So if I haven’t been the most constant of bloggers lately it is because this was the week that a two-day conference I’ve been working on for a year-plus finally happened, with my program’s major annual governance meeting right after. The conference was called the Future of Manufacturing in the U.S., and was aimed at getting some head honchos from industry, government, labor and academia together to talk about this now quite timely subject, and incidentally shine a light on our program, which for 20+ years was called MIT Leaders for Manufacturing and which has always been an important piece of the MIT manufacturing “ecosystem” as we like to say. As a reminder, I help manage what is now called the Leaders for Global Operations program, a two-year dual Master’s program (MBA and Engineering) for people who want to be future VPs of manufacturing or similar function at big global companies like Boeing, Caterpillar, GM, Novartis, e.g. My particular role is mostly about the relations we have with our industry partners plus communications, a China sister program, and other jobs, but for the last year this conference has been a major focus for me.
Thankfully the conference turned out to be a success in the areas I could control–full house, major media in attendance–and hopefully will turn out to be a success in the longer term by letting us attract new industry partners, applicants to the program, and recognition at MIT and elsewhere that we are an important connector between industry and researchers/education. You can see MIT News’ story about the conference featuring one of the photos that we’ve been working towards–the MIT President and the US Secretary of Commerce together saying (not in so many words) that LGO, and its remarkable Director of Operations and Partner Integration, are awesome.
Some personal reflections, in businesslike bullet form:
- The life of US Cabinet members and other high officials has to be pretty bizarre. I walked with the US Dept. of Commerce Special Protective Service officers and an “advance man” through the route that the Commerce Secretary took from where his motorcade would drop him, through some academic buildings and over to where he would have coffee with our President before returning to give a keynote talk. It is hard to imagine having your every move planned out to the minute.
- Corporate CEOs and other top executives are perhaps a little less programmed but their words are very carefully parsed. Which I guess makes sense if you think about how litigious our society is and how much a casual comment could impact share prices, etc. Happily the CEOS of two partner companies of ours that were present, Amgen and Novartis, gave interesting talks and did some real Q&A afterwards. Getting these guys to come helped the “buzz” of the event.
- We were fortunate to have the VP of the United Auto Workers, Cindy Estrada, give a keynote and speak on a panel about the Workforce of the Future. I had only just been in a factory for the first time this January and met some UAW workers at a GM plant in Lansing, Michigan. Cindy Estrada was the first union official I had ever seen speak on the MIT campus, or indeed at any campus I’d ever been part of, and she brought what seems like an obvious reminder–that workers are part of the discussion about the future of manufacturing and our economy–but one which clearly goes ignored at universities most of the time. It was great to have her passionate contribution to this discussion that has such a human component.
- I was tweeting like a madman throughout the conference, as was Prof. Charlie Fine, who sent out hundreds throughout the two days and then did a wrap-up talk. It is amazing to think what an essential and expected part of an event like this the Twitter component has become. You can see a web-based “story” of all the tweets, photos, and whatnot here.
- Running these sorts of events is exhausting and all-consuming. Don’t know how people in media/event roles do it.