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.