Want an authentic look at the MIT Sloan Fellows experience? The alumni network is a key motivator for many when considering becoming a Sloan Fellow. Here, you will meet the program’s most eloquent ambassadors—the fellows themselves. They represent every corner of the globe and a broad swath of industries, but each Sloan Fellow holds in common one essential characteristic: a dedication to changing for the better the way we live and work. Find out why these fellows made the decision to apply, their firsthand experiences in the program, and its impact on their careers and their lives.
“I strategized with the world’s top aeronautics scientists,
explored pivotal technological innovations at the MIT Media Lab, learned
from leading security experts in political science–even tapped the
latest thinking on defense policy at Harvard’s JFK School of Government.
If it was essential to me as a leader, I could reach across the MIT
universe and get it.”
“Immersion in the MIT Sloan Fellows environment is not just
about rigorous academics. It’s about the accelerated learning you
experience by being at MIT full time: the dozens of thought leaders who
visit campus each week, the spontaneous brainstorming sessions over
coffee, and the exploration and reflection you never have room for in
your normal routine.”
“Working so intensely with classmates from around the world day
in and day out meant that, by year’s end, their experiences became my
experiences. Today, as I leave the program, my perspective encompasses a
wide swath of countries, cultures, and industries. I could not have
developed that expanded view any other way.”
“A management program at MIT Sloan was a strategic choice for
me. An MBA from MIT underlined my technical credentials while giving me
skills that are complementary—rather than redundant—to the strengths of
the other executives sitting around a boardroom table. I find I bring a
richer base of knowledge and a broader perspective to problem-solving
“I have been working with local civic and medical leaders in
Guatemala, El Salvador, and Qatar on developing sustainable healthcare
models. Key to success is building strong multicultural relationships, a
skill I developed in one of the most collaborative cultures on
earth—MIT. I learned that if you don’t have robust relationships in
place, change isn’t sustainable. After spending a year at MIT, the
ability to build teams—and consensus—is second nature to me.”
“Family is so important to us that my husband and I once took a
year off and lived at sea with our two children on a 32-ft sloop. So
when I was considering a year at MIT, the kids figured heavily into the
decision. They were middle school age then and found Cambridge, MIT, and
the children of my program peers fascinating and inspiring. My daughter
very much responded to the rich intellectual and multicultural
environment and is now at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin. Her
plan is to get involved with Doctors without Borders. My son, after a
summer robotics program at MIT, is making his career in electronic game
design. That year very much shaped who we all are today.”
“Every day I find myself tapping into skills I learned during
that intense year at MIT. How to communicate and build strong
partnerships, for example. How to guide the evolution of organizations.
How to drive change. These capabilities are now in my DNA and have been
crucial to realizing my vision—and in helping me help others to realize
“I was self-sponsored, so going to business school was a major
investment. I decided on MIT because a business school set within an
engineering school could give me a much more informed perspective on new
technologies. I knew that having the skills to understand technology
trends would be of enormous value going forward—and it has been.”
“One year immersed in an idea-generating environment with some
of the best minds in the world is an extraordinary opportunity. The
faculty, of course, taught me so much, but I learned just as much from
my peers in the program. Working closely with these inspiring, highly
accomplished people day in and day out, I picked up valuable knowledge
across an astonishingly wide spectrum of the global marketplace.”
Bruce S. Gordon is that rare hybrid, a social visionary and an astute businessman. After 35 years rising through the ranks of Bell of Pennsylvania, Bell Atlantic, and Verizon, he retired at 56. In his final position, he led the company’s largest division, retail markets, which served 33 million residential and small business customers. He also directed corporate advertising and brand management and brought in $25 billion in annual revenue. After his retirement, Gordon took the helm as president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) until stepping down in the spring of 2007.
Often lauded for outstanding leadership, Gordon was included in Fortune magazine’s 2002 roster of “The 50 Most Powerful Black Executives.” Black Enterprise magazine named him “Executive of the Year” in 1998. “I'm definitely a believer,” he says, “that leadership technique has an immeasurable impact on a business.”
Gordon believes his experience in the MIT Sloan Fellows Program was critical to making him the leader he is today. “Executives from 17 countries were represented, very accomplished business people from a wide spectrum of business, industry, government, and military organizations,” he says. “Even if working with that diverse group of people was the sum total of the Sloan Fellows experience, I would have walked away a winner, but there was so much more – the faculty, the curriculum, the learning experience, the trip to the Far East. The experience was remarkable.”
