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June 4, 2011

On May 19th, I was deeply engaged in a teleconference  with my patent attorney and a patent litigator, developing a strategy to deal with a potential infringement issue with one of my companies. I like to work with my MacBook open whenever I’m in meetings so that I can take notes, though admittedly I’m also an incorrigible multitasker.

While I was listening to the litigator propose a new strategic option, my email dinged – first on my cell phone, then on my Mac. The subject line generated an instant adrenaline surge, “MIT Sloan MBA for Executives: Admissions Decision Available.” 15 seconds later, my cell phone buzzed. A new call coming in from the 781 area code: Boston.

I had just interviewed at Sloan on May 6th and had been told to expect a decision in two weeks. They were proving themselves to be quite punctual.

I had to hit “Ignore” on the phone call and send it to voice mail, but I began logging into the MIT online application site while continuing the patent conversation. I finally got logged in, but there was no decision link. The page looked the same as it had yesterday. Within a minute, the voice mail alert binged, someone from Boston had left a message, but I was still on my conference call and couldn’t listen to it. The little voice mail icon taunted me with its smug “1” – it knew something that I didn’t. I refreshed the online application site a few times… still nothing. I kept refreshing it intermittently for the next 10 minutes or so, but without success. The cell phone rang again. Another call on the second line from the same Boston number. I dumped it to voice mail again, but this time they didn’t leave a message. Still, that smug little “1” lit up the voice mail icon.

As the litigator had wrapped up his options, I had to refocus on the matter at hand. I had already made up my mind halfway through his analysis, as only one of the options was truly practical to the company’s circumstances. I asked a few clarifying questions to make sure I understood the legal impact of the decision that I favored, then gave them my decision and the underlying reasons for the choice.

As we began formulating a plan of execution, I absentmindedly hit the refresh button one more time. And there it was, “Decision Status: Available beginning 5/19/2011” and just below it, “Your application decision is now available online.”

In a world of instant data availability, the email informing me that a decision was available had somehow arrived 20 minutes before the decision had become available on the application website. I briefly wondered what caused the latency then clicked on the link to read the .pdf decision file.

MIT was kind enough to write you have been accepted for admission in nice bold letters. The data that mattered was clearly visible the instant that the document opened. Accepted. Admission. You.

I was in.

At 42 years of age, with a wife, 5 children, and as Chairman of a young company, I was headed back to graduate school for the fourth time. This time to MIT’s Sloan School of Management as part of the second cohort to attend the MIT Executive MBA.

The program is so new that very little has been written about it. You won’t find it listed in comparative program rankings, or in any of the innumerable blogs describing “How to get into an M7 School.” The first cohort won’t even graduate until next May.

I had a similar experience in 1991, when I was admitted into the third class of the then-newly created PhD Program in Robotics at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute. There, as with MIT, I had been admitted to a program that had not yet graduated anyone. The RI went on to become a global powerhouse for robotics research, creating a new generation of technology leaders in the process. Back then, I recorded my experiences in the PhD program in a set of leather bound journals, there being no digital medium alternative. I graduated in 1996 just before the Internet became a mass market phenomena. At the time, the word “blog”  still lay several years in the future.

I intend to record my experiences at the MIT Executive MBA program over the next two years for the benefit of those who are thinking about applying and especially those who ultimately gain admission and take up this challenge. My goal is to transform myself into a global executive capable of leading the commercialization of a new generation of robotics technologies. Let’s see how I do at MIT and how the MIT EMBA experience enables me to reach that goal!


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