Aug. 4, 2010: We just posted a new interview with MIT Sloan Fellows’ Director Stephen Sacca. Please read the updated post because it has current information.
Last week I had the pleasure of talking to Stephen Sacca, Director of the MIT Sloan Fellows Program in Innovation and Global Leadership about the Sloan Fellows Program.
If you are a middle manager with more than ten years of impressive career growth and interested in accelerating that growth through an MBA or Masters in Management, then you should be very interested in this Q&A, especially the A.
Warning: This is a long post.
How much experience do Sloan Fellows typically have?
The average age of Sloan Fellows at MIT is 38 with an average of 14 years of experience.
Sloan Fellows have at least ten years of full-time work experience, unless they are truly the exceptional of the exceptional, then we will consider them with only nine years. It happens rarely, but it does happen.
Are many Sloan Fellows sponsored?
Most Sloan Fellows are sponsored, and actually it is a key element for non-entrepreneurs. Sponsorship provides an independent endorsement of an individual’s capability and assists to maintain a fellows focus on the program during the 12 months they are at MIT. If a company is willing to invest in a candidate, it’s a sign of the applicant’s qualifications.
Historically 100% of Sloan Fellows were sponsored but with the integration of the Management of Technology Program in 2004; now about 70% are. 30% are self-sponsored – usually entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs are frequently between ventures. They are the types who built a $5 million venture and sold it; now they want to build a $50 million+ enterprise.
Whether sponsored or non-sponsored, the Sloan Fellow is seeking to accelerate career growth after an already impressive record of career progression.
Sloan Fellows can pursue an MS or an MBA? What’s the difference between the two degrees?
The MS requires a thesis; the MBA does not. The MBA is the overwhelming choice of fellows, as it is better recognized in the marketplace.
In any given year, 8-10 % of the class already has an MBA. These MBA’s are particularly interested in the leadership component of the program. They usually go for the MS.
What distinguishes Sloan Fellows from regular Sloan MBAs?
Experience and perspective. In virtually all instances, , regular MBAs are less experienced and so they are spending much of their time on career development and a significant motivation for pursuing the degree is earning the credential. The primary reason Sloan Fellows pursue the degree is to get an education. The learning is more important to them than the degree. They don’t need to get their ticket punched. The faculty particularly likes Sloan Fellows because they’re there to learn.
Since the majority of the fellows are sponsored and not looking for a job halfway through the year-long program, there is also little if any competition. And just in case some are competitive types, we tell them to “check competition at the door” when they arrive. Collaboration is key for success in the program.
Furthermore, in a sponsored setting like the MIT Sloan Fellows Program, the focus is on the coursework because they already have a job. Even the self-sponsored people want to take full advantage of the program and focus on it for the entire year. They have the experience and confidence in themselves to know that they can pick up their careers when they complete their degree, and they don’t need to start their next venture until after they finish the program.
Finally, Sloan Fellows are not eligible for career development services. Sloan Fellows are sponsored or are moving onto new ventures. In either case, it is expected that Sloan Fellows have the skills, confidence and resources to transition back into their career with relative ease.
I noticed the Sloan Fellows Program offers 1- and 2-year options. Who are those options for?
90% of participants complete the program (whether an MS or an MBA) in one year. We do have a flex option for those who will work and go to school while completing the program in two years. Participants in the flex program must live and work in the Boston area, because we are trying to build closeness among students. We want to build deep relationships within the class, and we can’t do that when classmates have conflicting and multiple commitments or are geographically distant. The flex option is still in a pilot phase.
What is the structure of the Sloan Fellows Program?
MIT Sloan Fellows Program is 53 weeks and 3 terms. First term (during the summer) is very intense. Boot camp, really. It provides academic preparation for the year and is the foundation for the whole program. All work in the summer is in teams, and we really want them to work in teams. The school picks the teams of 4 – people from different backgrounds and professions who must learn to come together and work together. After the summer, the fellows participate in the fall and spring terms, and other than core courses, are fully integrated into the MIT Sloan School with other students for their elective courses.