“I wanted the high-level access to MIT faculty that comes with being a Sloan Fellow–to be able to talk over problems with Nobel Laureates in physics and economics, with innovators and ground-shakers. I have seen the remarkable power of MIT Sloan thinkers, and I wanted to learn from them and grow to be one myself.”
“My company is eager to reach out into the world and become a great enterprise. I see this year of immersion as the nourishment of that aim. When I was deciding whether to apply, I mapped all our goals and gaps to the opportunities offered in the program and achieved a one-to-one match. I couldn’t afford not to come.”
“The Sloan Fellows are so legendary, I wondered if there was an element of myth. But during orientation, I realized the elite caliber of the fellows is real…the depth of accomplishment, the breadth of diversity, the global network, the bonding and collaboration–all greater than I could have imagined.”
“MIT is an intellectually invigorating, high-energy environment. You are surrounded by people who are pushing themselves to realize their dreams. Accomplishment is not about status at MIT. It’s about making something important happen—something that makes a difference in the world. I found that spirit infectious. In fact, it influenced the course of my career.”
“During my time at MIT, I came to realize that I had a very ‘Singaporean perspective,’ and that if I were to discuss an issue with colleagues back in Singapore, they would share that perspective. My program peers from Brazil, Japan, and other cultures, however, would share very different ideas on the same issue. It was incredibly illuminating. Now, if I want an alternate perspective, I have a global network I can turn to for advice.”
“MIT looks at technology holistically. The value of integrating management strategy, marketing, technical issues, and other factors is an approach that has proven successful again and again worldwide. And it’s a perspective that has been extremely valuable to me as I help bring innovations to market in my work at the NRF.”
Francis Yeoh is an innovator’s innovator. An engineer with a PhD in telecommunications, Yeoh has been immersed in high tech entrepreneurship for most of his career. He was CEO of an internet services company, headed an R&D organization that spun out a bevy of start-up ventures, even set up Singapore’s first Internet service provider. Now, as CEO of Singapore’s National Research Foundation (NRF), Yeoh is driving research, innovation, and enterprise using a holistic, highly collaborative model inspired by his time at MIT.
As head of the NRF, he connects inventors with investors and subject experts to develop multipronged commercialization strategies that increase the odds of entrepreneurial success. And through the pioneering initiative CREATE—Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise—he is bringing together many of the world’s top research institutions (including MIT) under one roof to pool knowledge and solve some of the most intractable problems of our age.
When Forbes magazine named James C. Foster “Entrepreneur of the Year” in 2002, the Chairman and CEO of Charles River Laboratories had transformed his 56-year-old family business into one of the world’s leading biotech companies. And he did it by taking back control of the company from a multinational corporation.
Although he had a law degree, Foster knew if he was going to grow Charles River Laboratories into a biotechnology giant, he needed a strong management foundation. Not wanting a traditional MBA degree, Foster never even considered other schools or programs. He knew what the MIT Sloan Fellows Program had to offer and headed straight for it.
Foster says that the program prepared him for the gauntlet of professional challenges that culminated in his 2002 award. “The MIT Sloan Fellows Program is not just an education, it’s a life-altering experience,” he says. The powerful relationships forged with faculty and fellow students, the CEO seminars, and the trips to New York City, Washington, and beyond made the program an experience that he says was perfect for him at that juncture in his career. Charles River Laboratories now employs 8,000 people at 70 facilities in 18 countries.
MIT Sloan taught Foster that to be successful in running a business, you have to take balanced risks and create an environment in which people are given incentives to be risk-takers. “You want to be constantly soliciting people’s input,” he explains, “to say, ‘What do you think?’ and ‘Why don't you go out and try that?’ And if it doesn't work, you have to be able to say, ‘Thanks for trying.’ ”
Keiji Tachikawa was actually disappointed when placed in charge of NTT DoCoMo, the mobile telephone unit of the Japanese telecom giant Nippon Telephone and Telegraph. He’d had his eye on what he considered a more coveted job leading NTT East, the company's local phone service unit.
That disappointment only served to fuel Tachikawa’s vision for DoCoMo. Three years after taking the job, he had grown the unit’s market capitalization to $225 billion – bigger even than that of NTT itself. He also took the company global, carving out stakes in mobile companies in Europe, Asia, and America.
