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Students address real world business challenges in Industry Consulting Project

Each summer, students in the M. S. in Engineering Management program and the M. S. in Innovation & Management program have the opportunity to work on real-world business challenges. In the Industry Consulting Project, students work in teams to apply what they have learned all year in the classroom at a partner organization, spanning biotech, pharma, defense, government, nonprofits, and startups. Organizations this summer included: Draper, Global Sign, Instrumentation Laboratory, Tokyo Electron, and ZEISS Microscopy.

See a full list of the 21 companies and projects.

Working with Professor of the Practice Sam Liggero, one team worked with Newton-based SharkNinja, a leading innovator in the housewares industry, which was seeking to launch a platform for external inventors to submit proposals for new products. In the first phase of the project, students looked at what other companies were doing for external innovation platforms. The second phase was to provide a recommendation for an implementation strategy.

The team used many of the skills they learned from the MSEM curriculum, including readings from The Innovator’s DNA to understand how to design a platform that could appeal to and reach creative inventors. They pieced together key innovation traits based on the Myers Briggs Type Indicators, which they learned about in Building and Leading Effective Teams.

“We put together personas and profiles of what a successful inventor would look like, and what their needs would be,” Shane Siwinski, MSEM ’18, Senior Mechanical Engineer at Ximedica said. “We knew that this platform needed to attract right kind of inventors.”

Ultimately, the team’s recommendation to SharkNinja was to use a diversified approach, combining an existing platform, outsourcing, and partnering with start-ups.

“We discovered that any one system alone was unlikely to appeal to the kinds of innovators that SharkNinja should be looking for,” said Siwinski.

In addition to Siwinski, the SharnkNinja team included Erin Jaffke, MSEM ’18, Senior Mechanical Engineer at The MITRE Corporation, Hirosei Kuruma, MSIM ’17, Research Associate at Lux Research, and Yuriy Sitnikov, MSEM ’18, Solutions Architect at Dell EMC.

“My most valuable lesson from the summer was to delegate and trust my team. We were enormously different from one another; all with different locations, schedules, and backgrounds,” Siwinski said. “It was too much work for any one person to do alone and I had to respect the differing visions of my team members. Overall I am impressed with what my team was capable of.”

Dan Der Marderosian, Engineering Manager at SharkNinja who worked with the students, said the team’s work provided the company with valuable options to improve their innovation platforms.

“I enjoyed relating a real and challenging business need to the team, sharing the background of who we are and how we work, and working with the students to dial in the scope of work,” said Der Marderosian, Engineering Manager at SharkNinja. “There was great creativity in their thinking, leading to a key learning around the importance of diversity in terms of innovator profiles.”

At Circle of Hope, the student team pushed themselves to go above and beyond what their sponsor initially requested. Circle of Hope is a nonprofit organization based in Needham which provides clothes and other necessities to homeless children, women, and men.

Under the guidance of Professor of the Practice Frank Apeseche, the initial goal of the project was to make recommendations to improve the operational procedures at Circle of Hope. The team also took on new tasks, including revamping the mission statement, reviewing their financial model, recommending financial techniques, and overhauling their web and social media presence.

“We pushed ourselves further and looked at their business as a whole,” said Mike DeFuria, MSEM ’18, Validation Manager at Sanofi Genzyme, the student team leader.

In addition to DeFuria, team members included Taryn Connor, MSEM ’18, Electrical Design Engineer at Instrumentation Laboratory, Melanie McSally, MSEM ’18, Director, Portfolio and Program Management at Eze Software Group, and John Quarles, MSEM ’18, Senior Process Engineer at Alexion Pharmaceuticals.

The ability made a difference for an organization with limited resources is what drew DeFuria to the project. “Having previously volunteered my time in the past at nonprofits, I knew how scare resources can be. To me, this meant that our project had the potential to significantly impact their organization since they might not have the time or resources to stop and look at their organization strategically,” DeFuria said.

“I also liked that this project gave me an opportunity to apply what I have been learning from MSEM in an organization that is much different than the company I work for,” DeFuria said.