There are 100 Fellows in each class, and they are divided into two sections of fifty each. Sloan Fellows are required to take core classes, which are exclusively for Sloan Fellows. Sloan Fellows can also take electives at other schools within MIT and Harvard. The program allows cross registration at the Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and Harvard Business School.
This program is for people who recognize its rigor. It is an intense, practically-minded, and focused program.
It’s also a very global program, as it should be given its name. A high percentage of Fellows come from outside the US. Lab projects, specifically the Global Entrepreneurship course, require work abroad. With this program real companies seek students to solve a problem. In January, Sloan Fellows spend 3-4 weeks at the company’s site (at the company’s expense) to produce a solution and deliverable for the company. These projects are always international and frequently in a developing country. Furthermore, the thesis also allows for an additional international experience, depending on what the student decides to research.
MIT also offers Entrepreneurial lab and a Sustainability lab courses. All lab courses entail working on a project with real companies solving real problems.
Finally, all Sloan Fellows take three trips a year. One is to New York City, the second is to Silicon Valley or Washington DC, and the third trip is international. These trips have specific objectives, and Fellows participate in a meaningful way. They are not just a sightseeing lark. These trips are an essential part of the leadership component of the program, and they are included in the US$94,000 tuition (for the full time program).
“MIT Sloan Fellows Program in Innovation and Global Leadership.” That’s a mouthful. Why such a long name.
The name reflects the integration of two programs several years ago, but it really mirrors the values and essence of this program today. I wouldn’t give it up for the world, because it so clearly states what the MIT Sloan Fellows Program is about: Innovation and Global Leadership.
Innovation and entrepreneurship are critical components in the program. Business needs to look at innovation as an ongoing role and need in a company. We have several courses on innovation, and it is part of our core curriculum. It is also the focus of our Silicon Valley trip where Fellows meet with innovators and entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs.
If we are talking about leadership, and we teach it, our students need to talk to top leaders and learn from them. That’s the focus of the trip to Washington, DC, where Fellows may meet with leaders like Ben Bernanke.
What are the typical educational and professional backgrounds of participants in the Sloan Fellows Program?
25% enter with an engineering background.
25% enter with a background in business.
25% come from the sciences and social sciences.
25% come from assorted other fields including the humanities.
The industries most represented in the Sloan Fellows Program in Innovation and Global Leadership: IT, manufacturing, government, and bio-tech/pharma.
What do you want to see in an applicant?
We want high-achievers, people of confidence who will stay focused on the program and not get distracted.
- Demonstrated leadership in the past.
- Highly motivated people.
- Self-actualized people. People who can look in the mirror and be satisfied with what they see. Confident, but neither complacent nor arrogant
What about academics? The GMAT?
The undergrad transcripts are the primary means of demonstrating intellectual ability. The GMAT is helpful, but not always required, unless the applicant’s undergrad performance was poor or not representative.
How would you distinguish the Sloan Fellows Program from an EMBA program, or would you?
I would and do. Two key differences:
- Many EMBA programs are MBA-lite. The Sloan Fellows Program is an extremely rigorous program.
- The Sloan Fellows program, unlike most EMBA programs, is a full-time program. It takes people out of their current environment so that they can reflect on what they have done, without distraction.
What are the differences between Stanford’s and London Business School’s Sloan Fellows Program and the MIT Sloan Fellows Program?
- MIT has the most experienced, most sponsored cohort . London’s and Stanford’s cohorts are slightly less experienced or do not possess the same level of sponsorship.
- LBS and Stanford are shorter, requiring only two terms over 10 months. Without the summer term, the likelihood of developing deep bonds among the fellows may be less prevalent.
- Because of the summer term, MIT Sloan Fellows can take roughly twice the number of electives, which is an important feature to permit tailoring their experience to meet their future career objectives
- All three programs are from outstanding schools, but each emphasizes the overall characteristics of the institution of which it is part.
Is the MIT Sloan Fellows Program in Innovation and Global Leadership as elitist as it sounds?
We want exceptional people. Period.
If a company says, “We don’t normally sponsor, but this person is so special that we will sponsor,” that applicant is gold. That’s the kind of person we want: Gold.
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