finally ready to head off to Beantown, MIT, and what I hoped would be the experience of a lifetime.

A few parting thoughts on moving:

  • Don't ever (ever) rely on Budget Truck Rental.  For anything.  Ever.  The morning I was scheduled to leave Pittsburgh, I get a call from Budget at 8:30AM that went something like this, "Duhhh... We don't have a truck here for you.  Sorry.  Here's a 1-800 number for somebody that can maybe help, but they don't open until 10AM."  Thanks, Budget.  That's not stressful at all.  They made me call three different 1-800 numbers throughout the course of the morning, sent me to a truck depot 45 minutes out of my way (where it turns out there was no truck), and ultimately informed me that there existed not a single available vehicle within 150 miles.  Maybe I could just *wish* my belongings to Boston?  Anyway, one quick phone call to Penske had me sitting in a big, gassed-up truck within an hour.  After this experience, I'll be a Penske customer for life.  In fact, after LGO, I may pursue employment at Penske if for no other reason than to utilize my newly honed MIT Sloan MBA skills to help bury Budget Truck Rental.
  • About a week before we left Pittsburgh for good, some of my closest friends took me on a bachelor party/golf trip to Phoenix, AZ.  This was an amazing experience, afforded me one last hoorah with some of the best friends a guy could ask for, and sent me off to Boston with a nice warm/fuzzy.  Thanks again, guys.  See you all at the wedding this August!
My friend, Tom, and a ridiculously huge cactus.
I apologize for the length of this post.  I'm going to make an effort to keep them shorter in the future.  I guess I just had a lot to say about moving.


Friday, July 15, 2011

A Quick Introduction

Salutations, friend.  My name is Bob Giacomantonio, and I'm a student in the class of 2013 at the MIT Leaders for Global Operations (LGO) program.  A few of my classmates have decided to blog about their adventures at MIT/Boston, and I thought it might be great motivation for me to get better at two of my life's most fundamental and elusive struggles: 1.) take pictures of stuff, and 2.) write stuff down.  So here goes nothing.

My road to MIT/LGO has been a bit unique, as I seem to be the only one in my class of 50 that grew up milking cows for a living.  (It's ok.  I was shocked, too.)  I'm originally from Pittsburgh, PA and did my undergrad at Carnegie Mellon University, graduating in 2006 with degrees in Mechanical Engineering & Biomedical Engineering.  I'm living in Harvard Square with my lovely fiancee, Karen, and our dog/maniac, Gus.  It's awesome.

Karen, the Gusman, and Boston's beautiful skyline
In my free time, I love golfing, biking, camping, fishing, and generally being outdoors.  Summertime in Boston has been ridiculously accommodating!  I also still love playing video games.  Probably way too much.  Please don't tell anybody.  

I have several topics teed up from our experiences through the first six weeks of LGO that I can't wait to share, so stay tuned.  I hope that you'll find this blog to be useful in some way, whether you're interested in MIT/Sloan, trying to learn more about LGO, or just happen to be lost in the Internet.

I've never blogged before, so if you've made it this far, we're embarking on this journey together.  

Welcome aboard.  

Please be gentle.