Tachikawa was named CEO and, soon after, “Asian Businessman of the Year” by Fortune magazine “for his role in one of the world’s greatest business successes of 2000.” The honor, the magazine explained, was bestowed on the leader who proved to be “ahead of the pack, in profits and vision. Tachikawa leads on both fronts.”
Tachikawa credits the Sloan Fellows Program with helping him shape an effective methodology for business management and decision-making. “In addition to the basic courses of law, economics, and accounting, and subjects such as strategic policy, finance, and marketing, I became aware of the diversity of ideas,” he says.
If Tachikawa’s entrepreneurial triumph took the global business world by storm, it did not surprise his classmates in the MIT Sloan Fellows class of 1978. Indeed, it was his experience at MIT Sloan that inspired his motto for corporate management, “Think drastically, execute steadily.” A motto he has brought with him to the Japanese space program–JAXA–which he has headed since 2004.
Kofi Annan can remember the day. It was 1971 and he was in the middle of his first term in the MIT Sloan Fellows Program. He was walking along the Charles River, ruminating about his place in the class, wondering how he fit into the audacious group of global leaders who were his classmates.
When the answer came to him, Annan says, it came to him most emphatically: “Follow your own inner compass...know who you are, what you stand for, where you want to go, and why you want to get there.” He recalls that at once, his anxieties began to fade.
Annan believes that as a result of that walk by the river, he took away from MIT “the intellectual confidence to help me locate my bearings in new situations, to view any challenge as an opportunity for renewal and growth, and to be comfortable in seeking the help of colleagues, but not fearing to do things my way.”
MIT and the United Nations, Annan says, have more in common than might be at first obvious. The experimental method, for example. “An international organization,” he says, “is an experiment...an experiment in human cooperation on a planetary scale.” He notes that “international organizations must be closely tuned to their environments, quickly correct their mistakes, build cumulatively on their achievements, and continually generate new modalities as previous ways of doing things become outdated.”
Although that introspective walk along the Charles River is now more than 30 years past, Annan’s experience at MIT still informs his decisions. “As a Sloan Fellow, I learned management skills that I could draw on in refashioning the United Nations for the new century.”
“During our international trip to South Africa and Brazil, I was struck by an incredible sense of momentum. The nations we visited were very different yet equally committed to sustainable fast-track development. The government and company leaders we met gave us tremendous insight into the possibilities for responsible entrepreneurship.”
“I’m preparing to start a multinational company focused on data analytics. The best thinkers in business, entrepreneurship, and IT are all right here. The one-on-one interactions with faculty and global leaders are unlike any other educational experience. And your fellow students are the best of the best. I remember looking across the classroom and thinking: just the dozen of us in this room could change the world.”
“My family considered it ‘our’ Sloan Fellows year. My wife, who is also an entrepreneur, was able to work remotely from Cambridge. My children became fluent in English, played soccer, and took classes through MIT’s fantastic SPLASH program. They loved the idea of studying at MIT, just like Dad.”
“The program is a microcosm of the corporate environment. You work closely with people who hold very different perspectives from your own. You evolve from accepting those differences to counting on them. You learn there’s far more power in collaboration than in competition. And you learn not just how to lead, but when to lead.”
“My year as a Sloan Fellow was the best of my life. I met so many influential leaders and saw how they integrated who they were with the fundamentals of good leadership. When I returned to my job at HP, my dialogue with senior executives was transformed. I was immediately making things happen in my company.”
“I always knew I wanted to do big things with my life. As a Sloan Fellow I gained a deeper understanding of how the world works – economics, finance, ‘the Street’ – but I also learned about poverty, sustainability, and social issues. I gained a clearer, more actionable vision of how to make the world a better place.”
“The value of the program was extraordinary. It opened my mind, stretched my thinking, and fueled my creativity in ways I did not think were possible. I emerged with the confidence and ability to make a difference in my company and in the community.”
“I was the very last person in the class to arrive on campus. I came upon a group of fellows deep in discussion. When they realized who I was, they immediately welcomed me and dropped everything to help me get settled and ease my transition. That Sloan Fellows bond is powerful – and lasts far beyond the program.”
“Every day, I feel the impact of my Sloan Fellows experience. I am more innovative, more strategic, more global in my thinking. The value of the program is integral to everything I do and everything I am. Two years have gone by, and I keep waiting for that sensation to abate, but it doesn’t.”
“Before MOT, I started a small company, and it was successful, but I felt I could take my ideas much further. I realized there were gaps in the story I wanted to tell about myself. I needed the pedigree and capabilities to match my vision—and a management program that could help me develop that. It’s true. An entrepreneur who wants to bring revolutionary technologies to market has one clear choice in business education—MIT.”
“MIT is instrumental in moving the world forward, and my year in the MOT Program gave me the resources to join that effort. On top of everything I took away, I can show up on campus today and ask for whatever I need—with the confidence that that need will be met.”
“At GenomeQuest, I am riding the most exciting technology development in the history of mankind. But I am convinced that if I hadn’t taken that year out for the MOT Program (now Sloan Fellows), I would still be a mid-level technical manager in a biopharma company. My time at MIT gave me everything I need to go as far as I want to go.”
Richard Resnick is a genetics pioneer, a serial entrepreneur, and a music innovator, but a more accurate characterization might be high-tech explorer. Resnick has planted so many flags on so many tech mountain peaks, it’s dizzying. Today, he’s channeling everything he’s learned in those many pursuits into his role as CEO of GenomeQuest.
The possibilities inherent in the study of the human genome first became clear to Resnick right out of college when he worked as a computer scientist on Eric Lander’s Human Genome Project at MIT. Now, he is at the front lines of the business of genomes, helping to advance the use of the genome as a universal and affordable diagnostic tool. And he is drawing on his MIT education—and network—to move forward on that frontier.
Read Richard Resnick’s blog at GenomeQuest.
Ron Williams has his head in the clouds, and that’s exactly where he intends to keep it. “One of the basic principles of successful leadership is to keep your head in the clouds and your feet on the ground. You have to start with a large-scale, long-range vision and then operationalize strategies that deliver real value to stakeholders.”
As President of Aetna, Williams stands as powerful proof of his theory. He oversees the bulk of Aetna’s $25 billion business and has been named one of the “50 Most Powerful Black Executives” by Fortune magazine. He credits the MIT Sloan Fellows Program as a major force in shaping his ideas about leadership.
“I went to Sloan to turn myself into a generalist with a wider view of business. I wasn’t alone. At the start of the program, all the participants tended to define a problem in terms of their specialty. By the end of the program, we’d moved beyond our respective functional disciplines and learned to match the right discipline, or combination of disciplines, to the problem at hand.”
Williams looks back on this collaborative experience as a fundamental step in his evolution as an executive. “Working with a world-class faculty and high-performing classmates, I was able to take everything I knew about business and raise it to the next level.”
“MIT is on the crest of the world, and I feel like a kid on a skateboard with my hat on backwards ready to take off. I’m in this adventure for the thrills and for the chance to stretch, discover, and expand.”
“In New Zealand, we are great innovators, but we are not commercializing or exporting nearly enough. As a CEO and a passionate New Zealander, I need to fix that. Just a couple of weeks in, I’m already building a powerful global network and tapping into MIT’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. This is exactly where I need to be right now.”
“The Sloan Fellows Program is a strong, inclusive family. When my husband saw how enthusiastic the partners are about the program and how close-knit the community is, he decided to make more time to visit from New Zealand so he can take part.”
Senior Engineering Manager, General Dynamics Information Technology
“It’s an engineer’s dream to go to MIT, so when it was time to make the transition from engineering to management, I immediately thought: Sloan. I polled executives at GD and they immediately thought: the Sloan Fellows Program...
Vice President and Program Manager, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company
“With 25 years of aerospace experience behind me — integrating and building satellites and working on international launch teams — I had plenty of technical expertise when I started the MIT Sloan Fellows Program. But to advance to the highest levels of leadership, I needed to boost other fundamentals, like finance, strategic planning, and organizational dynamics.”
CEO, Vitaco Health Ltd.
In 1998, veterinary surgeon turned retail marketing executive Sarah Kennedy took the helm of Healtheries, a modest New Zealand health products company. In the decade that followed, Kennedy led the cycle of growth, acquisition, and merger that created Vitaco, the third-largest health and well-being company in Australasia. Now, she’s partnering with New Zealand’s Foundation for Research, Science, and Technology to increase commercialization of the country’s R&D.
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